Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Developing a passion for discovery in childhood, Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, has said that her career as a physician- scientist “chose me.” In the decades that have followed, she has made numerous discoveries that have significantly furthered our understanding of and ability to treat many diseases and chronic conditions, including certain types of cancer, Huntington’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and osteoporosis.
In her fourth year of medical school, Dr. Glimcher made her first major discovery: identifying NK1.1, a protein that plays a crucial role in immune system activation. She has continued to make many seminal discoveries, and today Dr. Glimcher is widely considered an international authority on the development and activation of lymphocytes in the immune system. Her key contributions—including identification of the molecular basis of CD4+T cell differentiation into TH1 and TH2 subsets by discovering T-bet and c-Maf transcription factors and identification of plasma cell differentiation factor XBP-1—have elucidated pathways of helper T cells and B lymphocytes, which are fundamental in adaptive immunity.
Dr. Glimcher has also focused her talents on the completely separate field of osteobiology. In 2006, her identification of Schnurri-3, a major regulator of osteoblast differentiation, was described by some as “the most important discovery on osteoblasts in a decade.”
In addition to her pioneering research, Dr. Glimcher is a distinguished and groundbreaking leader in academic medicine. In 2016, she returned to her native Boston to become president and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, after having served as dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. She is the first woman to hold either post. Before accepting the position at Cornell, she was one of the first women to earn tenure as professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
She is also a notable champion for those pursuing research careers. In addition to mentoring numerous postdoctoral students, many of whom have gone on to hold positions of distinction in academic medicine and industry, she established policies in her laboratories, and later at Cornell, that enabled parental leave and technical help for postdoctoral researchers.
“[Dr. Glimcher is] one of the most creative and supportive colleagues that I know who serves as a role model for not only women in science but all scientists committed to understanding the molecular basis of human health and disease,” attests Richard S. Blumberg, MD, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Glimcher received her bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe College and medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She completed her residency and a fellowship in rheumatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and, early in her career, was involved in research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.