American Academy of Arts & Sciences Announces New Members Include Bezos, Corey, Gates

Let’s dispense with the knee-jerk reaction–“Academy of what now?”–and move right along to the news generated by this mythical-sounding beast. On October 6, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “220 leaders in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, arts, business and public affairs,” newly elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 2012 class of fellows, will be inducted to the Academy’s ranks.

Dr. Larry Corey, Class of 2012

And among them will be local heroes Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Dr. Larry Corey, and the Gates Foundation’s Melinda Gates. (The press release doesn’t indicate if the fellows are charged a membership fee, but 2012 sounds like a great time to jack the rates, and as with the strategy at our higher educational institutions, let Corey in on a scholarship.) Also elected were Hillary Clinton, Clint Eastwood, and Mel Brooks.

I’ll admit my bias at the outset: I have never worked for Amazon or Microsoft, but I did briefly slow the progress of science at the Hutchinson Center, before realizing that ferrying dirty glassware to the autoclave was too stressful for someone of my temperament.

But I suspect that experience–listed on my resume as “curing cancer”–is why I am going to assume you already know all you need to know about Jeff “Dude, Where’s My Gondola?” Bezos  and Melinda Gates, and tell you about Dr. Corey instead.

Corey is fairly new to the lead dog spot at the Hutchinson Center, having taken over the reins in January 2011, but he has worked in the upper echelons there since 1996 (head of infectious disease sciences in the Clinical Research Division, then senior vice president and co-director of the Center’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division). Corey is known for his work in antiviral therapy, leading to advances in the treatment of herpes, hepatitis B, and HIV. Also, he steps in grant funding like a pedestrian in poodle poop on a Paris sidewalk.

Before people disparage the usefulness of vaccines, they need to spend some time learning about Corey’s research group’s use of the retroviral drug AZT to reduce maternal-fetal transmission of HIV, and the current progress made on an actual HIV vaccine. When that day comes, the world will have changed, make no mistake, for the better. So congratulations to Dr. Corey, and, Jeff and Melinda, don’t be shy about keeping the Hutch humming.