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NCT Assistant Director Retires to Work in Private Sector

By Eddy Ball
January 2007

Mike Waters
NCT Assistant Director Mike Waters (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

National Center for Toxicogenomics Assistant Director for Database Development Mike Waters, Ph.D., retires from NIEHS on January 1 with 37½ years of service. However, rather than spending his time with hobbies or other interests, Waters will begin another career in private enterprise in research and development with Integrated Laboratory Systems, Inc. Like most of the moves he has made previously in his scientific career, this latest will keep him in Research Triangle Park.

Waters' six-year tenure at NIEHS ended as the Institute prepares for the official release into the public domain of the Chemical Effects in Biological Systems (CEBS) knowledge base. He was instrumental in developing CEBS and released it in collaboration with CEBS Scientific Administrator Jennifer Fostel, Ph.D., and through the combined efforts of contractor staff at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Lockheed-Martin Information Technologies and Alpha-Gamma Technologies, Inc. In 2000, Waters came to NIEHS specifically to lead the development of CEBS. He worked closely with NCT Director Raymond Tennant, Ph.D., Deputy Director James Selkirk, Ph.D., and biologist Stan Stasiewicz, Ph.D., who was the first project officer on the SAIC contract. With Waters' departure, Fostel will work with Laboratory of Respiratory Biology Chief Steve Kleeberger, Ph.D., to manage the anticipated growth of CEBS.

Waters is a native North Carolinian born in Charlotte and educated at nearby Davidson College, where he received his B.S. in pre-medicine. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his doctorate in biochemistry in 1969. "I had originally intended to go to med school," Waters said, "but I decided that I really wanted to do research. After a couple of years in zoology, I decided to go into biochemistry, and that's where I got into human cell culture and studies on enzyme regulation and collagen biosynthesis."

After completing his doctorate, Waters served for two years as a captain in the Army Chemical Corps conducting research on accelerating collagen synthesis to improve the rate of wound healing. Once he got back to North Carolina in 1971, he stayed, working 29 years for the newly established Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before joining NIEHS. He worked at the temporary EPA clinical facility in Chapel Hill in the tissue culture laboratory researching pulmonary toxicology before moving to the new headquarters in RTP. The young biochemist with training and interests in toxicology soon convinced his employer of the need to establish a genetic toxicology division, which EPA then assigned Waters to build from the ground up.

As the genetic toxicology division grew, Waters got in on yet another ground floor opportunity at EPA. He conceived the EPA Gene-Tox Program and the resulting database, now hosted by the National Library of Medicine. He also developed the EPA/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Genetic Activity Profile Database, which forms the basis for the use of short-term tests in the evaluation of presumptive human carcinogens by the IARC.

With his experience in developing databases and his interest in genetic toxicology, the move to NIEHS in 2000 was another natural step in his career. CEBS is the most challenging database Waters has developed, and the progression from genetic toxicology to toxicogenomics was relatively straightforward. In his new career with Integrated Laboratory Systems, Inc., he will be using his planning and management skills in a multidisciplinary research organization to provide comprehensive support to federal and commercial clients.

Although Waters is leaving NIEHS, he plans to continue serving on a number of database and toxicogenomics workgroups and advisory committees. He also intends to continue his work as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Duke University Medical Center, where he now teaches toxicogenomics. He will continue to be the editor of the journal Reviews in Mutation Research and maintain his association with professional groups in his areas of interest.

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