Dr. Artemis P. Simopoulos, chairman of a high-level nutrition committee at the National Institutes of Health, has been assigned to a different NIH job after a consumer group charged that her ties to the food industry violated federal conflict-of-interest rules.
Simopoulos, a pediatrician, is to leave as head of the nutrition coordinating committee June 16 to work on disease prevention at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), according to NIH spokesman Storm Whaley.
He said the NIH director, Dr. James B. Wyngaarden, informed Simopoulos of the transfer in a memorandum late last month.
Wyngaarden said he had decided to reorganize the committee to allow a representative of each institute to be chairman for a year, according to Whaley.
Simopoulos, who has been chairman for several years, will no longer be on the committee because the NICHD already has a representative, Whaley said. The new chairman will be Dr. Vay Liang W. Go of the National Institute of Arthritis, Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Simopoulos' role in helping to run the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a research foundation backed by the food industry, was cited as a possible conflict of interest in a letter to Wyngaarden last August from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Wyngaarden responded by asking Simopoulos to resign from the ILSI's executive committee but said her participation on its governing board was part of her official NIH duties.
As head of the committee responsible for coordinating NIH nutrition research, Simopoulos was in a key position to influence government pronouncements on diet and health.
In December, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released internal memos from three NIH officials stating that Simopoulos' beliefs about nutrition prevented her from accurately representing their institutes' views.