The Jackson Laboratory appoints first Chief Medical Officer, Jens Rueter, M.D.
By Christi Jensen
Jens Rueter, M.D. has been appointed chief medical officer of The Jackson Laboratory. As CMO, Rueter will serve as principal medical advisor to the esteemed nonprofit biomedical research institution and will provide direction, leadership and strategy for JAX’s translational and clinical research activities and clinically-oriented operations.
With this appointment, Rueter, who is a practicing physician in Maine and has served as medical director of JAX’s (MCGI) for the past five years, is the Laboratory’s first-ever chief medical officer, a position that represents the increasing importance of clinical and translational research at the organization.
In this role, Rueter will provide leadership to clinical and translational research activities by advising research projects that address key medical questions. Utilizing the new $11.8 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation, he will grow the MCGI to bring new genomic and digital technologies as well as clinical trials to Maine cancer patients. He will also provide clinical guidance to JAX’s research faculty and support the implementation of clinically-oriented research projects. In his new role, Rueter will work very closely with other clinically-oriented groups at JAX such as the Clinical Education group and Clinical Genomics.
“It is an honor to serve JAX as the Laboratory’s first Chief Medical Officer,” said Rueter. “I am looking forward to building upon the Laboratory’s research base to help enhance collaboration and innovation between biomedical research and clinical practice and further advance human health.”
As a first step in growing the clinical footprint of JAX, Rueter will expand JAX’s role within the SWOG Cancer Research Network, the prestigious NCI-funded clinical trials network, by co-chairing a nationwide study investigating the benefit of genomic tumor boards in improving patient outcomes. “The SWOG study that we are working on is an excellent example of how we can leverage JAX’s role as a direct translator of genomic technologies and apply it to a national study, involving clinicians and patients around the country,” says Rueter, who also serves as the associate director for translational initiatives at the NCI-designated JAX Cancer Center. “Given the significant role that genomic technologies play in cancer care, it is a natural starting point for clinical impact projects. But there are other areas where we can start conceptualizing similar projects, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease. We will explore these areas with our healthcare partners.”
The Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative is an alliance of Maine oncology providers aimed at making precision medicine, innovative clinical trials, and access to targeted therapies and novel technology available for cancer patients throughout Maine; Rueter has led the initiative since its inception in 2016. Since that time, the initiative has grown to include every oncologist in Maine, providing genomic tumor testing through JAX’s CLIA laboratory to over 1600 cancer patients.
In addition to the expansion of MCGI, Rueter will continue to provide medical expertise and leadership for employee health-related issues and serve as an advisor to JAX leadership. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, JAX employees have benefited from Rueter’s clinical knowledge on how to keep themselves and their families healthy. Rueter provided critical advice in maintaining a safe workplace by serving on JAX’s COVID-19 pandemic task force, which implemented a rigorous COVID-19 testing program for employees and surrounding communities, provided masks and thermometers to employees, and shared clinical expertise on the coronavirus to educate employees and community members.
While COVID-19 certainly presented an unprecedented challenge to JAX and the worldwide community, it has shown that as a biomedical research organization invested in improving human health, there will likely be other contexts in which medical leadership will be important for employees.
“Establishing the CMO role at JAX is an important step in our organization’s evolution as we build upon our historical expertise in basic research to now also emphasize industry-leading clinical and translational research,” said Ken Fasman, senior vice president of research at The Jackson Laboratory. “With Jens’ clinical experience as a practicing oncologist, his dedication to community genomic medicine, and his passion for improving human health, JAX is poised to make an indelible mark at the intersection of biomedical research and clinical practice.”
The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution with a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and nearly 3,000 employees in locations across the United States (Maine, Connecticut, California) and Japan, as well as a joint venture in China. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. For more information, please visit www.jax.org.