Dr. Glenda Gray, a leader of the Fred Hutch-based HIV Vaccine Trials Network and director of its Africa programs, is included in Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for her pioneering work on HIV prevention. The magazine announced the list today.
The South African-born Gray moved from being an anti-apartheid activist in the 1980s to fighting HIV, which took hold in her country in the 1990s, right around the time apartheid was ending. In those early days, she found herself doing battle on two fronts — against a deadly virus and the stigma that led so many others to refuse to acknowledge it.
Then a young pediatrician in training, she was particularly stricken to see babies dying of AIDS.
“Gray decided to fight the virus and the silence around it through research,” Time health editor Siobhan O’Connor wrote in a short essay on Gray that accompanied the announcement. “Thanks in part to her work on mother-to-child transmission, the number of babies born with HIV has dropped from 600,000 a year to 150,000.”
Today president of the South African Medical Research Council — the premier medical research organization and funder of medical research in South Africa — Gray has been honored throughout the years for her work on HIV. She and Dr. James McIntyre, who together founded the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in Soweto, received the Nelson Mandela Health & Human Rights Award in 2002 and the “Heroes in Medicine” award from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care in 2003. In 2013, South African President Jacob Zuma awarded Gray the Order of Mapungubwe: Silver, the highest honor the nation bestows on its citizens.
Gray is now chairing an HVTN clinical trial at 15 sites involving 5,400 participants across South Africa — the largest clinical trial of its kind ever conducted in the country. Results of the trial, called HVTN 702, are expected by late 2020 and could lead to the first licensed vaccine against HIV.
“If we are successful in South Africa, there will be bridging studies to anywhere in the world — to East Africa, the U.S., to young girls, to babies,” Gray said at an international AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
Now in its 14th year, the Time list also honored such influential forces as retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, transgender activist Gavin Grimm, writer Margaret Atwood, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, philanthropist Melinda Gates and Pope Francis. The list “explores the intersection of accomplishment and renown,” wrote Time editor-in-chief Nancy Gibbs, and recognizes people of “great force, in the power of their inventions, the scale of their ambitions, the genius of their solutions to problems that no one before them could solve.”
— Mary Engel / Fred Hutch News Service
On April 17, Gov. Jay Inslee approved a bill passed recently by the Washington state Senate that will allow Fred Hutch to benefit from the sale of vanity license plates bearing the center’s logo and official tagline, “Cures Start Here.” For each set sold, the Hutch will receive $28 to fuel its lifesaving research.
The initiative was made possible by the support of more than 4,000 people who signed the petition over the past year to get the bill in front of the state legislature for approval.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for citizens across the state to become involved in the lifesaving research here at the Fred Hutch,” said Justin Marquart, deputy director of Development at the Hutch. “I look forward to seeing our plates on Washington roads and highways later this year."
— Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service
Dr. Oliver “Ollie” Press, a radioimmunotherapy researcher and oncologist at Fred Hutch and professor of medical oncology at the University of Washington, was presented April 8 with the Oliver W. Press Distinguished MSTP Alumnus Award during a ceremony at the Seattle Yacht Club. Press is the inaugural recipient of this award, which recognizes a graduate of the UW School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program, or MSTP, whose achievements and character have elevated their field and brought honor to their profession.
Drs. William Bremner, the Robert G. Petersdorf Professor and chairman of the UW Department of Medicine, among others, spoke at the celebration in his honor.
“He is a quadruple threat,” said Bremner. “A compassionate physician, a brilliant researcher, a patient mentor and a strategic administrator.”
In addition to giving Press an honorary plaque, the UW School of Medicine Alumni Association produced a video tribute to him that featured interviews with his longtime Hutch and UW colleagues.
Press received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the Medical Scientist Training Program at UW in 1979. Since then, he has held many titles, including: associate director of the MSTP for more than 15 years, director of clinical research for hematology and hematological malignancies of the Fred Hutch/UW Cancer Consortium, and co-director of the UW Center for Intracellular Delivery of Biologics.
His many honors and awards include receiving the second annual Mentorship Award for Excellence in Mentoring Physician/Scientists from the UW Department of Medicine last November.
Currently, Press holds the David and Patricia Guiliani/Oliver Press Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at Fred Hutch, where he is a member of the Clinical Research Division, for which he served three years as senior vice president and acting director.
— Kristen Woodward / Fred Hutch News Service
The American Society of Hematology, or ASH, has named Dr. Vivian Oehler of the Clinical Research Division as one of five recipients of its 2017 ASH Bridge Grants. The $150,000 award will enable Oehler to continue her work with understanding how genetic and epigenetic changes in patients with pediatric acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, contribute to leukemia biology and therapy resistance.
“The goals of these studies are to accurately identify patients at high risk for treatment failure, and to identify novel therapeutic strategies that can counteract adverse risk factors,” Oehler said.
With her collaborator, Dr. Soheil Meshinchi, Oehler has used microRNA, or miRNA, sequencing of 637 children and young adults to identify patients at high risk of treatment failure after standard induction chemotherapy.
With the funding from ASH, the researchers aim to validate this biomarker panel in pediatric AML patients and explore how altered expression of miRNAs contributes to the mechanisms of AML and impacts response to treatment, Oehler said.
Launched in 2012, the ASH Bridge Grant Program is intended to sustain promising blood-disorder research proposals that score well but cannot be funded by the National Institutes of Health due to budget constraints.
“This program allows scientific momentum to continue while encouraging the retention of promising researchers, especially in this time of uncertain NIH funding,” said ASH President Dr. Kenneth C. Anderson in a news release.
According to the statement, previous ASH Bridge Grant recipients have had “great success”, with 65 percent going on to secure NIH or private funding. Since 2013, ASH has awarded more than $10 million in Bridge Grant support to 87 recipients at 53 institutions.
“We are fortunate to be living in an era of rapid scientific advancement, and these awards help us ensure that brilliant researchers continue to contribute to our greater scientific understanding,” Anderson said.
— Molly McElroy / Fred Hutch News Service