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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Director's Comments: Morris Cranmer, Ph.D.

Image of former NCTR Director Morris CranmerIn 1969, President Nixon banned the United States' participation in the production, storage, or use of biological weapons for military purposes. Early in 1970, the Biological Operations function of the Pine Bluff Arsenal became available for reassignment. Two of the driving forces behind the continued use of the facilities were Senator John McClellan, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Congressman Wilbur Mills, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. There were several steps that needed to be accomplished to provide the facility. It needed to be demilitarized, transferred from the Department of Defense, and provide jobs for the previously employed workers.

My involvement with the idea of a sword-to-plowshares opportunity began in 1970. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had organized a team of scientists and administrators from various departments to organize a research and development plan for the newly established Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and I was privileged to serve as the leader of the Health Effects Task Force. It was the activities of that task force that determined the research needs that were to become NCTR’s mission.

The early OMB concept was that NCTR would be funded as a dual project between the EPA and the FDA with input from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). A policy board was formed consisting of scientists and administrators from these agencies, OMB, and myself as chair. Early on it was determined that one agency should have the administrative responsibility. Dr. Charles Edwards, then FDA Commissioner and later Assistant Secretary for Health of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (DHEW), asked if I would accept the job as the first director of NCTR, and I accepted.

Our first task was to develop a detailed research plan and establish a supplemental budget request, a five-year operations budget cycle, and a seven-year facilities plan. This was tricky since the facility would not be available for nearly a year. The establishment of a science advisory board was a priority. Another priority was the establishment of a long-term relationship with the University of Arkansas. A MS degree in pathology was set up to retrain microbiologists, and the nations first Interdisciplinary Toxicology MS and PhD programs were established in 1973. The early days seemed like a continuous set of special expert committees of the Science Advisory Board, testimony before OMB, headquarters, and congressional committees. For the first six years, at least two days a week were spent in DC.

Those formative years were very exciting. NCTR was at a frenetic pace recruiting, planning, building, and initiating long-term research. The barrier, conventional animal rooms, breeding colony, as well as teratology, chemistry, microbiology, pathology laboratories, and computer center were early additions. The 29,000 animal ED01 carcinogenesis dose response experiment was initiated. The budget doubled every year for five years, and the number of employees expanded from 20 in January of 1971 to 600 by 1976.

Bill Allaben, Karl Baetcke, Dan Casciano, Larry Fishbein, Charles Frith, David Gaylor, Fred Kadlubar, Charles King, Ralph Kodell, Bill Slikker, and John Young were just a few of the key scientists we recruited. Administrative leadership that have given their all for NCTR, and who were on staff during my tenure as Director, include, but are not limited to, Glen Achorn, Jeanne Anson, Pete Attwood, Maureen Brooks, Terry Genz, Sandy Holland, and Vicky Ross-Barsh.

It was a privilege to participate while NCTR transformed itself into a world class research institute. I gave it my all and have been rewarded with the Award of Merit, Distinguished Service Medal and, most importantly, with many friends. My heart will always be with NCTR, and I will always be appreciative of how the FDA stepped up and caused NCTR to happen.


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