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Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images

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Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images

Each time we fix up a Mosaic conversation, we ask our eminent subject to bring with them one item that carries a special personal meaning. They then pose with this object during their photoshoot.

In the case of Harold Varmus, the chosen object was a bicycle wheel.

Varmus lives in New York but spends his weeks in Washington. Somehow he manages to enjoy fishing, playing tennis and, most of all, cycling. “I’m a happy man when I can ride my 12-mile commute to work and back in one day, that’s fun,” he says. Getting exercise is important to him and he says he likes the endorphins too.

His wife is less enthusiastic about cycling and, to try and share the fun, he says he recently went to a spinning class with her, which he found difficult. “I would still rather ride outside, but the nice thing about a spinning class is that she and I can ride side by side,” he said. “And I don’t leave her in the dust.”

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