American University of Beirut

Dr. Hussein Tawbi nominated to US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa​​, ​Office of Communications, communications​​​​

AUB alumnus Hussein Tawbi, MD, PhD, has been nominated by US President Donald Trump to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).  In line with President Trump's announcement of his intent to nominate Dr. Tawbi among others to key positions in his administration on January 28, 2020, Dr. Tawbi will be advising the president on matters involving science, technology, education, and innovation policy.

Dr. Hussein Tawbi is associate professor and deputy chair at the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology in the Division of Cancer Medicine of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, which he joined in 2015. He is also director of Melanoma Clinical Research and Early Drug Development and director of Personalized Cancer Therapy at the same department. Dr. Tawbi is an active and highly respected clinician in melanoma, and also serves as co-director of the MD Anderson Brain Metastasis Clinic, which he co-founded a year ago.

Tawbi started at AUB as an undergraduate in physics in 1994 and graduated with distinction with a bachelor's in chemistry in 1997. Upon graduation from AUB's medical school in 2001, he continued to do an internship in internal medicine at AUBMC. He then went on to the University of Pittsburgh for residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology/oncology and obtained his PhD in clinical translational science in 2011.

Dr. Tawbi has led multiple high-impact clinical trials, including a practice-changing clinical trial of combination immunotherapy for melanoma patients whose disease had spread to the brain. The combination of immune checkpoint inhibitors ipilimumab and nivolumab shrank brain metastases in 56% of patients, representing unprecedented results that were reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. His research interests also include studying mechanisms of response to immunotherapy in brain metastases, overcoming resistance to melanoma treatment, epigenetic regulation of treatment resistance, drug development, and early phase clinical trials. Most recently, he co-led a study, reported in the journal Nature, showing that a patient's response to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy is affected by the presence of immune B cells in the tumor.

The mission of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is to advise the president on policies that will enhance American leadership in science and technology. It has 16 members, and Dr. Tawbi is only the second oncologist to serve on the council (the first was Dr. Harold Varmus, former NCI and NIH director) and he is the first melanoma expert.

In his announcement of Dr. Tawbi's recent appointment, MD Anderson President Peter WT Pisters described Dr. Tawbi as an innovative and accomplished translational researcher and stated that this position is an important opportunity for Dr. Tawbi to widely share his expertise and to ensure perspectives that are important to academia, healthcare, and the field of oncology are included in the work of this council.

“Hussein Tawbi is a stellar AUB alumnus, one who embodies the very best of the university's values as an oncologist, teacher, and researcher," said AUB President​ Fadlo Khuri who has known Tawbi for many years as a mentor and senior colleague. “His persistent humility, compassion, ingenuity, and excellence as a physician have already made a significant difference for melanoma patients. Hussein's selection to the vital committee which advises the President of the United States on cancer is both richly deserved and highly significant."

Tawbi has kept close contact with his alma mater, which he visits regularly, as he did in 2018 when he was hosted by Dr. Bilal Kaafarani to offer a mentorship talk to AUB's aspiring students. Tawbi refers to President Khuri as a mentor and senior colleague whom he continues to be in regular contact with, particularly since he was chosen by Dr. Khuri to serve as a section editor on the journal Cancer, the official journal of the American Cancer Society for which Khuri serves as editor-in-chief. 

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