George Q. Daley, an internationally recognized leader in stem cell science and cancer biology and a longtime member of the Harvard Medical School faculty whose work spans the fields of basic science and clinical medicine, became the 22nd dean of HMS on Jan. 1.
A graduate of Harvard College and HMS with a PhD in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Daley also serves as the Caroline Shields Walker Professor of Medicine and the Robert A. Stranahan Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at HMS.
“George Daley is an eminent scientist, a dedicated educator, an adept bridge builder, a compelling advocate for scientific discovery, and a person of remarkable leadership qualities and thoughtful judgment,” said Harvard President Drew Faust in announcing the appointment in August. “From his work at the forefront of basic science to his focus on combating disease, from his role in developing international guidelines for stem cell research to his activities at the crossroads of medicine and biotechnology, he brings to all that he does an energetic and imaginative commitment to advancing discovery and improving lives.”
Said Daley, “I am honored to have been asked to serve as dean. The people across the Harvard medical community embody one of the world’s great resources for broadening scientific understanding and realizing medicine’s promise to enhance the quality and longevity of people’s lives. I feel humbled by the prospect of leading so talented a community with so essential a mission—a community whose dynamism, growing diversity, and shared concern for the well-being of others are a deep source of strength. It will be a singular privilege to work with people across the Quad, our extraordinary affiliates and the University to sustain and elevate Harvard’s leadership in academic medicine.”
“The people across the Harvard medical community embody one of the world’s great resources for broadening scientific understanding and realizing medicine’s promise to enhance the quality and longevity of people’s lives." —George Daley
Harvard Provost Alan Garber added, “George Daley knows Harvard, he knows our affiliated hospitals and research institutes, and he fully appreciates the Harvard medical community’s vital role in shaping the future of biomedical science and education at a time of transformative changes in medicine and the life sciences. He also understands the challenges facing our health care system and the importance of assuring care for those most in need. He is a remarkable scientist and an equally remarkable person, as humane and collegial as he is intelligent and accomplished. I am confident he will do an outstanding job leading Harvard medicine forward.”
Daley has been professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at HMS since 2010 and has been an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 2008. In July he became the Robert A. Stranahan Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of at HMS, having previously held appointments as professor of pediatrics at HMS and as the inaugural Samuel E. Lux, IV Chair in Hematology/Oncology at Boston Children’s Hospital.
A former chief resident in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (1994-95), Daley maintained an active clinical practice in hematology/oncology at Mass General and then at Boston Children’s until assuming his administrative role as director of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program, a post he held until Jan. 2017.
He has served since 1995 as a member of the faculty of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), since 2004 as a founding member of the executive committee of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and since 2009 as an associate member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and as a core faculty member of the Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research at Boston Children’s.
Daley’s research focuses on the use of mouse and human disease models to identify mechanisms that underlie blood disorders and cancer. His lab aims to define fundamental principles of how stem cells contribute to tissue regeneration and repair and improve drug and transplantation therapies for patients with malignant and genetic bone marrow disease.
Beyond his research, Daley has been a principal figure in developing international guidelines for conducting stem cell research and for the clinical translation of stem cells, particularly through his work with the International Society for Stem Cell Research, for which he has served in several leadership positions, including president (2007-08). He has also testified before Congress and spoken in forums worldwide on the scientific and ethical dimensions of stem cell research and its promise in treating disease.
After earning his bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Harvard in 1982, Daley went on to earn his PhD in biology (1989) at MIT, working in David Baltimore’s laboratory at the MIT-affiliated Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. He received his MD from HMS, graduating in 1991 with the rare distinction of summa cum laude. He then pursued clinical training in internal medicine at Mass General and was a clinical fellow at Brigham and Women’s and Boston Children’s hospitals. While running a laboratory as a Whitehead Fellow at the Whitehead Institute, he joined the HMS faculty as an assistant professor in 1995, was promoted to associate professor in 2004, was named to an endowed chair at Boston Children’s in 2009, and became a full professor at HMS in 2010.
His teaching efforts include serving as course director for the Molecular Medicine course at HMS and for an undergraduate course on stem cells in disease in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Earlier, for more than a decade, he led the Research in Health Sciences and Technology course in the HST program. He has trained dozens of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and is a frequent participant in seminars and grand rounds at schools and hospitals in the Boston area and beyond. In 2012 he was recognized with the HMS A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award.
"George Daley is an eminent scientist, a dedicated educator, an adept bridge-builder, a compelling advocate for scientific discovery, and a person of remarkable leadership qualities and thoughtful judgment." —Harvard President Drew Faust
Important contributions from the Daley laboratory have included the creation of customized stem cells to treat genetic immune deficiency in a mouse model (together with Rudolf Jaenisch), the differentiation of germ cells from embryonic stem cells, the generation of disease-specific pluripotent stem cells by direct reprogramming of human fibroblasts, and demonstration of the role of the LIN28/let-7 pathway in cancer. In past research, he demonstrated the central role of the BCR/ABL oncoprotein in human chronic myelogenous leukemia, work that provided critical target validation for development of Gleevec, a highly successful chemotherapeutic agent.
Daley was an inaugural winner of the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award for highly innovative research (2004). His numerous honors include the American Philosophical Society’s Judson Daland Prize for achievement in patient-oriented research, the American Pediatric Society’s E. Mead Johnson Award for contributions to stem cell research, the American Society of Hematology’s E. Donnall Thomas Prize for advances in human-induced pluripotent stem cells, and the International Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Foundation’s Janet Rowley Prize for outstanding lifetime contributions to the understanding and/or treatment of the disease. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Society for Clinical Investigation, among other professional societies.
In announcing Daley’s appointment, Faust and Garber jointly expressed their gratitude “to the many people across the Harvard medical community who offered their perspectives and counsel on the deanship—and on the important opportunities ahead for Harvard medicine, both on the Quad and across our peerless array of affiliated institutions. We owe special thanks to the members of the search advisory committee, who came together across the preclinical departments, the affiliates, and the larger University to help us arrive at an excellent outcome.”
Faust and Garber recognized and thanked Barbara J. McNeil, the Ridley Watts Professor of Health Care Policy and professor of radiology at HMS, who served as acting dean of HMS from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31.
In addition, they renewed their gratitude to Jeffrey S. Flier, who stepped down as dean on July 31 after nine years of distinguished leadership. “In a domain energized by the interplay of scientific rigor, innovative thinking and humane concern for others,” Faust said when Flier first announced his plans, “Jeff has not only affirmed those qualities but embodied them.”
“Harvard Medical School is the epicenter of biomedical research, a revered alma mater to innovators in science and medicine, a magnet for talent and the home to many scientific and clinical firsts,” said Flier. “George Daley embodies the spirit and the values of this institution. He is a consummate physician-scientist, a passionate researcher, a clinician known for his empathy and acumen, a beloved teacher and a proven leader. He is perfectly suited to lead HMS in the next phase of its quest to generate new knowledge and alleviate human suffering.”
Adapted from a story by the Harvard Gazette.