Dr. Gary Gilliland, a renowned physician-scientist, took the helm as Fred Hutch’s president and director on Jan. 2, 2015.
Gilliland is an expert in cancer genetics and precision medicine who has devoted his life to finding better treatments and cures for diseases.
“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.”
Gilliland, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology as well as a medical doctorate, spent 20 years on the faculty at Harvard where he was professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University. He was also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute 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 in 2015.
The bulk of his initial work at Harvard focused on the genetic basis of blood cancers.
In 2009, Gilliland left Harvard to go to Merck Research Laboratories to learn how to “take a good idea and turn it into a cancer treatment,” he said.
As the senior vice president and global oncology franchise head, he oversaw preclinical and clinical oncology development, as well as clinical oncology licensing. During his four years there, he and the Merck team were able to bring an immunotherapy cancer drug called lambrolizumab (Keytruda) to market in record time, from first human trials in 2011 to approval in 2014 by the Food and Drug Administration.
In 2013, he 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.
“This is the perfect time and perfect place to develop curative approaches for cancer," said Gilliland when he was named the Hutch's fifth president. "Everything I’ve done in my career has pointed here."