Dr. Marie Bleakley: Pediatric immunotherapy and transplantation researcher

Hutch Magazine

Dr. Marie Bleakley

12 questions about life outside the lab for the Fred Hutch pediatric immunotherapy and transplantation researcher

Dr. Marie Bleakley with her dog, Gypsy.

Dr. Bleakley with her dog, Gypsy.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

DR. MARIE BLEAKLEY followed her grandfather into medicine. A native Australian, she came to the U.S., and Fred Hutch, in 2002 for a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology. Through her research on blood stem cell transplant and targeted immune therapies, Bleakley aims to improve survival and reduce treatment side effects in patients, especially children, who have high-risk leukemia. Recently, she sat down to talk about:

Your grandfather?
He was a family physician in the days where they did everything, including delivering babies. He was very tall and British and quite elegant in his doctoring and family life. He emigrated from the U.K. to Australia. His sideline was that he started the Canberra Food and Wine Club.

I noticed bottles of wine in your office? 
They're accumulating because I'm too busy to drink them. [They're from] students — I'm not sure if they're gifts or bribes. [Laughs]

What do you miss about where you grew up?
Easy contact with family and friends, the climate, bird songs and the smell of eucalyptus.

Did you grow up doing outdoorsy things?

Oh yes. And Seattle in the summer is fantastic for hiking and biking. But then you have these long periods where — well, the skiing is great, but November here is hard before the snow starts, and the days are short.

Did you plan on staying in the U.S.?
[My husband] thought we were coming here for a year, I thought we were coming for three, and here we are 14 years later, with two kids and a dog. He's a very tolerant man.

How did you meet?
At university, through the track club.

Are you still a runner?
We do fun runs quite frequently. We do the Shore Run [a Seattle 5K/10K event] each year to raise money for the Hutch. I do the women's run around Green Lake with my daughter. We do trail running. If I'm pushing in one direction, I don't like to push in another, so the running is more recreational now.

One object you would bring to a desert island, assuming you had food and water?
My Kindle, and an electricity supply.

Do you have a favorite genre?
Biography. I find it relaxing and educational at the same time. Having a broader view of what's happened in the world — it's more enjoyable seeing it through the eyes of an individual.

The most compelling biographies you've read?
Obama's was really inspirational. Also Rosalind Franklin [who helped solve the structure of DNA] — just her determination to follow the science and excel despite the challenges that she had as a woman in science at the time.

If you could be any animal what would you be?
A dog. My border collie, Gypsy, has a good life.

OK, now you're a person again, but you can choose a superpower.
Can I clone myself? An army of clones doing everything I need to do, and a couple that are resting and enjoying life with the family.

Fred Hutch is a global leader in discovering therapies for kids with cancer. With funds raised at the 2016 Hutch Holiday Gala, we intend to make our biggest investment yet in pediatric cancer research. Learn more at fredhutch.org/givenow.