Torsten Wiesel, a Nobel laureate and former president of The Rockefeller University in New York City, has been selected to lead the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP), an international effort to promote top-notch research and collaboration in neuroscience and molecular biology. Last week, the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO), which directs the program, announced Wiesel's appointment to the post of secretary-general. He will take office on 1 April 2000, when Swiss neuroscientist Michel Cuénod retires after 7 years at the helm.
Born in Uppsala, Sweden, Wiesel emigrated to the United States in 1955 to take up a research position at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He joined Harvard Medical School in 1959; in 1981, he shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Roger Sperry and David Hubel, for their work on the visual system of the brain. Wiesel became president of Rockefeller in 1992, a position he held until 1998.
Cuénod calls the choice of his successor "extremely favorable." He says Wiesel is a widely respected scientist who gained invaluable experience in science administration during his years at Rockefeller: "He is a remarkable man. He is an American, because that's where most of his career took place, but he is also still a European."
A Japanese initiative, the HFSPO was founded in 1989. The organization, with a $47 million yearly budget, is funded by the G7 nations, Switzerland, and the European Union, and has so far awarded 422 research grants to 1778 scientists of 41 nationalities. Japan currently foots 75% of the bill, while Europe and the United States split the remainder. Redressing that imbalance will have to be one of Wiesel's top priorities, says Cuénod. The U.S. especially should increase its share, he adds: "They are large beneficiaries of the program."