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Lawrence Corey Named New President and Director of FHCRC

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center today named the senior vice president and co-director of its Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute as its new president and director, succeeding Lee Hartwell.

Lawrence Corey said he would work to expand both basic and clinical research, with an eye to understanding the role cancer plays in global health; enhance survival and prevention of cancer and other diseases; improve healthcare to individuals and the entire population; and strengthen existing faculty mentoring programs.

Fulfilling those goals, he acknowledged, will mean stepping up the research, academic, and financial collaborations of the Seattle-based center, a pioneer institution in bone-marrow transplantation and cancer prevention.

"We cannot rest on our laurels. We must live in the present, but plan for the future," Corey said earlier today during a conference call with reporters. "I’m committed to honoring the trust the public holds in us as a medical research institution. I’m committed to being an advocate for the center’s faculty and scientific programs and extending the scientific breadth of our research in the basic, clinical, and public health sciences."

Corey said he expected the center would continue during his administration to keep "a very special focus on cancer, cancer prevention, cancer biology, and cancer treatment" — while at the same time broadening its mission into more areas of basic science and public health topics.

"The importance of the center is for it to be attacking the large important biological problems that we have in our society and the world. We certainly feel that cancer is our major focus, but also, an increasing understanding of the biological diversity of cancer requires a larger scientific base," Corey said.

That scientific base, he said, will see improvements in molecular biology tools and technologies — to be determined by the center's faculty members as research opportunities arise. "It will be their scientific thoughts and their scientific innovations that will promulgate the technologies and the kinds of machines and ideas and equipment that we will need to perform our mission."

His appointment comes in the midst of tough economic times for the Hutch, though a turnaround may be in place already. The recession that started in 2008 saw the Hutch's total revenues and other support drop to 7 percent $354.8 million in FY 2009 — the most recent year for which information is available — from $382.3 million in FY 2008.

Net contributions fell by almost half during FY 09 to $14.9 million from $27.6 million in FY 08. The drop-off in investment income was even sharper, to just over $3 million in FY 2009 from just over $16 million a year earlier. In April 2009, the center laid off 83 employees, 3 percent of its total workforce.

During FY 09 charitable giving and other net contributions accounted for just 4 percent of the center's $354.8 million operating budget, and investment income accounted for just 1 percent. The largest share of revenue, 83 percent, came from government research grants and contracts.

Doug Walker, chairman of the center's Board of Trustees, said the Hutch finished "a great year" for 2010, which ended June 30, though detailed results have yet to be released. "We're feeling a little more wind in our sails, and I feel quite optimistic about [this year] actually."

"I'm really happy to hear that," Corey deadpanned, drawing laughter from Hutch administrators and faculty members present at the press briefing.

Corey is also head of the center's infectious disease program, a full member of the epidemiology program, and principal investigator of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, which is based at the Hutch. The network has grown under Corey from research sites in nine US cities to 26 sites in nine countries on four continents.

Corey also played a leading role for the center in establishing the first American cancer clinic and medical training facility in Africa — a joint effort by the Hutch and the Uganda Cancer Institute in studying and treating cancer, notably Burkitts lymphoma. One goal of the joint effort is to improve the quality of medical education in oncology and increase the number of practicing oncologists in Uganda, where only two full-time cancer specialists now practice medicine.

In addition to his roles at the Hutchinson Center, Corey holds a variety of positions at the University of Washington School of Medicine, where he heads the virology division in the department of laboratory medicine. He is also a professor of laboratory medicine and medicine, adjunct professor of pediatrics and microbiology, and holder of the Lawrence Corey Endowed Chair in Medical Virology.

A researcher who has focused on therapies and vaccines for herpes viruses, HIV and infections related to cancer, Corey also serves as an infectious disease physician at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a partnership that includes the center, UW Medicine, and Seattle Children's Hospital.

Corey's appointment — expected to be effective Jan. 1, 2011 — caps a search that began soon after the center announced Hartwell's plans to retire from the helm of the Hutch in June 2009. Three months later, Arizona State University announced he would establish and co-direct the Center for Sustainable Health at the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

At ASU, Hartwell will be the university's second Virginia G. Piper Chair of Personalized Medicine; serve as a tenured professor in the College of Teacher Education and Leadership, and hold tenured appointments at ASU's School of Life Sciences and its School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering.

Hartwell has helmed the Hutch since 1997, a year after joining the center as a full member and senior advisor for scientific affairs. Hartwell is a co-winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for identifying the genes controlling yeast cell cycle progression as those that control cell division and cancer in humans.

Under Hartwell, the center more than doubled its budget, while growing its staff from about 2,100 to its current total of more than 2,700 staffers, including 186 faculty members.

Soon after Hartwell's retirement announcement, the Hutch formed a 10-member search committee headed by Steve Davis, a member of its Board of Trustees and senior adviser at McKinsey & Company, with other members of the center's board and scientific faculty included. The search committee worked with a national search firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, in evaluating candidates.

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