Dr. Leach received his bachelor’s degree with high honors in biology from Princeton University. He then completed medical school at Emory University, where he was a Robert Woodruff Fellow, followed by additional training at Yale and MD Anderson in surgical oncology and cell biology.
Within AACI, Dr. Leach has been a member of the program committee and served as AACI Program Committee Chair in 2020. As program committee chair, he helped to envision and plan important new annual meeting sessions devoted to health disparities and social injustice, rightsizing cancer screening, end-of-life care, and rural cancer care and prevention. Both as a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Center director and as a researcher funded by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Leach has also been a frequent participant in Capitol Hill advocacy days in support biomedical research funding. Dr. Leach sits on the external advisory boards for the University of Colorado and University of Virginia cancer centers and is a frequent participant on NCI site visit teams.
Dr. Leach’s laboratory has a long track record of research productivity in the field of pancreatic cancer biology and is known for establishing important links between pancreatic development and pancreatic cancer using both mouse and zebrafish model systems. These include the initial discovery of abnormal Notch pathway activation as an important driver of pancreatic tumorigenesis, the identification of adult acinar cells as effective “cells of origin” for pancreatic “ductal” neoplasia, and the identification of a new hematopoietic-to-epithelial IL-17 signaling axis required for pancreatic cancer initiation. More recently, his group completed large-scale genomic and transcriptomic mapping of the pancreatic cancer immune neoepitope landscape and made important new discoveries regarding altered mRNA splicing as a new therapeutic target in this disease. Together with additional studies of pancreatic development and pancreatic epithelial plasticity, these findings have widened our view of both early and late events in human pancreatic cancer.
In addition to these scientific achievements, Dr. Leach has a long track record of successful mentorship of graduate students, post-doctoral research fellows, and junior faculty. To date, he has personally mentored 32 students and postdoctoral research fellows, many of whom have gone on to achieve their own independent faculty positions and independent NIH funding. Dr. Leach has been the principal investigator for multiple NIH R01, P01, P30, U01, S10 and T32 grants, and has received multiple awards honoring this work. In 2015 he was awarded Columbia University’s Ruth Leff Seigel Award for national excellence in pancreatic cancer research, and in 2019 he was inducted as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Leach previously served as chair of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, as co-editor-in-chief for Current Opinion in Genetics and Development, and as a member of the Board of Trustees at Princeton University.