Harold Varmus was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his studies at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco, on the origins of retroviral oncogenes. He received his first scientific training at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and returned as the director of NIH from 1993 to 1999. After ten years as president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, he was appointed director of the National Cancer Institute in 2010. He was chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges in Global Health and co-chaired the Institute of Medicine's report "The U.S. Commitment to Global Health" (2009).
The Uganda Cancer Institute and the Malaria Research and Training Center in Mali, founded in collaboration with the U.S. government, show how combating major diseases through research capacity development can bring countries and scientists together.