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Dr. Thomas Lynch Jr., new president and director at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. (Fred Hutch Photo)

Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found its next leader, announcing Tuesday that Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr. will become the institution’s new president and director.

Lynch is a well-known cancer leader with expertise in solid tumor research, precision medicine and immuno-oncology, according to a Fred Hutch news release. He will join Fred Hutch on Feb. 1, and his appointment comes just a few months after Dr. Gary Gilliland announced he was stepping down after five years leading the center.

Lynch comes to Seattle with more than three decades of leadership experience in academic medicine. He has served as chairman and CEO of Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, director of Yale Cancer Center, physician-in-chief of Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, chief of Hematology-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

He was most recently chief scientific officer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he led the company’s research and development efforts in cancer, cardiovascular disease, fibrosis and immunoscience, according to Fred Hutch.

“When I learned Fred Hutch was searching for a new leader, I immediately knew where I wanted to be,” Lynch said in a statement. “The Hutch is legendary for being where breakthrough discoveries in basic science happen. This institution is unafraid to do what science is best at: taking bold, unconventional approaches to solving hard problems.”

The Fred Hutch campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. (Fred Hutch Photo / Robert Hood)

Among Lynch’s accomplishments:

  • While at Massachusetts General Hospital, he was part of the research team that discovered how targeted therapies could dramatically change outcomes for lung cancer patients with mutations in the EGFR, or epidermal growth factor receptor, gene. This discovery helped to ignite deeper understanding of how molecular profiling can be a key tool in the development of new medicines to treat patients with lung cancer.
  • In 1995, he was a founding board member of the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare which developed Schwartz Rounds, which are now adopted by more than 500 hospitals around the world — “promoting the compassionate connection between patients and caregivers.”
  • He is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. He has published more than 100 original scientific papers and authored or co-authored more than 90 review articles and book chapters.

“The Hutch is well-positioned to make an enormous difference in how patients and caregivers manage cancer and related diseases,” Lynch said. “In the next five years we’re going to make remarkable leaps. Technology and personalized diagnostics can accelerate our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of cancer. Based on the Hutch’s pedigree, the extraordinary researchers here who are committed to saving lives, and the proximity to Seattle’s thriving technology and life sciences community, I can’t imagine a more exciting place to be right now.”

Dr. Gary Gilliland of the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center during the GeekWire Summit in 2017 in Seattle. (Dan DeLong Photo for GeekWire)

Lynch will become the sixth president and director in the 45-year history of Fred Hutch. His depth and breadth of leadership and expertise immediately impressed the executive search committee, according to Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group and chair of the Fred Hutch board of trustees.

“Tom is a highly respected scientist, physician and cancer center leader who will continue guiding the Hutch to even greater impact in the future,” McIlwain said in the news release. “Tom knows he’s succeeding a bold and visionary leader and is eager to continue driving innovative basic research, facilitating prevention and clinical translation, pursuing industry and technology partner collaborations and advancing the Hutch’s mission of eliminating cancer.”

While Fred Hutch is known for its immunology expertise, Gilliland had been outspoken in his push to fight cancer with big data and cloud computing. Under his leadership, Fred Hutch added Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Mike Clayville, a vice president at Amazon Web Services, to its board of trustees and forged partnerships with the cloud tech giants.

Gilliland called his successor a “remarkable leader” and said his experience will strengthen the institution’s commitment to pursuing cures.

“Perhaps most importantly,” Gilliland said, “Tom is a compassionate, approachable and values-based leader who is dedicated to ensuring research results are translated into accessible therapies and treatments for the patients who need them most.”

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