Hutchinson Center establishes new vaccine and infectious disease institute

SEATTLE — May 1, 2007 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has established a new Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute to develop and implement prevention strategies for globally important infectious diseases, including HIV, malaria and cancer.

"Over the past decade, many Hutchinson Center scientists have gained international stature in the prevention of global infectious diseases, especially HIV, but also including human papillomavirus, malaria, Epstein-Barr virus, and other microbes," said Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., president and director of the Hutchinson Center. "The development of this new interdisciplinary institute within the Center acknowledges this strength and will help it flourish."

The key goal of the new institute is to create an attractive environment that will enhance the Hutchinson Center's ability to recruit and retain leading scientists in the areas of vaccine development and prevention of infectious diseases. A second goal is to facilitate the Center's ability to partner with others in the region in the creation of a regional vaccine alliance that will make Seattle and Washington State an international leader in global infectious-disease prevention.

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the institute will have three co-directors representing three disciplines:

  • Lawrence Corey, M.D., principal investigator of the Hutchinson Center-based international HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) and senior vice president, will oversee the institute's clinical-research component (the testing of vaccines in clinical trials). Corey is head of the Center's Program in Infectious Disease and the University of Washington's Virology Division. He is also a professor of medicine and laboratory medicine.

  • M. Juliana (Julie) McElrath, M.D., director of the HVTN Laboratory Program, principal investigator of the Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Unit, and associate head of the Program in Infectious Diseases at the Hutchinson Center, will oversee the institute's laboratory-sciences activities (vaccine development). McElrath is also a professor of allergy and infectious disease at the UW School of Medicine.

  • Steven Self, Ph.D., head of the Program in Biostatistics and Biomathematics at the Hutchinson Center, will oversee the institute's population-sciences research (biostatistics, epidemiology and population modeling). Self is also a professor of biostatistics in the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

"What excites me is the opportunity that the institute has to foster vaccine development for global infectious diseases," Corey said. "This is an area of clinical research with ever-increasing public and foundation funding. The opportunities are great to do research that impacts public health."

Corey said the time is right to inaugurate a dedicated institute because the Hutchinson Center's expertise in HIV-vaccine development has grown and extended to vaccine design and population-based research in a wide variety of infectious diseases that are major public-health concerns. From the perspective of identity, focus and administration, the new structure is needed, he said.

"Biostatistics and informatics serve as the glue that holds together all of the elements along the pipeline of vaccine development," Self said. "I'm excited that the institute creates an integrated research program that allows biostatistics, bioinformatics and population modeling to be engaged throughout vaccine design, development, evaluation and implementation."

Media Contact
Dean Forbes
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
(206) 667-2896

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