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John Gilly '79

John Gilly '79John Gilly has spent his career working to improve the health of children and adults. In his current position as a director with SAIC-Frederick, Inc., a contractor supporting the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Gilly is leading a program generating novel candidates for approaches to treat diseases and conditions with very limited options.

“Recent projects that I have been involved with included a novel treatment that was efficacious to treat children with a rare cancer called neuroblastoma,” Dr. Gilly said. “Our program developed the agent that targeted the disease and supplied material to treat all children suffering from the disease in the United States until a company could assume responsibilities for production.

“We currently are working on a potential breakthrough therapeutic that would prevent HIV infection,” he said. “The agent has been shown to broadly neutralize most HIV strains. A possible clinical use would be to treat children born of HIV-infected mothers during the period of breastfeeding to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease.”

When he graduated in 1979 from IUP with a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Dr. Gilly said he wasn’t sure where his career would lead him.

“Upon graduation, my focus was to find a job that applied my field of study and would pay the bills,” he said. “Graduates with a B.S. in Biology were fairly common, and biotechnology was just an early concept.

“My focus was to take opportunities that would provide me with new challenges,” he said, “to work hard with the opportunities that I received and not to be self-limited. In other words, if I was asked to take on a new function or project, I didn’t question whether I was ready for it or not, and I also didn’t presume I knew all I would need to know.”

His desire for those new challenges led him to obtain a Master of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Scranton in 1983 and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 1990 from Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

During the past 27 years, Dr. Gilly has worked his way up to management positions for biopharmaceutical and biological research companies before accepting his current position supporting the National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health in 2007. In 2011, he became the director of the Vaccine Clinical Materials Program, overseeing the development of vaccines and biotherapeutic agents for protection against and treatment of HIV, influenza, and other emerging diseases and threats.

While at this NIH-funded program, he was presented with the NCI Center for Cancer Research Technology Transfer Award twice, in 2011 and 2012.

Dr. Gilly currently serves as an adjunct instructor of Pharmaceutical Management at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, as well as an adjunct associate professor of Pharmaceutical Business at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. He also serves on the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Visitors for the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and as a student mentor at Drexel University.

At IUP, Dr. Gilly established the Young Life Scientist Opportunity Fund, designed to expand students’ educational experience at professional meetings in which they present papers or participate in poster sessions derived from their research.

“The purpose of this fund is to provide financial travel assistance to students who generate independent work, usually with a faculty advisor or researcher, and to apply to attend scientific meetings to present their work,” Dr. Gilly said. “The limitation for most students is not the work or effort spent in completing a set of well-conducted studies. The barrier is that the student will decline submitting their work to a major meeting because of the cost for registration, travel, and hotel to attend a major meeting in a large city.”

Dr. Gilly believes that “there is no web, classroom, or video replacement for direct contact with leading researchers and the chance to ask questions, and more so to be asked questions about their own work. We only hope that this fund will spur students to achieve that expanded educational experience and stir them to persevere to new discoveries in biology for the betterment of their fellows.”

Dr. Gilly, son of the late Clarence and Judith Gilly, and his wife, Jane McMahon-Gilly, are the parents of Ian, 27, and Quinn, 26. In his spare time, Dr. Gilly enjoys spending time with his family at their home near Gettysburg and visiting Philadelphia, Savannah, Washington, and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

Profile published on 6/11/13  

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