Remembering Former NIGMS Director Marvin Cassman

Headshot of Dr. Marvin Cassman. Credit: NIGMS.

We in the NIGMS family are deeply saddened by the loss of our former director Marvin Cassman, Ph.D., on August 6. Dr. Cassman joined NIGMS in 1975 as a health scientist administrator in what was then the Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease Program, advancing through the ranks to become NIGMS’ deputy director, acting director, and from 1996 to 2002, director. Dr. Cassman’s tenure as director coincided with the period of NIH’s budget doubling, and he ably led NIGMS’ establishment of key initiatives that have had a worldwide impact. These included the Protein Structure Initiative, the goal of which was to make the three-dimensional, atomic-level structures of most proteins easily obtainable from knowledge of their corresponding DNA sequences. This enabled investigators to apply the new paradigm of high-throughput structure determination to study important biological and biomedical problems.

Furthermore, he guided the establishment of the Pharmacogenomics Research Network, which promoted an understanding of the genetic contributions to drug responses and fostered the sharing of methods, data, knowledge, and implementation strategies through resources for the research community, including PharmGKB. We also remember Dr. Cassman for recognizing the need for basic research—particularly in structural biology—in the fight against AIDS and for his strong commitment to ensuring that research instrumentation was available to the scientific community.

Dr. Cassman was well liked and highly respected by NIGMS staff and the broader research community. He received the 1983 NIH Director’s Award and the 1991 Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award.

After leaving NIGMS, Dr. Cassman was appointed as the first director of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Mission Bay campus. Upon his retirement from UCSF, he served on a number of national and international advisory committees. Dr. Cassman enjoyed music, especially opera. He leaves behind his wife Alice, whom he married in 1972.

Category Icon CategoriesNews

8 Replies to “Remembering Former NIGMS Director Marvin Cassman”

  1. So sad to learn of Marv Cassman’s passing. I was able to enjoy the doubling period and the creativity and vision Marv instilled during that amazing time. He had an immense impact on the protein structure world. And he led with intensity and a wry sense of humor that helped all.

  2. Marv was a wonderful advisor for the Center for Structural Biology at Vanderbilt. I also appreciated his great sense of humor.

  3. Marv was a visionary scientist, with tremendous enthusiasm for the critical role of basic science in enabling biomedical research. He was an inspiring and energetic leader, and will be missed by our community. Thank you Marv, for your leadership and outstanding service.

  4. Marvin Cassman played a central role in the visionary and highly successful structural biology of AIDS program in NIGMS, starting in the early days of the HIV epidemic. I remember his leading a site review at Agouron Pharmaceuticals in La Jolla, with a team that included Pete von Hippel. This led to support of a program that included emerging computer-aided drug discovery methods. The program invented Viracept (nelfinavir), which for many years was the leading HIV protease inhibitor in therapeutic use.

  5. Marv was instrumental for setting up the HIV Structural Biology program, both extramurally and then copied intramurally as IATAP.
    It was his foresight and vision that got lots of us to work on HIV proteins. We need leaders of this caliber now more than ever.

  6. Marvin Cassman was a truly visionary leader at NIH. He took chances on new science and new technologies with a commitment to spend taxpayer money on the strongest projects. The NIH & NIGMS benefited enormously from his leadership. He was also a wonderful person – and dedicated opera fan.

  7. I served on the NIGMS Council during Marvin‘s tenure as director. It was a unique vantage point from which to view his talents and his vision for the Institute. This is a comment and not an essay, so let me make only one point, that the manifest respect and collegiality that the Institute displayed towards Council was a model of how to obtain honest, informed, and genuinely impartial advice. We felt valued and a part of the NIGMS Family. Marvin, we miss you.

  8. Marvin Cassman was also instrumental in promoting the birth of the field of Systems Biology. He was tireless in his efforts to promote collaborations between investigators and institutes and the value of quantitative biology. He was a true visionary and will be sorely missed by all who had the honor of working with him.

Submit a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.