Finding Aid to the Harold E. Varmus Papers, 1971-1987, bulk 1974-1980

Finding Aid written by Nancy W. Zinn, Valerie Wheat and Josué Hurtado
UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections
University of California, San Francisco
530 Parnassus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94143-0840
Phone: (415) 476-8112
Fax: (415) 476-4653
© 2006
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Finding Aid to the Harold E. Varmus Papers, 1971-1987, bulk 1974-1980

Collection Number: MSS 84-25

UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections
Finding Aid Written By:
Nancy W. Zinn, Valerie Wheat and Josué Hurtado
Date Completed:
January 2007
© 2007 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Collection Summary

Collection Title: Harold E. Varmus Papers
Date (inclusive): 1971-1987,
Date (bulk): bulk 1974-1980
Collection Number: MSS 84-25
Creator: Varmus, Harold
Extent: Number of containers: 8 cartons, 2 boxes Linear feet: 11 feet
Repository: The UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections
University of California, San Francisco
530 Parnassus Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94143-0840
Phone: (415) 476-8112
Fax: (415) 476-4653
Abstract: This collection consists mainly of files of research and data compiled by Dr. Harold Varmus and his group at UCSF from 1971-1984. Primary areas of inquiry are synthesis and integration of viral DNA, and replication of, and tumor induction by, animal viruses, including the Rous Sarcoma Virus. It is rich in illustrative material such as photographs, slides, graphs, and gels. Also included is correspondence with colleagues and former students during Varmus' 1978-1979 sabbatical in London. Most letters concern research progress, review of manuscripts and publications, and invitations or preparations for conferences and meetings. Varmus was active in American Cancer Society (ACS) grant review and the Virology Study section of NIH. There are a number of notes and slide materials for lectures and talks both in the U.S. and internationally.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog: .

Information for Researchers


Collection is open for research; some correspondence files are restricted.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manager of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Harold E. Varmus Papers, MSS 84-25, The UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections, University of California, San Francisco.

Alternate Forms Available

Digital reproductions of select items from this collection are available on the National Library of Medicine's Profiles in Science. 

Related Collections

Harold E. Varmus Papers, 1975-1987 (MSS 88-47) and 1967-1993 (MSS 93-51)

Separated Material


Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Varmus, Harold
Human Retrovirus Study Group
AIDS (Disease)
Nobel prizes
Virologists--California--San Francisco
Virology--Research--California--San Francisco
Cancer cells

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

The Harold E. Varmus Papers were donated to UCSF by Dr. Varmus in 1984.

Processing Information

Processed by Nancy W. Zinn and Valerie Wheat

Biographical Information

Born in Oceanside, New York, December 18, 1939, Harold E. Varmus received his undergraduate degree (B.A. magna cum laude) from Amherst College in 1961, an M.A. (in literature) the following year from Harvard University, and the M.D. from Columbia University in 1966. From 1967 to 1970 Varmus was an intern in medicine (1966-67) and Assistant Resident in Medicine (1967-68) at Presbyterian Hospital, New York, and Clinical Associate at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases, Bethesda, MD (1968-70). In 1970 he was appointed a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer in the Department of Microbiology at UCSF, for 1970-72. At the end of this period Dr. Varmus was appointed Assistant Professor in Residence, for 1972-74, Associate Professor (1974-79), and full Professor, 1979-1993, in that department. He was on the faculty of the Molecular Medicine group in the Program in Biological Sciences (PIBS) consortium.
In conjunction with J. Michael Bishop, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1989 for their discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. They also received the Alfred P. Sloan Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation in 1984. Other research colleagues on the faculty at UCSF included Y.W. Kan (hemoglobinopathies), Gordon Tomkins and Keith Yamamoto (glucocorticoid action), and Donald Ganem (hepatitis B viruses). In 1985 Dr. Varmus was selected to give the Annual Faculty Research Lecture at UCSF entitled "Tree-Shaking and Jelly-Making: Growing Up with Retroviruses."
In 1993, he was appointed Director of the National Institutes of Health where he instituted administrative and personnel reforms, changed the peer review system, created the online publications archive E-biomed, and dealt with political issues such as human embryo research. He resigned in 1999 to become Director of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and was named President of that institution in 2000. In 2002, Varmus was named a recipient of the 2001 National Medal of Science and recognized at a ceremony at the White House with President George W. Bush.
Varmus is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Society for Microbiology. He was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1984 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1988. Among his honors are the following: Woodrow Wilson Fellow (1961-62); International Fellow of Columbia University (1963-64); Smith, Kline, and French Foreign Fellow (Bareilly, India) in 1961; Senior Dernham Fellow, California Division, American Cancer Society (1970-72); USPHS Research Career Development Awardee, 1972-77; Josiah Macy Scholar (Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, 1978-79); California scientist of the Year, 1982; Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, 1982; Passano Foundation Award, 1983; Armand Hammer Cancer Prize, 1984; Gairdner Foundation International Award, 1984; and the American College of Physicians Award, 1987. He received an honorary degree from Amherst College in 1985 and the Alumni Gold Medal from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1989.
Dr. Varmus served as associate editor of Cell and Virology (1974-84), and as a member of various working groups and study sections at the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health. From 1981-1986, Varmus chaired the Retrovirus Study Group within the Vertebrate Virus Subcommitee of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. In this role he convened a subcommittee to investigate proposed nomenclature of AIDS-associated viruses in humans. He has co-authored more than 300 scientific papers and four books, including Genes and the Biology of Cancer for a general audience.

System of Arrangement

Arranged to the folder level.

Scope and Content of Collection

This collection documents research and other professional activities of Dr. Harold Varmus while on the faculty of UCSF. In comparison to the two related collections of Varmus papers, evidence of day-to-day research makes up the bulk of the material. Files in Series 3 contain very detailed data, charts and graphs, photographs, slides, and gels on experiments performed by Varmus and his group to investigate mouse mammary tumor virus, viral DNA, and avian retroviruses. There are also course syllabi, notes, and lecture slides for special topics such as cancer causation and RNA tumor viruses. Grant review correspondence and financial files cover projects funded by the American Cancer Society and National Institutes of Health. Some of these were joint projects on Rous Sarcoma Virus with Dr. J. Michael Bishop who later shared the Nobel Prize with Varmus.
Correspondence files concern journal articles and manuscripts, plans for sabbatical and conference attendance, and departmental matters. Some of these correspondence files are restricted. In the conference and meeting folders are conference agendas and programs, steno notebooks of handwritten notes taken there, and text and slides for presentations by Varmus on mapping tumor virus genes and animal viruses.
The Collection is divided into 4 Series. I. Correspondence; II. Grant Records and Research Agencies; III. Research; IV. Conferences and Meetings.

Container List


Series 1 CORRESPONDENCE 1971-1984

Physical Description: 58 Folders : Carton 1 Folders 1/1-1/22 ; Carton 2 Folders 2/1-2/17 ; Box 9 Folders 9/1-9/11 ; Box 10 Folders 10/1-10/8

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence files concern journal articles and manuscripts, plans for sabbatical and conference attendance, and departmental matters. Some of these correspondence files are restricted. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Of note in this series is correspondence with colleagues at Harvard Medical School, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the National Cancer Institute, and the Passano Foundation; with UCSF colleagues such as J. Michael Bishop and Keith R. Yamamoto; as well as individuals such as Peter K. Vogt, Robert Gallo, (National Institutes of Health), Salvador E. Luria, and scientists in the United Kingdom and the Former Soviet Union.
Carton 1, Folder 1

Correspondence 1971

Carton 1, Folder 2

Correspondence 1972

Carton 1, Folder 3

Correspondence 1973

Carton 1, Folder 4-5

Correspondence 1974

Carton 1, Folder 6-7

Correspondence 1975

Carton 1, Folder 8-9

Correspondence 1975

Carton 1, Folder 10-11

Correspondence 1977

Carton 1, Folder 12

Correspondence 1978

Carton 1, Folder 13

Data and correspondence 1978-1979

Carton 1, Folder 14

Sabbatical correspondence 1978

Carton 1, Folder 15

Sabbitcal correspondence 1979

Carton 1, Folder 16-17


Carton 1, Folder 18-19

Corrrespondence 1980

Carton 1, Folder 20-22

Corrrespondence 1981

Carton 2, Folder 1

Corrrespondence 1981

Carton 2, Folder 2

Japan correspondence 1981-82

Carton 2, Folder 3-5

Corrrespondence 1982

Carton 2, Folder 6-10

Corrrespondence 1983

Carton 2, Folder 11

Corrrespondence 1984

Carton 2, Folder 12

Data, etc. 11/13/78 1978

Carton 2, Folder 13

Europe 1977

Carton 2, Folder 14

Varmus fellowships 1977

Carton 2, Folder 15

Meetings 1978-1979

Carton 2, Folder 16

Oncology nomenclature 1980-81

Carton 2, Folder 17

Mobile genetic elements [chapter] 1980


Restricted records

Box 9, Folder 1

Correspondence (RESTRICTED) 1973-1983

Box 9, Folder 2

Postdoctoral candidates (RESTRICTED) 1978

Box 9, Folder 3

Recommendations (RESTRICTED) 1975-1977

Box 9, Folder 4

Recommendations (RESTRICTED) 1978-1979

Box 9, Folder 5

Recommendations (RESTRICTED) 1980-1983

Box 9, Folder 6-11

Cell journal referee correspondence (RESTRICTED) 1973-1984

Box 10, Folder 1-5

Virology journal referee correspondence (RESTRICTED) 1972-1984

Box 10, Folder 6-8

Various referee correspondence (RESTRICTED) 1979-1984



Physical Description: 18 Folders : Carton 3 3/1-3/12 ; Carton 3 3/13-3/18

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of records reflecting Varmus' role as a Primary Investigator on various grant-funded projects and his numerous roles in variety of research agencies. The materials include grant proposals and correspondence, reviewer comments, and progress reports for grant-funded projects with Harold Varmus as Principal Investigator unless noted. This series is further organized into 3 subseries: 2.1 Grant Records, 2.2 Grant Review Activities, and 2.3 National Institutes of Health.

2.1 Grant Records

Physical Description: 12 Folders : Carton 3 3/1-3/12
Carton 3, Folder 1-6

American Cancer Society

Carton 3, Folder 1

Detection of Virus-Specific Nucleic Aids in Normal and transformed Avian Cells (J. Michael Bishop, Principal Investigator) 1972-1973

Carton 3, Folder 2

Biochemical Aspects of Rous Sarcoma Virus (Harold E. Varmus, Principal Investigator) 1973-1974

Carton 3, Folder 3-4

Biochemical Aspects of Rous Sarcoma Virus (Varmus and Bishop co-investigators) 1977

Carton 3, Folder 5-6

Biochemical Aspects of Rous Sarcoma Virus (Harold E. Varmus, Principal Investigator) 1980-1983

Carton 3, Folder 7-11

National Institutes of Health/NCI

Carton 3, Folder 7-8

Role of Virion-Associated DNA Polymerase in Malignant Transformation by Avian Tumor Viruses (J. Michael Bishop, Principal Investigator) 1971-1974

Carton 3, Folder 9

Rous Sarcoma Virus Replication and Cellular Transformation (J.Michael Bishop, Principal Investigator) 1975

Carton 3, Folder 10

Rous Sarcoma Virus Replication and Cellular Transformation (J.Michael Bishop, Principal Investigator) 1979-1984

Carton 3, Folder 11

Molecular Biology of Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus (Harold E. Varmus, Principal Investigator) 1976-1981


UCSF School of Medicine, Committee on Research

Carton 3, Folder 12

Search for Provirus DNA in Rous Transformed Cells 1972-1973


2.2 Grant Review Activities

Physical Description: 6 Folders : Carton 3 3/13-3/18
Carton 3, Folder 13

American Cancer Society reviews 1976

Carton 3, Folder 14

American Cancer Society reviews 1981

Carton 3, Folder 15

American Cancer Society reviews c. 1982

Carton 3, Folder 16

American Cancer Society reviews 1983

Carton 3, Folder 17

American Cancer Society reviews 1984

Carton 3, Folder 18

National Science Foundation reviews 1975


2.3 National Institutes of Health

Physical Description: 10 folders : Carton 3 3/19-3/29
Carton 3, Folder 19

National Institutes of Health Virology study section 1975

Carton 3, Folder 20-21

National Institutes of Health Virology study section 1976

Carton 3, Folder 22-24

National Institutes of Health Virology study section 1977

Carton 3, Folder 25

National Institutes of Health Virology study section 1978

Carton 3, Folder 26

National Institutes of Health Virology study section 1979

Carton 3, Folder 27

National Institutes of Health Virology study section 1980

Carton 3, Folder 28

National Institutes of Health Breast Cancer Virus Working Group 1973


Series 3 RESEARCH FILES 1970-1984

Physical Description: 101 Folders : Carton 3 3/29-3/35 ; Carton 4 4/1-4/35 ; Carton 5 5/1-5/30 ; Carton 6 6/1-6/19 ; Carton 7 7/1-7/10

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of Harold Varmus' research files. They mostly reflect Varmus' research interest in virology, oncology, and genetics. They titles of these folders are taken directly from the handwriting on the original files which used many abbreviations and some symbols not available on the keyboard.
Carton 3, Folder 29


Carton 3, Folder 30

Enucleation data

Carton 3, Folder 31

RNA synthesis in enucleated cells (with HMG) 1974

Carton 3, Folder 32

RPL 12's: vols.

Carton 3, Folder 33

In vitro labelling of viral DNA from cells 1974

Carton 3, Folder 34

Mutants 1976

Carton 3, Folder 35

G-O experiments 1976

Carton 4, Folder 1-2

ALK graphs and strands

Carton 4, Folder 3-4

Zonal runs 1974

Carton 4, Folder 5

Purification of BU labelled viral DNA

Carton 4, Folder 6

Mouse-hamster clones (Vince etc.)

Carton 4, Folder 7

Lab protocols

Carton 4, Folder 8


Carton 4, Folder 9

Fractionation of + and - strands

Carton 4, Folder 10

Kinetics of strand synthesis 1976-1977

Carton 4, Folder 11

Polyacrylamide gel runs

Carton 4, Folder 12

Miscellaneous 1973-1974

Carton 4, Folder 13

X C saturation curve

Carton 4, Folder 14

RI Ry with 3'—5' piece 1977

Carton 4, Folder 15

Nuclei and cytoplasmic 7x-3T3 clones

Carton 4, Folder 16


Carton 4, Folder 17

3T3 and NRK infections and clones

Carton 4, Folder 18

Marek's cells, clonings, etc. March 1978 1978

Carton 4, Folder 19

32P cDNA 3' probe

Carton 4, Folder 20


Carton 4, Folder 21

Labelled XC and QT24F (3H Thymidine)

Carton 4, Folder 22

Use and care of L19 rotor

Carton 4, Folder 23

Miscellaneous 1975-1976

Carton 4, Folder 24

Copy numbers for integrated DNA in multiply infected cells/QT24AEF

Carton 4, Folder 25

B77/DK acute infected Cyto, NUC.Nets and ALK Nets

Carton 4, Folder 26

Caffeine experiment 1974

Carton 4, Folder 27

Papers: Tom Padgett, Gwynn Lee Simon 1976-1977

Carton 4, Folder 28

Restriction enzymes 1976

Carton 4, Folder 29

DNA syn M by UV inact ASV 1975-1977

Carton 4, Folder 30

Virus inventory, late 1976 1976

Carton 4, Folder 31

Marek's cells tests 1975

Carton 4, Folder 32

Unintegrated DNA transformed duck cells 1975

Carton 4, Folder 33

Myotubes, 1-5 1977

Carton 4, Folder 34

Richards, Oliver et al Intermediates in the synthesis of viral DNA 1976

Carton 4, Folder 35

Turek's cells 1977-78

Carton 5, Folder 1


Carton 5, Folder 2

ALK gels/ + neut. gels denat. DNA 1978

Carton 5, Folder 3

cDNA 3' for blotting, kinetics blots, wash tests 1977

Carton 5, Folder 4

Chromosomes 1976-1977

Carton 5, Folder 5

Page blotting 1978

Carton 5, Folder 6

Revertants after MLV, super infection 1979

Carton 5, Folder 7

DNA cloning general (HEV) 1979-1980

Carton 5, Folder 8

Herman's mutant ms

Carton 5, Folder 9

Infected CK XR1

Carton 5, Folder 10

Research files Myo #6 1977

Carton 5, Folder 11

BU int expts: BU blotting, Myo #10, 11 1978

Carton 5, Folder 12

BU & CSCL research files

Carton 5, Folder 13

Research files Myo #8,9,10 & 12 1978

Carton 5, Folder 14

Research files miscellaneous, DNA procedures 1976-1979

Carton 5, Folder 15

MMTV & MM RNA 1977

Carton 5, Folder 16-17

Reassociation kinetics

Carton 5, Folder 18-19

Test runs

Carton 5, Folder 20-22

Current assorted projects 1973-1973

Carton 5, Folder 23

RSV in mammalian cells

Carton 5, Folder 24

Experiments: cellular DNA 1975

Carton 5, Folder 25

Experiments: mouse mammary tumor virus 1971

Carton 5, Folder 26

Experiments: MTV - RNA 1972

Carton 5, Folder 27

Experiments: Foraminide undated

Carton 5, Folder 28

Experiments: Chromosomal separation 1970-1971

Carton 5, Folder 29

Experiments: BudR 1970

Carton 5, Folder 30

Research: Diane R 1972

Carton 6, Folder 1

Research: 1972 1972

Carton 6, Folder 2-3

Research Data 1978

Carton 6, Folder 4

Research: Ricky 1972-1973

Carton 6, Folder 5

Data for Journal of Virology, 1974 1974

Carton 6, Folder 6

Chromosome experiments 1976

Carton 6, Folder 7-8

Early experiments and viral DNA 1972-1972

Carton 6, Folder 9

Chromosomes preliminary experiments Tom P/Varmus 1975

Carton 6, Folder 10-11

Simon experiments 1975-1976

Carton 6, Folder 12-13

Cell DNA reassociation 1971-1972

Carton 6, Folder 14

NIH guidelines 1981

Carton 6, Folder 15

Memorandums of Understanding rDNA registration 1979-1980

Carton 6, Folder 16

Illustrations (photographs and negatives, gels, notes, and graphs of revertant DNA data) 1978-1979

Carton 6, Folder 17

Cloning and procedures 1977-1980

Carton 6, Folder 18

Polyma, retrovirus records 1979

Carton 6, Folder 19

Special topics lectures 1981

Carton 7, Folder 1

Miscellaneous - Py+Dex etc. 1978-1981

Carton 7, Folder 2

Talks and courses 1976-1980

Carton 7, Folder 3

Notes for Columbia, Caltech and other talks 1980

Carton 7, Folder 4

Notes for lectures, Pediatrics Grand Rounds, 12 slides 1980-1984

Carton 7, Folder 5

Slides from binder - Avian DNA, viral DNA, sarc 1978-1979

Carton 7, Folder 6

Slides from binder - General, chromos, sarc undated

Carton 7, Folder 7

Rous sarcoma virus project and duck cells, photograph negatives and slides undated

Carton 7, Folder 8

MTV (mouse tumor virus) lantern slides undated

Carton 7, Folder 9

Tumor virus lecture I and overflow lantern slides undated

Carton 7, Folder 10

Retired research slides 2"x2" undated



Physical Description: 30 Folders : Carton 8 8/1-8/30

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of materials from many conferences and meetings Harold Varmus attended during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Carton 8, Folder 1

San Francisco-USC Meeting/ PACTVIGR (Pacific Coast Tumor Virus Group) 1972-1977

Carton 8, Folder 2

Ninth Meeting on Mammary Cancer, Pisa 1974

Carton 8, Folder 3

Gordon Conference, Animal Cells and Viruses 1975

Carton 8, Folder 4

Third International Conference for Virology Madrid 1975

Carton 8, Folder 5

Squaw Valley 1976

Carton 8, Folder 6

UCLA-UCSF Meetings, MMTV Meeting 1976-1978

Carton 8, Folder 7

Europe 1977, Mosbacher Kolloqium 1977

Carton 8, Folder 8-9

Gordon Conference, Animal Cells and Viruses 1977

Carton 8, Folder 10

Gordon Research Conference, Hormone Action 1977

Carton 8, Folder 11

Gordon Conference undated

Carton 8, Folder 12

Aspen 1977

Carton 8, Folder 13

Cold Spring Harbor, Viral Oncogenes 1979

Carton 8, Folder 14

Animal Virus Genetics Meeting 1979

Carton 8, Folder 15

New York Academy of Sciences Conference on Genetic Variation of Viruses 1979

Carton 8, Folder 16

Cold Spring Harbor 1980-1981

Carton 8, Folder 17

Science Writers Seminar 1981

Carton 8, Folder 18

Strasbourg talk 1981

Carton 8, Folder 19

DNA 1, Japanese language bound volume c. 1982

Carton 8, Folder 20

International Workshop on Environmental Mutagenesis, Shanghai 1983

Carton 8, Folder 21

Florence steno notebook undated

Carton 8, Folder 22

Loose notes - Eric [Blair?] Dec. 7, 19--

Carton 8, Folder 23

MMTV, MTV workbook c. 1976

Carton 8, Folder 24

Notes from unidentified meeting on transcription (Simmovitch, Yamamoto, Tom Cashey) undated

Carton 8, Folder 25

Poster session "Multiple Mechanisms of Reversion of an ASV-Transformed Mammalian Cell Line" given at? c. 1974

Carton 8, Folder 26

Negatives of photographs for various lectures undated

Carton 8, Folder 27

DNA seminar lantern slides, 11/73 1973

Carton 8, Folder 28

Cold Spring Harbor lantern slides, handwritten Notes 1974

Carton 8, Folder 29

ACS [Howard] Temin symposium lantern slides undated

Carton 8, Folder 30

Lepetit [Colloquia] lantern slides undated