For Fred Hutch, the COVID‑19 pandemic created hurdles to cancer and other research but also an opportunity for the virology expertise developed over decades of work on bone marrow transplants and HIV cures to help stop a global crisis. This report charts those efforts, our unwavering commitment to cancer research, and our impact over the last year.
When I stepped onto the Hutch campus to start my tenure on Feb. 1, 2020, I knew I was about to lead a remarkable scientific institution. What I didn’t yet appreciate was the resilience of the people who worked there and of my new community. This past year has tested all of us in ways that we never could have predicted.
I am tremendously proud of how we have responded to the pandemic. Fred Hutch has always been a preeminent institution for research on HIV and other viruses, though many didn’t realize that until now. When COVID-19 arrived in the U.S., our virologists, as well as many of our cancer and basic science researchers, jumped into the response. I think everyone in the Hutch community can be proud of the significant role we’re playing in stopping the pandemic.
Our work in genomic epidemiology helped the world follow the epidemic’s spread. Our researchers searched for monoclonal antibodies that might work as therapeutic agents. At the request of Dr. Anthony Fauci, we built from the HIV Vaccine Trials Network to create the COVID-19 Prevention Network, or CoVPN; our speed in launching CoVPN’s five Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trials played a pivotal role in getting vaccines into people's arms so quickly. We also embraced new opportunities to educate the public with the latest information and research — more than 50,000 people have participated in our virtual forums to learn and ask questions of our experts.
Meanwhile, we continue to work incredibly hard to find cures for cancer. Our researchers, working in shifts to maintain safety, remain remarkably productive despite the limitations the virus has placed on us as a workplace and as a culture. We are not wavering in our commitment to pursue fearless science that will make a difference for humanity.
In 2020, we also increased our commitment to drive diversity, equity and inclusion within the organization and across our research. Achieving these goals is not only the moral and just thing to do, it is inherently tied to the success of our science. Cancer and the other diseases that we research disproportionately affect people of color and underserved communities. We need to understand why and learn how to reduce those inequities. The work that Dr. Paul Buckley — our vice president and chief diversity & inclusion officer — his team, and Fred Hutch employees are doing together will ultimately make a difference for all of us.
Fred Hutch has been the beneficiary of extraordinary generosity this year from people who support our cancer research and donated to our COVID-19 efforts. That continued dedication is a remarkable expression of support and love for the work that goes on at the Hutch every day. Thank you.
Through the year, I have been struck by people’s ability to endure, to find those small moments of connection and even joy, while putting their all into tackling this new disease. I see a time of emergence for us in the not-too-distant future, when we’ll knit our society back together. I can’t wait to finally connect in person with all of you.
Across the organization, researchers and staff shifted their focus or quickly adapted as COVID‑19 disrupted lives and work.
On March 4, 2020, Fred Hutch’s leadership activated a mandatory remote work policy as the Seattle area became one of the first U.S. regions impacted by the novel coronavirus. The move came as a significant portion of the research staff had already pivoted their focus to tracking and understanding the COVID‑19 disease and the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes it.
For the rest of 2020, Hutch researchers produced a remarkable volume of papers, preprints and insights about the virus and disease even as work continued to find cures for cancer, HIV and related diseases.
When the pandemic hit, we were concerned that philanthropic support would slow. Instead, our community showed up stronger than ever. Community members understood that fearless science, and their support, was never more important.
From the moment our researchers pivoted to tackle COVID-19, donors responded, raising more than $9 million for our coronavirus efforts while continuing to support our cancer research. They increased their gifts and raised money on their own for Fred Hutch. When we emailed, phoned and texted to let donors know about special giving days in May and December, the response was overwhelming: 2,400 people gave more than $1.2 million. Close to half of the gifts we received in 2020 came from new supporters.
Fueled by this support, we’ve kept our lifesaving cancer research moving forward while helping to lead the world out of the current crisis.
Innovators Network member
Loyal donors and cancer survivor
Our need for the stimulus payments was not as important as the need for continuing the research that Fred Hutchinson does. Hopefully, we are a small part of helping as Fred Hutch helps so many. It was the right thing to do.
President's Circle member and cancer survivor
Our experts did countless media interviews, posted preprints, shared social media stories, attended virtual events and more to provide trusted information.
The pandemic sparked a surge in interest in scientific research, and our scientists and leaders stepped up their efforts to serve as trusted sources of information. They embraced opportunities to educate the community about what was happening with the pandemic, how it was affecting vulnerable populations, including cancer patients — and how it could be stopped.
Through hundreds of media interviews, thousands of social media posts and dozens of virtual events, our team worked to answer questions and concerns about the virus, the disease, its spread, and treatments and vaccines. They relied on thoughtful insights drawn from the latest data and discoveries.
AUG. 7, 2020 — Dr. Josh Schiffer emphasizes the importance of “superspreader” events. Most people won’t spread COVID-19 widely. The few who do are probably in the wrong place at the wrong time in their infection, models suggest.
MAY 20, 2020 — Computer models are not crystal balls. The work that goes into making them is complicated, as is their ultimate purpose. Dr. Elizabeth Halloran explained her COVID-19 modeling work and some of the caveats of model predictions.
NOV. 18, 2020 — Seattle’s cancer research center became a nexus for coordinating and understanding vaccine studies. Starting in July, Fred Hutch has served as the operations hub for the National Institute of Health’s COVID-19 Prevention Network.
APR. 17, 2020 — Drs. Tom Lynch and Larry Corey recalled the start of the COVID-19 epidemic and discussed Fred Hutch’s efforts to track and control the virus along with other notable Seattle companies who found themselves on the front lines.
The pandemic didn’t stop or even slow our efforts to research and discover cures for cancer and HIV. Breakthroughs big and small continued.
Researchers working in the lab and the clinic — and sometimes at home — made critical discoveries in 2020 that are improving care for cancer patients today and may lead to more new treatments in the future.
New cures, treatments and vaccines are built on the foundation of discoveries in basic biology — an area that Hutch scientists continued to explore and advance.
Clinical trials were briefly affected by the pandemic but quickly ramped back up as new safeguards were developed and put in place.
Amid the protests in Seattle and around the world, Fred Hutch renewed its commitment to core principles that are the foundation of our scientific mission, including democracy, justice, equity and the pursuit of knowledge. We increased our efforts to be an inclusive and equitable workplace that centers our work on the equal value of all human lives, including plans for a faculty “cluster hire” to improve diversity.
MARCH 18, 2020 — Dr. Paul M. Buckley (center) stepped into the newly created role of administrative director of Fred Hutch’s new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. With faculty co-director Dr. Chris Li (right), Buckley will spearhead the Hutch’s efforts to make our science and culture more inclusive and diverse.
MAY 5, 2020 — Fred Hutch announced nine recipients of the Dr. Eddie Méndez Scholar Award. Created in 2019, the award recognizes the late Dr. Eddie Méndez and his commitment to supporting early-career scientists, particularly those from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds.
OCT. 2, 2020 — With the help of a three-year grant from the National Cancer Institute, a team of Hutch public health researchers will lead a collaboration to address colon cancer inequities among people of color.
Efforts continued to expand and adapt our campus to ensure our facilities meet the needs for our research today — and in the future. After more than two years of reconstruction efforts, scientists moved into their new labs at the renovated Lake Union Steam Plant. Also in October, the COVID-19 Clinical Research Center was opened to conduct innovative studies for SARS-CoV-2-positive participants.
Funded by philanthropic donations and public-private partnerships, the CCRC is one of the first facilities in the nation designed to test novel interventions to treat and prevent COVID-19.
Like every other organization, Fred Hutch had no playbook for how to get employees back on-site amid a pandemic. But decades of scientific expertise have been crucial to keep labs open.
The free, government-funded Cancer Information Service provided crucial support to cancer patients during the pandemic, and Fred Hutch's contract to run the service was renewed for five more years.
In 2020, the Obliteride community proved again that we are unstoppable, together. When we replaced our in-person event with a safe virtual season, participation went global. From Seattle to Antarctica, Obliteriders put their hearts, sweat and tenacity to work to honor loved ones and power lifesaving research. A record-breaking 3,197 participants — from all 50 U.S. states, 17 countries and seven continents — biked, walked, ran, kayaked, climbed, swam and more, joining up with more than 13,000 donors to raise $3.1 million for fearless science.
Thanks to our amazing sponsors, 100% of participant-raised funds went right to cancer and COVID-19 research at Fred Hutch.
Obliteride will be virtual again in 2021. Registration opens April 6. Join us!
JULY 24, 2020 — Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the face of the mother of all pandemics, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reinvented its annual summer fundraiser into a sort of global competition full of fun, healthy and, in some cases, wildly creative challenges.
Absent were Obliteride’s customary large gatherings and group bike rides. In their place for this year’s season-long event, people safely raised money for the Hutch’s scientific research from wherever they lived — Seattle, San Diego, New Hampshire or Norway — and however they liked.
Some biked and others ran, walked, rowed, climbed, kayaked, jumped rope, practiced yoga and, yes, even skateboarded and ate pizza, if that’s how they chose to roll. Continue reading
Hutch researchers are unlocking the secrets of data, harnessing our immune system and digging deep into the function of our cells to halt cancer, COVID-19 and other diseases. The world is counting on fearless science — and fearless science is counting on us.
The Hutch donor community was crucial in supporting our work in 2020, and in December we gathered virtually to celebrate that support. While we couldn't be together physically, we remain connected by our passion for lifesaving science.
Kathy Surace-Smith, chair, Fred Hutch board of trustees
Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr. became the sixth president and director in Fred Hutch’s 45-year history in February. With expertise in solid tumor research, precision medicine and immuno-oncology, Lynch has been a nationally recognized leader in academic medicine for more than three decades. Additionally, the Hutch welcomed two new members to its board of trustees along with a new chair and vice chair in June.
We believe that nonprofit organizations like Fred Hutch should be both transparent and accountable to the public.
The pandemic added significant uncertainty and volatility to the global financial outlook, and starting in March the organization implemented a series of cost-cutting measures to ensure the strength of our finances. Generous philanthropic support, new public partnerships, strong federal funding as well as new opportunities tied to research around COVID-19 helped Fred Hutch manage and mitigate the potential impact of the pandemic on our finances. These numbers are for our fiscal year 2020, which ended in June.
Contracts and Government Grants
Gifts and Philanthropic Grants
Gifts from Individuals
Fundraising and Community Events
Program Services and Research
Management and General
All figures in thousands. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.
The pandemic will only be a hurdle in our quest to cure cancer and HIV, but it will likely change how research is carried out in the future.
Our researchers and staff are working harder than ever before, often in round-the-clock shifts. Meanwhile our community of partners and donors has inspired us with their trust in our science and commitment to our mission. We are tremendously grateful.
The increasing availability of vaccines means our experts forecast a positive shift in the course of the pandemic in the coming year. With that hopeful outlook as a foundation, we asked researchers across Fred Hutch to talk about what they are expecting in 2021 — not only in COVID-19, but also in the diseases that we’ve been facing year after year.
I am optimistic that I will be able to ski with my grandkids for their winter break in December 2021.
As more and more front line and health care workers get vaccinated, that’s going to be a strong signal of confidence in these vaccines to the general public.
I hope our research on pediatric brain tumors makes progress toward the clinic in 2021 and it brings comfort to patients and their families who have suffered from this terrible disease.
Professor, Clinical Research Division, Aven Foundation Endowed Chair
Content direction by David Patton. Designed by Sarah Jo White. Written by David Patton and Lesley Reed. Photography and Videography by Robert Hood/Fred Hutch News Service.
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