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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced Thursday that it has named Dr. D. Gary Gilliland, an internationally renowned expert in cancer genetics and precision medicine, as its new president and director.

A physician-scientist with a background in academic medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, Gilliland will take over on Jan. 2.

Gilliland comes to Fred Hutch from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine where he was the vice president of precision medicine.

Prior to that he was an executive at Merck Research Laboratories and also spent more than 20 years at Harvard Medical School, where he was a professor of medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Gilliland’s research includes the genetic basis of leukemias and other blood cancers. His work has led to the development of new cancer treatments, including molecularly targeted therapies tailored to the unique characteristics of each patient’s tumor.

“It feels like coming home,” he said. “It feels like I’ve been preparing my entire life for this job. This is the perfect time and perfect place and opportunity to truly target cures for cancer. Everything I’ve done in my career has pointed here.”

Gilliland is taking on a job previously held for 3 ½ years by Dr. Larry Corey, who announced last May he was stepping down to return to his research into immunotherapy.