Spotlight On Gary Gilliland

Setting the Direction for Saving Lives

Gary Gilliland, President and Director

Dr. Gary Gilliland, a renowned physician-scientist, is an expert in cancer genetics and precision medicine. He has devoted his life to finding better treatments and cures.

“We’ve made enormous progress in treating cancer patients and improving their quality of life, but our goal is to cure cancer,” he said. “For the first time, for me at least, I can see it coming across a broad spectrum of human cancers. The place where that will happen — the leading edge for that — is Fred Hutch.”

As Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s president and director, Gilliland sets the strategic direction of the center, oversees centerwide initiatives and represents Fred Hutch’s interests to major partners and governmental bodies. He also directs the Fred Hutch/University of Washington Cancer Consortium, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, and is principal investigator of its Cancer Center Support Grant. In this capacity, Gilliland oversees research which aims to eliminate cancer through more effective prevention, diagnostics and treatment.

Dr. Gary Gilliland
Dr. Gary Gilliland is president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Gilliland is a renowned physician-scientist and holds a Ph.D. in microbiology as well as a medical doctorate. Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

He holds both a Ph.D. in microbiology and a medical doctorate and spent 20 years at Harvard Medical School, where he was professor of medicine as well as professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University. He was also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and the director of the leukemia program at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. He has earned numerous honors for his work, including election to the National Academy of Medicine.

The bulk of his initial work at Harvard focused on the genetic basis of blood cancers.

“This is the perfect time and perfect place to develop curative approaches for cancer.”

In 2009, Gilliland left Harvard to go to Merck Research Laboratories to learn how, in his words, “to take a good idea and turn it into a cancer treatment.”

As Merck’s senior vice president and global oncology franchise head, he oversaw preclinical and clinical oncology development, as well as clinical oncology licensing. During his four-year tenure, he and the Merck team brought an immunotherapy cancer drug called pembrolizumab (Keytruda) to market in record time, from the first human trials in 2011 to approval in 2014 by the Food and Drug Administration.

In 2013, Gilliland returned to academia when he became the vice dean and vice president of precision medicine at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. There, he worked to bring together research and clinical care initiatives across disciplines to create a model for delivering personalized medicine to patients with a range of diseases.

He took the helm as Fred Hutch’s leader on Jan. 2, 2015.

“This is the perfect time and perfect place to develop curative approaches for cancer," Gilliland said when he was named the Hutch's fifth president. "Everything I’ve done in my career has pointed here."

Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland discusses his bold vision for cancer care and curative therapies.