Announced today by ASGCT, his one-year term will begin after the annual ASGCT meeting, which will be held virtually this year May 12-15. After serving a year as vice president, Kiem will have successive one-year terms as president-elect and then president.
Kiem, a professor in the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch, holds the Stephanus Family Endowed Chair for Cell and Gene Therapy and is globally recognized in stem cell, gene therapy and gene editing techniques. His research focuses on improving the lives of patients with genetic and infectious diseases such as cancer and HIV through novel gene therapy and stem cell transplantation treatments. By developing therapies to repair or replace problem-causing genes, he hopes to cure diseases from HIV to leukemia to sickle cell disease.
"Blood stem cells are amazing; they make more than 2 million blood cells per second. Thus, the potential is enormous. If we can correct defective stem cells or modify healthy stem cells, we can treat and hopefully cure millions of diseases," Kiem said.
As a physician-scientist at Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch’s clinical-care partner, Kiem’s work spans from the lab to the bedside, and he is interested in developing new technologies to make treatments more accessible to all patients.
“Imagine in the not-so-distant-future: With a single injection, a single shot in the arm, we deliver the recipe that will make ordinary blood and immune cells resistant to HIV,” he said.
Kiem has been a member of ASGCT since the very beginning, when his colleague and mentor Dr. George Stamatoyannopoulos, a University of Washington School of Medicine professor, founded the society in 1996. He has mentored more than 70 trainees in cell and gene therapy over the past 23 years, many of whom now hold tenure-track faculty positions.
As the ASGCT president, Kiem hopes to focus on how the organization can continue to champion safe and ethical applications of novel cell and gene therapy treatments. He also hopes to further promote the advancement of basic sciences research across the organization and support young investigators, women and minorities to maintain a strong and diverse community.
“While some of the first applications were for genetic diseases like hemoglobinopathies or immunodeficiencies, ASGCT was also instrumental in supporting the development of genetically modified T cells for immunotherapies. Cell and gene therapy approaches have also become increasingly recognized as a potential strategy to treat and maybe cure infectious diseases like HIV,” he said of his ASGCT colleagues' research.
ASGCT is dedicated to advancing knowledge and discovery of genetic and cellular therapies to alleviate human disease. Today, it has more than 3,500 members worldwide and is the largest association of gene and cell therapy professionals. The annual meeting draws nearly 5,000 attendees.
“This is an incredible honor. I am so humbled and thankful to the ASGCT members for selecting me as their next vice president,” Kiem said of his selection. “I think the potential of ASGCT is enormous. The society incorporates so many different scientific disciplines and thus is able to develop treatments for a wide variety of diseases. I am also hopeful that members of ASGCT will have major contributions to the development of novel therapies for COVID-19.”
Natalie Myers is a former integrated content coordinator in Communications & Marketing at Fred Hutch.