University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - May Commencement

Judith Buechner

Honorary Degree Recipient

Kathy E. Giusti
Doctor of Humane Letters

Kathy GiustiIn 1980, Kathy Giusti graduated from the University of Vermont, magna cum laude, with a degree in biology. Five years later, she received her MBA at Harvard Business School and launched a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

In 1996, she was a fast-rising executive and the proud mother an 18-month-old daughter. That January, Giusti was diagnosed with a deadly cancer of the blood, multiple myeloma, and given no more than three years to live. She quickly learned that there were no effective treatments for multiple myeloma, and that research on the disease was nearly nonexistent.

Instead of collapsing under a seeming death sentence, Giusti fought back. She took her understanding of biology and her business acumen, and dedicated her life to overcoming the disease. Eighteen years later, not only is she a vibrant survivor and mother of two teenagers, but she’s also led a revolution in how cancer-fighting drugs are researched and brought to market.

As the founder and chief executive officer of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium, Giusti has raised $225 million for research, driven by a conviction that stronger connections between research and industry could lead to treatment breakthroughs. By encouraging deep collaboration, setting benchmarks and rigorous deadlines, and targeting the most promising research, her foundation has been instrumental in more than doubling the life expectancy of multiple myeloma patients.

Her creative impatience and keen investor’s mind has sped the development of new treatments for multiple myeloma in an era when successful drug development in many other areas of medicine has slowed to a trickle. Today, the MMRF has shepherded six promising cancer drugs into the market with five more now in late-stage clinical trials.

Giusti’s “end-to-end” approach of creating incentives for success at each stage of the drug development pathway, from laboratory bench to marketplace, has provided a model for accelerating the creation of new medicines to treat many health problems.

Selected by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, Kathy Giusti has been driven by the conviction that her goal should reach beyond fighting a disease to funding scientific innovation.

Kathy Giusti’s cancer relapsed in 2005 and she sought treatment. Thanks to her foundation’s own successes and a stem cell transplant from her twin sister, Karen Giusti Andrews (also UVM Class of 1980 and a long-time partner with Kathy in the fight against multiple myeloma), Giusti beat back her cancer a second time.

“Giusti remains that doomed, hopeful mother, a cancer patient in remission on a mission,” wrote journalist Rick Green in a recent profile. “This is what drives her—and what is helping to change the way cancer will be cured.”

Last modified May 17 2013 04:34 PM