As a scientist, Dr. Larry Corey has led some of the most significant advances in medicine in the last 30 years, including the development of safe and effective antivirals for herpes viruses, HIV and hepatitis infections. As president and director of Fred Hutch, he helped drive lifesaving discoveries across an even broader spectrum of diseases.
An international expert in virology, immunology and vaccine development, Corey made a major discovery in the early 1980s when he demonstrated the effectiveness of the world’s first antiviral therapy (acyclovir) for the treatment of herpes simplex virus-2 (genital herpes). Working with Dr. Gertrude Elion -- the inventor of acyclovir -- at Burroughs-Wellcome & Company (now GlaxoSmithKline), Corey was the first to give patients oral antivirals for an extended time safely and effectively. At the time, many scientists believed such specific and safe antiviral drugs were not achievable.
“It was a very heretical concept at the time,” Corey said. “But the road that we created in herpes is the road that was followed for HIV, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B and now hepatitis C. There is nothing that has impacted the lives of more people than antivirals, especially those for HIV.” That first use of antivirals sparked a wave of research that continues to deliver promising results today.
“We have changed infections in the transplant patient. It’s a quiet breakthrough that we have led,” Corey said.
Corey stepped down as Fred Hutch’s president and director on July 1, 2014, to return to science and pursue his passion of finding vaccines and, hopefully, cures for HIV/AIDS, herpes and other infections. While at the helm, he worked tirelessly to ensure Fred Hutch’s breakthroughs were celebrated, not kept quiet. He encouraged staff and faculty to become more vocal advocates of Fred Hutch’s research achievements and impact on eliminating cancer and other diseases.
Corey also led an effort to identify and prioritize Fred Hutch’s strategic research goals. These priorities include developing new immunotherapies to treat cancers, discovering an HIV/AIDS vaccine and improving cancer prevention, early detection and treatment services in order to reduce the economic and human burden of cancer. These goals promise to keep Fred Hutch at the forefront of research breakthroughs for years to come.
The opportunity to make numerous research advances, and to have led them as the head of one of the world’s leading research centers, is something he is grateful for.
“I wouldn’t trade what I have done in a heartbeat. I am a lucky man.”