Fred Hutch president elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Gary Gilliland named as new member of country’s oldest learned societies
Dr. Gary Gilliland
Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, an honorary society that traces its roots back to the days of Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and John Adams.

Gilliland, a renowned expert in cancer genetics and precision medicine, took the helm of Fred Hutch in January last year. Wednesday morning the Cambridge, Massachusetts, society released the names of 213 new members from various scientific, medical and artistic disciplines including the jazz saxophonist and Grammy Award-winner Wayne Shorter, novelist Colm Tóibín, and former Botswana president Festus Mogae, a leader in the African struggle against HIV/AIDS. Other new members include winners of the Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, the Fields Medal and the National Book Award.

“I am grateful to be honored by the Academy,” said Gilliland. “It is humbling to be included in this list of astonishing names in the arts and sciences, and it is particularly gratifying to know that the work of other Fred Hutch scientists, past and present, has been recognized by this historic organization.”

Gilliland, who holds doctorates in microbiology and medicine, spent 20 years on the faculty at Harvard University, where he was professor of medicine and professor of stem cell and regenerative biology. He was also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the director of the leukemia program at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, and has earned numerous honors for his work. The bulk of his initial work at Harvard was focused on the genetic basis of blood cancers.

In 2009, Gilliland left Harvard to go to serve as senior vice president and head of global oncology at Merck Research Laboratories. In 2013, he returned to academia when he became vice dean and vice president of precision medicine at the 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.

Gilliland’s class is the 236th since the Academy was founded in 1780, in the midst of the American Revolution. Since then, it has established its reputation as one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers.

'A call to service'

“In a tradition reaching back to the earliest days of our nation, the honor of election to the American Academy is also a call to service,” said Academy President Jonathan Fanton in a statement. “We invite these newly elected members to participate in this important and rewarding work ― and to help produce the useful knowledge for which the Academy’s 1780 charter calls.”

Over the centuries its members have included such luminaries as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Scientists among its ranks include Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein. Figures from the arts include Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, John Updike, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Other current and former Hutch researchers previously elected to the Academy are President and Director Emeritus Dr. Lawrence Corey (2012), an expert in infectious disease and HIV vaccine research; Dr. Daniel Gottschling, a scientist who studies the mechanisms of aging (2010); Nobel laureate Dr. Linda Buck, who studies the mechanisms of the sense of smell (2008); Senior Vice President and Deputy Director Dr. Mark Groudine, a molecular and cellular biologist (2006); Dr. Robert Eisenman, who studies faulty genes that cause cancer (2003); President and Director Emeritus Dr. Lee Hartwell, who received the Nobel Prize for discovering genes that control cell division (1998); and the late Dr. Harold Weintraub, an international leader in the field of molecular biology (1988).

Sabin Russell is a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. For two decades he covered medical science, global health and health care economics for the San Francisco Chronicle, and wrote extensively about infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, and a freelance writer for the New York Times and Health Affairs. Reach him at

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