Dr. Jennifer Adair is the inaugural recipient of the Fleischauer Family Endowed Chair in Gene Therapy Translation at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The new endowed chair will help advance Adair’s research, which focuses on developing safe, cost-effective gene therapies that can be delivered worldwide.
“Our family adores Dr. Adair and the work she is doing for humanity, and we are genuinely honored to support her efforts,” Mark and Kristin Fleischauer said. “Her collaborative approach to science, her creativity in deploying and refining gene editing tools and her drive to ensure access are not only inspirational, they are essential. We are all incredibly lucky that people like Jen choose to become scientists.”
Kristin and Mark have long supported efforts to expand access to curative therapies through the Hutch’s Global Oncology Program, and Mark, a member of the Fred Hutch Board of Trustees, has been raising money for research for several years through the annual Obliteride fundraiser. Mark and Kristin attended a lecture by Adair four years ago and have closely followed her career ever since. Over the holidays, the entire Fleischauer Family was in town to visit the Adair Lab and spend more time understanding the implications and potential of the Adair Lab’s work. Together with their three children — Kari, Matt and Mason — the Fleischauers decided to create the endowed chair to support Adair’s work and help ensure that the cutting-edge therapies developed at the Hutch are not only curative, but accessible as well.
Adair has spent years researching ways to help gene therapy go global. In 2016, Adair’s team developed a portable “gene therapy in a box” device that could produce genetically modified blood stem cells without the need for multimillion-dollar clean rooms. More recently, Adair and her team developed a gold nanoparticle to deliver very precise DNA edits into blood stem cells. This technology could greatly simplify delivery of gene therapy and could pave the way for global availability.
“What moved us most was not only Jen’s groundbreaking work with CRISPR, but her passion — and success — in translating gene therapies to wider segments of the population,” the Fleischauers said. “Her lab’s work in creating ‘gene therapy in a box’ and, hopefully soon, ‘gene therapy in a syringe’ is exactly the kind of inspirational and creative work that philanthropy needs to support.”
Adair said she was humbled to receive such a generous gift.
“I am honored that they would find my research a good fit for their philanthropy, and it is not something I take lightly,” she said. “When researchers have a new idea or want to push into a new space, we always have to think creatively about how to fund that. I will always have these dedicated funds to pursue those next ideas, and that’s going to help in a thousand ways.”
Adair, who has children around the same age as the Fleischauers, said the two families have become close — close enough for friendly trash-talking that began the minute the Ohio-born Adair learned of the Fleischauers’ ties to the University of Michigan, where their son attends college. A tongue-in-cheek stipulation on the endowment is that Adair must take a picture of herself wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt. (She hasn’t gotten around to it — yet.)
The Fleischauers’ gift of Adair’s endowed chair was inspired in part by the Hutch’s $20 million matching program for establishing endowed faculty chairs, which runs through June 30. This special initiative recognizes the strategic importance Fred Hutch leadership places on supporting faculty and partnering with generous donors to recognize and catalyze their lifesaving work. Through the initiative, a $2 million endowed faculty chair can be established with a donor’s first-time pledge of $1 million, complemented by an equal investment of $1 million from Fred Hutch. In five years, the number of endowed chairs at Fred Hutch has grown from 3 to 31.
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