Health Tech Podcast

Interview: New Fred Hutch president on the battle towards most cancers, and the tech trade’s central function

Dr. Thomas Lynch in Seattle on Monday, his first day as the new president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Dr. Thomas Lynch is in his first week as the new leader of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, but he already has a four-point plan to help guide the Seattle-based institute in its quest to treat and ultimately cure cancer.

Given his new home, in the middle of one of the country’s hottest tech hubs, it’s no coincidence that one of those points heavily involves the technology industry.

“The intersection between tech and data and science is something we are really well-poised to be able to understand and exploit here in the Seattle ecosystem,” Lynch said in an interview with GeekWire this week. He cited the quest to “look at very large data sets of electronic medical records, genomic data, proteomic data, and begin to understand who gets cancer, and why do they get it.”

For example, Fred Hutch currently collaborates with Amazon to mine and decode medical records using artificial intelligence, and reduce the processing time needed to analyz the microbiome. It partners with Microsoft on a Pacific Northwest data discovery program, and a new $40 million initiative to address global health challenges with AI. A collaboration with Pattern Computer for analyzing genetic variations is an example of the institute’s work with smaller tech companies.

Dr. Lynch, a veteran physician and scientist, is the sixth president in the 44-year history of the Seattle-based cancer research institution, which employs more than 3,000 people and is ranked first in National Institutes of Health funding among all U.S. independent research centers.

He’s a scientist and oncologist who was part of the first research team to discover how targeted therapies could help lung cancer patients with a specific genetic mutation. Lynch was most recently chief scientific officer of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Prior to that he held leadership roles as CEO of Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, director of the Yale Cancer Center, physician-in-chief at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, chief of hematology-oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Listen to our conversation above, or subscribe to GeekWire Health Tech in your favorite podcast app. Continue reading for an edited transcript.

Todd Bishop: You said in the announcement that you were becoming the new Fred Hutch president that as soon as you saw the opening, you knew this is where you wanted to be. This is what you wanted to do. Why?

Dr. Lynch: The excitement about what’s happening in Seattle and at the Hutch in terms of cancer, in terms of technology, in terms of how we’re moving society forward in this kind of integration, this is a dynamic place to be. My whole career has been about approaching cancer, from the treatment of cancer, prevention of cancer, understanding what populations of people get cancer, and how we can understand it better. And I couldn’t think of a better place to be than the Hutch. The combination of a focus on cancer prevention, as well as the integration of understanding how viruses and microbial species can impact cancer, plus the focus on cancer treatment, with the fact that this is the birthplace of bone marrow transplant and the home of cellular immunotherapy. This is just an extraordinary place to be and the opportunity here is perfect.

TB: Among other things, you’re a scientist and an oncologist. You were part of the first research team to discover how targeted therapies could help lung cancer patients with a specific genetic mutation. And I do want to talk in part about what role genes will play, and specifically, genetic analysis will play. But most recently, you were the chief scientific officer at Bristol Myers Squibb. I’m curious, after your career in research and academia, what perspective you’re bringing from Bristol Myers Squibb to this new role and how that job changed your viewpoint, if at all, of the entire cancer research sphere.

Dr. Lynch: One of the reasons that actually I really enjoyed my time at Bristol Myers Squibb is that the way that cancer is going to be defeated, it’s an ecosystem. It’s a large number of people coming at it from a number of different areas. And you need doctors who are able to deliver therapy and we’re also able to make important observations about the types of diseases we have. You need fundamental scientists who are working in laboratories like the Hutch, who are discovering why cancers occur.

And then you need people who develop medicines and treatments based on those scientific understandings. And some of those are biotechs. And one of the things at the Hutch we’re very proud of is that we’ve had approximately 40 biotechs that have come out of science at the Hutch, where new therapies are based on some of the things that happened there. But then big pharma can take the findings of smaller biotechs and the laboratories within big pharma and create medicines and create products. So that exposure to me was priceless in terms of understanding how crucial it is to bring new drugs to patients.

However, I think at the heart of the cancer ecosystem is the comprehensive cancer center, such as the Hutch. And the Hutch is one of approximately 45 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, and I think it’s the very best.

It is an independent research center, but I think it’s important to remember our important partners that are part of the consortium. So the University of Washington is a fantastic university and hospital system. They are incredibly important as a partner. Children’s Hospital in Seattle, incredibly important as a partner to the Hutch. And together, the three institutions have formed the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. While the Hutch is an independent cancer research institute, I think it’s also important to know that we’re approaching cancer utilizing many of the other key partners here in Seattle.

TB: You mentioned the spin-offs and there have been many notable ones from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, such as Adaptive Biotechnologies, Juno Therapeutics. There’s a long list, as you said. Can you explain the significance, the importance of developing therapies and technologies that can be spun off into other companies?

Dr. Lynch: Well, I think if you look at the model of how we develop new products now, I think it’s changing. I think products now are often discovered in academia by scientists who are unconstrained. One of the things I love about the Hutch is the independence of the faculty. The idea that scientists come to work everyday at the Hutch aren’t coming to work with an agenda that’s being driven by shareholders. They’re coming to work with an agenda that’s being driven by science and knowledge.

However, once you’ve found a lead that can turn into a potential drug, then the kind of focused resources that biotech can bring becomes really important. And you have two options. You can either start a biotech and develop that technology or you can license that technology to a bigger pharma company. I think one of the things that we’re seeing in the world of drug development is increasingly, good ideas are going from universities to biotech and then from biotech to big pharma as the way things get developed.

It doesn’t mean it always has to be that way, but I’m just saying that I think we’re seeing that that model is far more likely to produce new drugs. It allows people who want to invest earlier in a biotech to bring funds and resources rapidly to be able to develop these ideas quicker. And so, I think there’s a big advantage in terms of speed and bringing capital to be able to make these decisions and to be able to find out if the idea from the laboratory really works in patients or has the potential to work in patients.

TB: I was digging through the Fred Hutch financials and one thing really stood out to me and that was that back in 2014, one and a half percent of revenues came from royalties and five years later, just this past year in 2019, 10% of revenue came from IP licensing. So in the same general category. What role do you see startups, tech investments, your stake as Fred Hutch in spin-offs playing in the overall growth of the institution and the quest for cures for cancer?

Dr. Lynch: Licensing will continue to be a very important place that cancer centers around the country look to be able to diversify their funding base. Research funding from the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health is incredibly important. And the Hutch, as you mentioned earlier in the interview, the Hutch is the leading independent, freestanding research institute in terms of NIH funding. That’s very important. And then, there’ll be other sources of revenue, philanthropy and generosity of patients and of people in the community. Really important to the institute.

But then when you think about other sources, licensing becomes a very natural place to look for ways of supporting our research and supporting the mission of the Hutch itself. And I think that that’s something, it’s not just located here. If you go to Cambridge and you look at Harvard and MIT, you look at Yale, you look at Penn, you look at Stanford, you look at UCSF. All of these places are working hard to be able to find ways to support their cancer research, and that intellectual property becomes an important way to think about that as a way of funding was.

I think it also indicates the quality of the research that’s happening when you have a venture community and investment community that’s able to see the value in very early stage research that’s coming out of the Hutch.

TB: Your predecessor as the president of Fred Hutch, Dr. Gary Gilliland, made a bold proclamation about five years ago that he believed, within the next 10 years from then, so five years from now, there would be therapies, if not cures, for most, if not all, forms of cancer. And it got lots of attention at the time. I know you’ve also spoken publicly about the possibility of curing cancer in our lifetime. Give us a state of the union on the fight against cancer.

Dr. Lynch: So I’d say this, I think that Gary was right. I think there are cancers now that are curable in 2025 or they’re curable 2020 that weren’t curable in 2015. When I took over as the head of the Yale Cancer Center in 2009, I talked about curing cancer in 2020. And I think there are cancers that are curable today that weren’t when I started in 2009. I know that when I started at Yale. And I think Gary was correct in saying the same thing.

And I will hold that, that by 2025 and 2030, there have to be more types of cancer we’re curing. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to cure every single type of cancer by 2025 or 2030, but we need to make progress in a number of different cancers.

One of the things that I feel is really important for the Hutch, and not just the Hutch, but I’d say American cancer in general, is this concept of urgency. Okay? There are patients who are being diagnosed with cancer every day that need hope and need options, and that’s what a cancer center is there for. That’s what the Hutch is there for. “Cures start here” is not just a corporate logo. It’s actually true. And if you think about people who’ve got lymphoma or people who’ve got leukemia, they’re alive today because of the things that have happened at the Hutch. And so, I think that bringing that sense of urgency to solid tumors, I think is incredibly important.

TB: A lot of times, in cases of lymphoma and other blood cancers, the immunotherapy has worked well and it’s in part because of the characteristics of those cancers. You’re able to essentially take the red blood cells — correct me if I’m wrong on this, I am not a scientist — but take the T-cells, reprogram them and essentially put them back in in a way that the cells that would normally go after an illness instead go after the cancer. But as you said, solid tumors have been much more difficult. This is in part your specialty. What’s the prognosis there?

Dr. Lynch: So I’d say solid tumors is my specialty, and I think one of the things that I can’t wait to work with people at the Hutch on. … There’s two big problems I would say right now with cellular therapy for solid tumors. One is that we want to have a cellular therapy approach that can be used on more than one patient, what we would call an allogeneic T-cell therapy. That’s going to become incredibly important.

I think the second key thing is understanding what are the specific targets on the cancer cell of a solid tumor that you can go after that would distinguish it from normal tumors. I mean, one of the reasons this has been successful in leukemias, lymphomas, and even in myelomas is that they have antigens on their surface that allow the T-cell to go after them, specifically.

The good news is I think we’re beginning to get some insights into what these could like. And at the Hutch, more than half of our trials that we’re starting now in cellular therapies are for patients with solid tumor. Now, there are enormous engineering problems that have to be overcome to be able to figure out how to safely unleash the immune system. Because if you unleash the immune system against an antigen which is present throughout the entire body on other normal tissues, like lung cells or liver cells, you could end up with a lot of side effects that you’d like to not see. So it’s a major challenge, but one that certainly needs to be addressed.

Four initial areas of focus

TB: Is that one of the key ingredients to the broader effort to cure cancers of all different forms, the effort to take immunotherapy and apply it to solid tumors?

Dr. Lynch: Absolutely. I’ve been asked a lot in the last day, this is my first day at the Hutch. And I’ve been asked a lot today, what do you want to do here? And I would say there are four areas I want to really look at.

  • First, I want to look at this question of immunotherapy. The Hutch leads the world in immunotherapy. How do we make this so that patients with solid tumors can benefit, and how do we make it so that more people who we’re seeing with therapy now can benefit than do today.
  • I think the second key thing is this idea of precision medicine. And you alluded to it earlier, this question of genes and understanding genes and how they are impacted in cancer. I think that we’re going to continue to find genes and pattern of gene abnormalities that might explain pathways that we can go after in cancer. That’s going to be an important part. I call that precision oncology and being able to understand more about a patient’s cancer when they’re diagnosed.
  • Third is the importance, we mentioned this earlier, of viruses and microbial agents and the impact they have on the development of cancer and the predisposition to developing cancer, so that we might be able to prevent or have early detection work better in that setting.
  • And then, finally, being in Seattle, the intersection between tech and data and science is something we are really well poised to be able to understand and exploit here in the Seattle ecosystem. The Hutch has many programs that we’re doing along with Amazon and along with Microsoft and with other smaller companies in the region, really trying to look at, are there ways that we can look at very large datasets of electronic medical records, genomic data, proteomic data, and begin to understand who gets cancer and why do they get it.

TB: Matt McIlwain from Madrona Venture Group is the board chair of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, is also on your board. So it’s natural that you would see intersections with tech being here in the Seattle area. What kinds of ways might you work differently with tech and the tech industry to expand those kinds of partnerships and accelerate that kind of innovation?

Dr. Lynch: So I think that’s a great question. I think one of the things that’s great is you want to build teams. You want to build teams that have scientists, doctors and engineers working together. And it’s interesting, I was talking to a friend of mine who started a tech company that’s at the influence of data and medicine. And he said to me, he said, the one thing he’s been so impressed with at his company is how engineers really start to shine when they begin to realize the impact that their understanding of coding can have on patients, and that it really makes for an incredible partnership between an engineer, a doctor, and a scientist. And we think that’s going to be something that we’re obviously going to look at.

I think one of the things you want to be a little careful of, and I have to be very careful how I say this, is to realize that some of this will take a little bit of time. For example, we look now at artificial intelligence and AI-enabled cancer research and is it all there yet? I think it’s still going to take a little bit of time for us to be able to apply some of these tools to able to get these answers, but I couldn’t think of a better place to be in trying to get there.

TB: This cuts both ways in a market like Seattle. You’ve got the existence of high level technology companies, but you also have the competition for talent among engineers. And then, of course, physicians and researchers. How do you attract and retain the best talent in both of those areas, because you’ve got one of the most difficult jobs around in both fronts?

Dr. Lynch: Well, I’d say this. I think your point about talent is incredibly important. I’d say this. I think people want to be places where the culture is great. They want to be places where the mission is real, where the energy is high and, let’s face it, life is short and people want to enjoy their work and get meaning from their work. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be than the Hutch to get meaning for your work.

A lifelong quest

TB: You’ve had a long career in this field, but it actually dates back to your childhood, right?

Dr. Lynch: It does, yes.

TB: Tell that story if you would.

Dr. Lynch: I grew up in Hackensack, N.J., and my dad was a hematologist, a blood doctor, one of the first blood doctors in the United States. And he was actually one of the first in New Jersey, for sure. And back then, his office was attached to our house. And it sounds kind of crazy, but as a little kid, I remember playing in the yard and watching patients walk into his office.

And I remember him saying to me, he said, “Tommy,” he said, “These patients who have leukemia,” and he said, “I can’t do much.” He said, “Most of my patients with leukemia,” in fact, all of his patients with leukemia, would die from their disease. And that included children, it included young adults, as well as adult patients. And we’ve come so far just in treating leukemia in his career, and certainly, in my lifetime as well. So it’s something I would say, I’ve stayed in the family business to a certain extent.

TB: To what extent did your dad inspire that?

Dr. Lynch: So I think he did. I think I knew all along I wanted to be a doctor. It was something that in my family, I knew this was something that was motivating to me. And I think, he of course said, you can do whatever you want to do. He said, whatever type of medicine you want to do, but he was extremely supportive as was the remainder of my family.

And I do think one of the things though that’s interesting that, you mentioned this, one of the things I’m interested in is I want to make sure at the Hutch and at UW that we’re recruiting people into medicine who might not have had that advantage that I had of growing up in a medical family. I think one of our problems in medicine is that 30% or 35% of the people, I have a daughter who’s in medical school, but 35% of people who become doctors come from medical families.

And I think we have a tremendous amount of talent out there that we’re missing because they don’t come from medical families and they don’t know the steps necessary to get there. And I think when you look at particularly trying to increase the diversity of the people who become physicians, we as a society need to do a better job of that. And I can tell you that’s something we’re very much dedicated to at the Hutch is increasing the diversity of our physician workforce, our engineering workforce, and certainly, our scientific workforce.

TB: A lot of times when we sit down with leaders of major institutions, we talk about competitors, but your competitor in many ways is the ultimate foe, cancer. Obviously, you compete against other institutions for funding, but what is it about cancer that drove you to get into this as a career, and how would you describe this as something that you’re trying to tackle day to day?

Dr. Lynch: So I think that’s a great question, about the idea of cancer being the ultimate competitor. I’d say the one thing that I’ve been attracted to are hard problems. Okay? And when I went into cancer, I had to make a decision about what type of cancer to become most interested in. And I chose lung cancer. And the reason I chose lung cancer is because it was the leading cancer cause of death in the United States. Still is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

And I wanted to do something where nobody else was. I wanted to go into something which is relatively untapped as an area. Now we’ve made a lot of progress in lung cancer, but there is still way more progress that needs to be made to change the outcome from this disease. And so, I do think that working on hard problems is particularly rewarding. And it’s one of the things that’s driven me.

TB: So there has been some progress, as you’ve been saying, especially since the days when you were watching your dad’s patients go into the office there attached to your house. The American Association of Cancer Research reports that the age-adjusted overall U.S. cancer death rate declined by 27% from 1991 to 2016. So that’s about 2.6 million cancer deaths avoided. Yet, it sounds like based on the trends in the global population, this threat is bigger than ever. How do you look at this today?

Dr. Lynch: Well, I’d say two things. So a couple things. So first, I think one of the policy decisions that we can be very happy about that’s led to reducing deaths from cancer is the the emphasis on smoking cessation. So smoking cessation is really important. Understanding other behaviors for prevention, incredibly important. One of the things I’m very proud of at the Hutch is the focus on cancer prevention and epidemiology, both in terms of who we should screen earlier and maybe screen differently for the emergence of early cancers, but also how can we instill behaviors that could reduce the risk of developing cancer down the road.

So I think that’s also incredibly important as a means of being able to control cancer. It’s not just about coming up with treatments that you can use later in the stage of a disease. Another good example is understanding the role that viruses play and the vaccinations against viruses can make. So the whole story with HPV and the advent of the HPV vaccine will prevent men and women from developing certain HPV-related cancers. And so, those kinds of things I think will make a big difference in terms of what we do now.

Now you asked the question, well isn’t cancer still a major scourge? It is a major scourge. And I would say that one of the things, one of the reasons for that is our population’s aging. And cancer still remains a disease of older people. And the average age of patients with cancer in the United States is about 69 to 72 years old, so it’s still a disease of aging. So as the population ages, the total amount of cancer continues to be substantial.

TB: What do you say to someone when they say, when will cancer be cured and how is it going to happen?

Dr. Lynch: I think one of the issues there is that it’s not just one disease. Cancer isn’t just one disease. Cancer is hundreds of diseases defined by unique genetic abnormalities in the cancer, as well as differences between the patients in terms of how each of us have our immune system and our ability to recognize foreign cells. So I actually think that we are so much further and so much closer now than we were in terms of being able to fight cancer and understand cancer than we were 20 years ago.

If you think about the fact that we can now sequence the genome of a cancer cell and we can do that in about two days, three days to be able to get an answer. Second, we’re able to edit genomes incredibly well, and I think that’s really important. And finally, some work that is happening at the Hutch and other major centers in terms of understanding structural biology, we’re able to actually look at these mutated proteins and understand what they look like and come up with ways of trying to make drugs against them that are really important.

And so, I think that those kinds of developments have accelerated where we are in cancer research and bring us closer. I would be wrong to say though, that cancer is going to be cured completely in five to seven to 10 years. I think it will happen. I just think it’s going to take a little bit of time, given the complexity of cancer itself.

And once we finally do cure cancer, then we’re going to be looking at viral diseases, which will continue to be a problem, because they can mutate and change. And we’re seeing that with the Wuhan coronavirus right now in terms of what can happen when viruses change. I just say that to emphasize how important virology is to the Hutch as well. We have a very large group that’s working on various different, not only HIV, but other types of viruses as well.

HIV vaccine setback

TB: There was just a new story today about an HIV vaccine trial that the Hutch and the Gates Foundation were coordinating on that was halted because it had been shown to be ineffective. I know you’re on day one on the job, literally, but to what extent can you address that and are there any lessons to be learned from it?

Dr. Lynch: That’s an important point, is number one, you have to remember that the Hutch is one of the major centers for HIV research in the world. And we’ve been committed to looking for HIV vaccines. Now what we know about HIV is that HIV is a disease where we have medications, antiretroviral medications that can certainly control the disease. Okay? But we haven’t been able to show that we can cure the disease in the way that would allow someone who’s got HIV to be able to take medicine and then not need to take something else or to prevent it from happening.

So right now, you’re still looking at a lifetime of medication for many, many patients. The vast majority of patients who are HIV positive have to stay on medication for quite some time. It would be terrific to come up with vaccine strategies that could prevent it.

And so, I think that one of the things that we tried was the HIV vaccine that was developed between the Gates Foundation and the Hutch. It did not meet its endpoint in the trial this morning. It doesn’t mean that we don’t keep trying. It doesn’t mean we can’t learn from that study as well. And it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be remain incredibly focused with that same urgency to bring to HIV that we would bring to cancer itself.

So there will be stumbles. Not every approach is going to work, and in the field of cancer there are many, many approaches that don’t work. It doesn’t mean you don’t try things, but you want to learn as much as you can, even from the studies that don’t work. Sometimes you learn the key things that lead the next study to be successful.

TB: Tying a couple things together, Dr. Gilliland, when he made that comment about curing cancer or finding therapies within 10 years, one criticism was that the funding of all forms would be attracted to that kind of statement and people felt that he might be overstating it. I guess a couple of different things here. How do you balance the need to be optimistic and pragmatic to make sure that you’re speaking the truth, and yet, also encouraging donors and finding different forms of funding?

Dr. Lynch: In this, I come back to my roots as a physician. When I had a large practice at Mass General Hospital back in Boston, I took care of a lot of patients, thousands of patients with non-small cell lung cancer. And there might be a development about cancer there’d be described in the media as being a breakthrough. And I would know that it probably was never going to make a difference for my patients. And I know the rollercoaster that people who are on, that people who are listening to this podcast who’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer, who are looking for nuggets and colonels that might be able to help them in their fight against their disease.

I think it’s important that we are as factual and clear as we can be. It doesn’t mean though that we shouldn’t be optimistic that we might find things. And I think Gary was absolutely right in saying he’s optimistic. We’re going to find ways to cure some cancers by 2025. And I feel the same way about 2025 and 2030, that we’re going to try to find ways to cure more and more cancers at that point. And that’s going to be important for us to get there.

I do think that as long as cancer remains such a major public health threat, there will still be a lot of people who want to get behind the funding, both from a philanthropy standpoint, want to be able to give money to the Hutch. I think philanthropy for all cancer centers around the entire country is crucial. And just look at something like Obliteride, which is our big bike ride. You don’t have to be somebody who’s giving an entire building to the Hutch, although that’s certainly great, but people who just ride their bike and raise money or people who do things in their community to help support cancer care and cancer research. It’s incredibly important in the way we approach this disease.

And I think you just have to be balanced in how you describe it. One of the things that I think allows me to stay balanced as I think about the perspective of my patients and how they would react to a press report based on a paper in Nature that was done using a lung cancer model in mice. And I know that my patients would come in, they’d bring the paper to me just in case I didn’t see it, and I’d have six copies of it in my office the next day. You know, Dr. Lynch, have you seen this? What does it mean for me? And it just, the frustrating thing is it’s years before the finding in mice translates necessarily into outcomes for patients.

TB: Speaking of newspapers, a story in the Boston Globe was pivotal in one of your discoveries. Am I right?

Dr. Lynch: You’re absolutely right. And I think from your perspective, as someone in the science and technology media, you should feel very good that your profession led to this discovery. So this is an interesting story. I was a somewhat younger physician at the MGH at the time. It was back in 2003, 2002, and I was contacted by people who worked at the Mass General Hospital and public affairs. And they called me up and they said, “Tom,” they said, “the holidays are coming up. The Boston Globe always likes to write motivating stories about the holidays and about people’s challenges with health. Do you have any patients who’ve had great examples of great outcomes?” And I had this one patient and her name  was Kate Robbins, and she had a fabulous response to this experimental drug that we were using in a clinical trial.

And I told the story to the Globe. They went out and they took her picture. She was on the front page of the paper. And to show you how serendipity can happen, that morning when the paper came out, there was a scientist named Daniel Haber who was in Chestnut Hill, Mass., eating cereal that morning. And he was having his breakfast, and that’s back when there was a paper. Everything wasn’t always on a website, but he actually opened up the paper, read her story, and he had the Eureka moment. Called me up and said, “Tom, I am pretty certain your patient has a mutation in the tyrosine kinase domain of her EGFR gene.” And Dan was 100% right, and that led to development of new therapies for patients with lung cancer.

TB: And this was the genetic mutation that I was referring to earlier.

Dr. Lynch: And that’s the genetic mutation you were referring to earlier. Exactly.

TB: Right, and so, isn’t it amazing how this was something you could have talked about, but instead he read it in the paper about one of your patients.

Dr. Lynch: He read about it in the paper. Yeah.

TB: That’s great. Any bigger lessons from that, other than talk to the press?

Dr. Lynch: Exactly.

TB: That’s great. What else should people know about you personally that I haven’t dug up in five-year-old YouTube videos or bios of yourself?

Dr. Lynch: So I’m a very enthusiastic person in terms of thinking about what the future can bring in terms of cancer research. I am passionate about sports. I like to run and bike and play tennis. I love to follow sports teams, which is why I’m delighted to be coming to Seattle. I’m going to hope to make it to the first Seattle Dragons game this weekend, because I like watching sports, like playing sports. And I love Bruce Springsteen.

TB: Well, of course you love Bruce Springsteen.

Dr. Lynch: Of course I do. I’m from Jersey. I mean, come on.

TB: Now wait, I got to ask you, maybe the toughest question that you might answer. Are you a Patriots fan?

Dr. Lynch: Okay. So, I do like the Patriots. Okay? And so, I had to think about this. When I get asked this in Seattle, how do I answer this question? So to say I’m not a Patriots fan would be a huge problem for me. It would be denying a important part of who I am, and I love Tom Brady. But what do we have in common? Seattle has a fantastic quarterback in Russell Wilson. Everybody loves Russell Wilson. And Pete Carroll was the coach of both the Seahawks and the Patriots.

TB: There you go. So, okay. I think you’re stretching there, but I will say, you’re totally safe with the Celtics at this point, because there’s no competitor.

Dr. Lynch: There will be. We got to get the Sonics back. Okay?

TB: Yes.

Dr. Lynch: It’s really important to get the Seattle Supersonics back to Seattle.

TB: I think you’ll find a lot of people agreeing with that point and perhaps not the prior.

Dr. Lynch: Not the prior. OK.

TB: What’s the biggest challenge that you’re going to face in this new role at Fred Hutch?

Dr. Lynch: So I think the biggest challenge that we look at is how can we create teams across diseases and centers that work really well together. Okay? Because I think to be able to cure cancer, it’s not going to happen just with two doctors in a room together, or two scientists in a room together, or two data people in a room together. It’s going to come from six to eight people, with all those different backgrounds working together. And creating high quality, high functioning teams is going to be a big part of what we need to do here at the Hutch, and I would say across cancer research in America today.

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