Two years ago, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced the creation of its 2022–27 strategic plan. This bold commitment outlines a plan to accelerate progress in the laboratory, in the clinic and around the globe. Since then, we’ve made gains across the plan’s five focus areas—fundamental science; childhood cancer; pediatric catastrophic diseases; global impact; and infrastructure, talent and culture. Based on what we’ve accomplished in the past year alone, the future is bright with possibilities.
Focus on Fundamental Science
Exploring an endless frontier of possibility
- Steven Varga, PhD, was appointed as the second dean of the St. Jude Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He will also oversee a research program and laboratory focused on advancing vaccine development for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
- Frank Fazio joined St. Jude as president of the Children’s GMP, LLC, and vice president of therapeutics production and quality.
- Jasmine Plummer, PhD, is leading the new Center for Spatial Omics, a strategic shared resource that will develop cutting-edge spatial omics platforms that reveal how cells interact and organize across multiple dimensions.
- Madan Babu, PhD, a world leader in the application of data sciences to molecular structures, has accepted the appointment to chief data strategist, where he will build out an administrative organization over the ensuing months. This is in conjunction with his leadership in the new Center of Excellence for Data-Driven Discovery.
- Recruitment efforts are ongoing for the Center of Excellence in Advanced Microscopy.
- The Cryo-Electron Tomography Center space plan is complete and recruitment efforts for a director are ongoing.
- Fourteen scientists from St. Jude are among investigators named to the 2022 list of Highly Cited Researchers. The list draws from papers that rank in the top 1% of citations.
- The Inspiration4 Advanced Research Center opened to provide laboratory, office and collaborative spaces for more than 1,000 scientists and administrative staff. As of summer 2023, overflow floors have been completed in anticipation of hiring more faculty.
- Top investigator J. Paul Taylor, MD, PhD, was appointed scientific director to guide the institution’s basic science programs and related research efforts.
Focus on Childhood Cancer
Creating a brighter future for children today and generations to come
- In January 2023, Julie Park, MD, joined St. Jude as chair of the Department of Oncology and the first associate director for translational research on the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s senior leadership team.
- Greg Armstrong, MD, was appointed chair for the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control. A physician-scientist, he also serves as the principal investigator of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, the world’s largest established resource for survivorship research.
- The Comprehensive Cancer Center is leading one of the largest cancer-focused faculty recruitment efforts in St. Jude history, looking to expand its faculty by 33%.
- The goal of the Center of Excellence in Leukemia Science is to enhance basic and translational research in leukemia and other cancers of the blood and improve outcomes for children with these diseases. Three laboratory-based faculty will lead these efforts in conjunction with an expanded computational and technical staff.
- The translational CAR T-cell therapy program continues to progress, with active CAR T-cell therapy studies for patients with ALL, AML, solid tumors and brain tumors.
- The new Center of Excellence for Pediatric Immuno-Oncology, led by Stephen Gottschalk, MD, and Hongbo Chi, PhD, brings together investigators across Cancer Center programs and academic departments with a mission of harnessing the power of the immune system to help cure incurable pediatric cancers.
- The Pediatric Cancer Dependencies Accelerator has been created. Its purpose is to transform the scientific understanding of childhood cancers, identify new targets for therapy, and pave the way for new clinical trials and effective treatments.
- A new clinical trial for relapsed leukemia, led by Seth Karol, MD, will explore the toxicity and potential for therapeutic response in the most aggressive forms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
- The growth in scientific discovery at St. Jude has led to an increase in the identification of novel therapeutic approaches. St. Jude seeks to partner with industry to make these advances widely accessible.
- The St. Jude HPV Cancer Prevention Program has been a key convener and leader in the HPV prevention space since its launch in March 2021. “Path to a Bright Future,” a national public awareness campaign, has united more than 150 partners.
- The Comprehensive Cancer Center received a two-year Cancer Center Support Grant merit extension from the National Cancer Institute. This is the first time the NCI has offered this two-year extension, which St. Jude was awarded after receiving two consecutive “Exceptional” ratings.
- The institution’s first dedicated clinical trials management system launched, uniting the St. Jude research community under one data platform to manage clinicals trials.
Focus on Childhood Catastrophic Diseases
Giving new hope to children with catastrophic diseases
- In conjunction with scientists from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Mitch Weiss, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Hematology, and Jonathan Yen, PhD, director of Therapeutic Genome Engineering, have announced a potentially curative approach for sickle cell disease that uses gene editing that could convert the sickle cell mutation into a normal DNA sequence.
- Opening a telehealth hematology clinic in Tupelo, Mississippi, has allowed St. Jude to better access patients in the region, bridging care for those who have limited access to hematology services.
- A new hematology clinic performs timely assessments of adolescent girls with menorrhagia and severe iron deficiency anemia, allowing St. Jude to rule out the presence of any significant hematological abnormality as a cause of either illness.
- Core areas of the Pediatric Translational Neuroscience Initiative continue to grow and thrive, with expanded recruitment, service offerings and program launches. Two major workshops were held this year: One was focused on ultrarare diseases and the other centered on community building and advocacy.
- Octavio Ramilo, MD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Infectious Diseases. A clinician-scientist, Ramilo is focusing his research on the pathogenesis, effects and treatment of RSV.
- Victor Torres, PhD, has been appointed chair of the Department of Host-Microbe Interactions, where he will lead laboratory-based research initiatives to expand efforts in infectious diseases that affect children.
- The recently established Center for Experimental Neurotherapeutics enrolled its first patient in the DEVOTE clinical trial, the first interventional study for spinal muscular atrophy at St. Jude.
Focus on Global Impact
Moving science and medicine beyond borders and boundaries
- St. Jude Global celebrated its five-year anniversary. The St. Jude Global Alliance has grown to include 234 medical institutions in 69 countries and more than 40 foundations from 34 countries.
- The institution’s global efforts will be initially supported by three regional operational hubs, one each in Dubai, UAE; Mexico City, Mexico; and Johannesburg, South Africa, plus an additional location in Geneva, Switzerland. The legal structure of the operational units was also completed.
- The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines will provide safe and effective cancer medicines to approximately 120,000 children through 2027. Planning accomplished this year has identified the first list of drugs and six pilot countries.
- DIVIA, a transformative initiative seeking to address major gaps in the diagnosis of childhood cancer using next-generation sequencing technology platforms, was reviewed and approved to move forward.
- St. Jude Global welcomed two new faculty members, 24 new staff members, and a new director of Global Hematology, Jane Hankins, MD, formerly of the Department of Hematology.
- The Master of Science program in Global Child Health will see its fifth cohort begin in summer 2023. Following a partnership with ACGME-I, Global has overseen the addition of new programs and the training of 51 fellows.
- SJCARES provides a system to identify, target and monitor health metrics that impact patient outcomes. Over 150 institutions have contributed data to SJCARES, allowing St. Jude Global to understand the depth of disease burden in low- and middle-income countries.
- As the war in Ukraine continues, SAFER Ukraine has focused on sustainability planning, ensuring coordinated support for pediatric cancer patients in Ukraine.
- St. Jude Global announced a partnership with World Health Organization to create a first-of-its-kind platform that will provide pediatric cancer medicines at no cost to participating countries. The Global Platform for Access to Childhood Cancer Medicines represents a $200 million investment by St. Jude during the next five years.
- The Global Pediatric Medicine Research Core strengthened infrastructure to launch international clinical trials.
Focus on People and Place
Building a culture, workforce and environment that speeds cures for children
- The Department of Psychology rebranded as the Department of Psychology and Biobehavioral Sciences to better reflect its focus. Kevin Krull, PhD, was appointed chair.
- After two years and the hard work of hundreds of employees, Workday officially launched on July 1. Workday is the main home of employee information and a central hub for many employee and manager activities. It will also help align operational services with world-class research and treatment.
- The Domino's Village, the second on-site patient housing facility, opened to families October 10, after six years of planning, working alongside patients and families and institution-wide collaboration.
- In 2023, St. Jude broke ground on two new 15-story towers that will ultimately become the site of the outpatient clinic and clinical office buildings. The construction will take several years and has required the cooperation of several different departments to mitigate logistics, parking, and security.
- St. Jude @ Work is the process of defining a sustainable strategy and corresponding policy for different working models at St. Jude. This is part of the ongoing effort to attract and retain employees and advance Project 2300.
- The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion launched two new programs in 2023. The inclusion advocates are a group of employees that will play a crucial role in fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture at St. Jude. The DEI Roadshow is a first-of-its-kind transformative journey into diversity, equity and inclusion, led by executive leadership.
- In October 2023, the second annual St. Jude Heritage Fest was held, celebrating 25 employee-led culture and heritage groups. This event showcased the diversity of the St. Jude workforce and resulted from the collaboration of over 300 heritage committee members, 50 volunteers and 1,000 employee attendees.
- In August 2023, the Department of Strategic Communication, Education and Outreach launched a new employee app experience to replace St. Jude GO.
- The Department of Family, Guest & Volunteer Services launched their new FY24-28 departmental strategic plans in 2023 in support of the institutional strategic plan. The departmental strategic plan outlines the direction the Patient Family-Centered Care and Volunteer Services and Special Events teams will go.
- Due to ongoing construction efforts on campus, the Patient Care Center clinical entrance has been temporarily relocated to the rear of the building to better accommodate patients and their families.
- Lori Spicer Robertson was named the institution’s new vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
- Catherine Corbin was appointed senior vice president and the institution’s first chief business innovation officer. Her focus will be on strategic initiatives and transforming spaces to enhance the organization’s ability to serve patients and families.
- The St. Jude Strategic Plan outlines the recruitment of 2,300 new employees, a 40% workforce increase. Project 2300 includes development of a best-in-class employee recruitment and onboarding program and a focus on improvement in processes to bring top talent to St. Jude and Memphis.
- Both the Office of Large Grant Development and the Conference and Event Management Office were launched this year. Sobha Jaishankar, PhD, will lead the former to facilitate proposals of strategic relevance to the institution. Brandi Kirby will oversee a team dedicated to events and event processes geared toward national and global audiences.
- Eleven collaboratives will be explored during the 2022-27 Strategic Plan. The latest, an undertaking between St. Jude, Columbia, Stanford and Duke, is focused on studying G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), one of the largest protein families involved in human health and disease.
- The annual Blue-sky process brings forward impactful new ideas that were not in the developed strategic plan. Six ideas, submitted by faculty and staff, will complete action planning budget development and launch in FY24.
- Project IGNITE, the transition process for a new electronic health record system, ensured that the Epic platform launched in 2022. This new platform will allow St. Jude to improve care, support clinical research, and ensure better clinician experiences.
- Launched this year, the Safe and Sound Academy aims to improve the quality of care for all children with catastrophic diseases. Staff will have the ability to pursue evidence-based methods to provide the safest care and best outcomes for patients.
- St. Jude launched a comprehensive review and redesign of career paths for employees to provide increased upward mobility and develop long-term career goals. In association with the redesign, salaries were adjusted to enhance competitive position for recruitment and retention.
- The Strategic Communication, Education and Outreach (SCEO) team brings together experts in business support, communication, education, technology and visual arts to guide public relations efforts, support internal campaigns and address patient education needs. This year, the team redeveloped and relaunched the St. Jude intranet—renamed the St. Jude Hub—created the “Have More in Memphis” campaign, and expanded the institution’s online resource, Together by St. Jude.
- The Association for the Health Care Environment recognized St. Jude Environmental Services with a 2022 Certificate of Merit. The Department of EVS, comprised of 225 employees, ensures patients are treated in the cleanest and safest environment possible.
- The Transition Oncology Program, comprised of school advocacy coordinators, nursing professionals, psychologists and social workers, empowers patients and families to navigate the challenges associated with life after cancer. This year, the innovative program assisted its 1,000th patient.
- The development and implementation of the Vascular Access Team will improve care, decrease preventable harm and improve the experience that patients and families have during their treatment journey.
- The recently launched Family Rounding Program is a team of dedicated staff that help families and patients feel more engaged and comfortable throughout their health care journeys. A key early success has been maintaining consistent times for rounding and ensuring every person on the care team is present.
- Women in Leadership + Learning, a four-month-long, cohort-based, immersive development experience that aims to empower women, has graduated its first two groups, comprised of 65 faculty members.
- Through the STEMM immersion program, St. Jude hosts Memphis and Shelby County high school students for paid summer internships. The program is designed to expand access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for students in the Memphis area.
- Golden retriever Rose is the newest member of the St. Jude Paws at Play program, joining three other facility dogs at St. Jude. Rose enhances psychosocial support for patients and families in several areas, including Social Work, the St. Jude School Program and Family Commons.
- St. Jude recognizes that postdoctoral researchers are an essential component of the research mission. First-year salaries for basic lab postdocs increased nearly $15,000 while data science postdocs saw an increase of nearly $30,000 annually.
- St. Jude ranked No. 25 on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list, jumping up a couple dozen spots from the 2022 rank of No. 49. Glassdoor ranks organizations on several factors, including employees’ outlook and approval of the CEO and other measures like diversity and inclusion, resources and benefits.
- Once again, St. Jude has placed atop U.S. News & World Report’s list of top pediatric cancer hospitals, earning a ranking of No. 5 in 2023.
- The Family Commons, a 45,000 square-foot space for patients and families to relax, opened in February 2023. The space houses the St. Jude School Program, an art room and science lab, indoor and outdoor play areas, a café, private rooms for families and a sacred space, among other amenities.
- Nearly 1,000 employees relocated to the Peabody Place campus in downtown Memphis as renovations take place on the main campus.
- Collective teams of scientists gathered on campus for the inaugural Joint Meeting of the St. Jude Research Collaboratives to share innovative ideas and connect with a cross-section of the institution’s researchers.
Selected scientific and medical publications
Emerging from FY22-27 St. Jude Strategic Plan