James R. Downing, M.D., St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital president and chief executive officer, has been appointed to a Blue Ribbon Panel to advise Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative through the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The Blue Ribbon Panel will serve as a working group of the presidentially appointed National Cancer Advisory Board and will provide scientific guidance from thought-leaders, scientific experts and patient advocates in the cancer community.
“While there has been remarkable progress in the treatment of adult and pediatric cancers, much work remains,” Downing said. “Collaboration is essential to fuel progress in science, and through efforts such as the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, researchers will have new support to make the next push against cancer.”
Downing joins a panel that features experts from a broad range of scientific disciplines, including biology, immunology, genomics, diagnostics, bioinformatics, and cancer prevention and treatment. Members also include investigators with expertise in clinical trials and cancer health disparities, as well as representatives of cancer advocacy groups and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
A world leader in pediatric cancer research, Downing’s work is focused on understanding the genetic basis of cancer and using the information to improve treatment and increase survival of young cancer patients.
Downing was instrumental in launching the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project (PCGP) in 2010 to sequence the complete normal and cancer genomes of more than 600 young patients with some of the most aggressive and least understood childhood cancers. The project made TIME magazine’s 2012 list of top 10 medical breakthroughs. In 2013, Downing was a finalist on TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. The PCGP has produced groundbreaking discoveries for four different types of brain tumors, four subtypes of childhood leukemia, a cancer of the peripheral nervous system, an eye tumor and the degenerative disorder commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The project has also produced new computational tools that benefit the broader field of genomic medicine.
As St. Jude president and CEO, Downing is the architect of a six-year strategic plan to expand St. Jude clinical care and research programs in Memphis and around the world.
Prior to taking the helm of St. Jude, Downing served as the institution’s scientific and deputy director and as an executive vice president in the organization. He became the hospital’s sixth chief executive officer in 2014.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit stjude.org or follow the hospital on Twitter and Instagram at @stjuderesearch.