James R. Downing, MD, Named CEO of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

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James R. Downing, MD

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has announced the appointment of James R. Downing, MD, as its new Chief Executive Officer, effective July 15, 2014. Dr. Downing most recently has served as the Deputy Director, Executive Vice President and Scientific Director of the hospital.  Dr. Downing’s primary focus immediately upon assuming the office of CEO will be to oversee a new era of clinical, research, and infrastructure expansion throughout the St. Jude global network. He succeeds William E. ­Evans, MD, who is retiring from the position after 10 years and returning full time to his long-standing pharmacogenomics research program at St. Jude.

Visionary Approach

 “Dr. Downing is an exceptional scientist whose visionary approach to the next era of growth and discovery at St. Jude will mirror the legacy established by Danny Thomas more than 50 years ago,” said Terry Burman, Chairman of the St. Jude Board of Governors. “Dr. Downing’s seminal contributions to understanding genetic origins of disease, as both the catalyst and leader of the St. Jude Pediatric Cancer Genome Project initiatives, have laid a foundation for a new period of research and treatment of childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.”

“Today’s intersection of science and technology is paving the way for unprecedented discovery and innovative treatment. I am honored to lead an institution that values collaboration and daring, forward-thinking investigation; an institution where the translational goal of our research makes it impossible to separate research from patient care; an organization that provides unsurpassed care for today as we work to identify the next advances and improve cure rates for tomorrow,” Dr. Downing said.

Plans for Expansion

  • Dr. Downing outlined his vision for St. Jude’s next generation of clinical and research expansion, which included the following goals:

  • Continuing growth in the number of cancer patients treated on the St. Jude campus

  • Expansion of the institution’s treatment and research program on pediatric solid tumors

  • Significant expansion of St. Jude’s International Outreach Program

  • Incorporation of an unprecedented level of comprehensive genomic analyses into the clinical workup of every child treated

  • Growth in the number of patients enrolled on the St. Jude LIFE long-term follow-up survivor study

  • Establishment of a formalized patient advocacy consortium. ■


Watch future issues of The ASCO Post for an in-depth interview with Dr. Downing regarding his vision for St. Jude and his pioneering work in genomics.