Penn Medicine’s Basser Research Center for BRCA Announces External Research Grant Program

Innovative Awards to Fund Projects from Institutions Around the World Aimed at Advancing Care for Patients with BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutations

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Newswise — PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania’s Basser Research Center for BRCA has announced the Basser External Research Grant Program, a unique funding program for high impact translational cancer research projects aimed at advancing the care of people living with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, home to the Basser Center, will serve as steward of the $5 million grant to four research teams that demonstrate the potential for translation into clinical practice. The grant program is made possible by an additional $5 million donation from University of Pennsylvania alumni Mindy and Jon Gray, bringing their total giving to Penn to $30 million following their $25 million gift that established the Basser Center in 2012. The new awards are a unique effort among academic institutions, which typically utilize philanthropic gifts to further research conducted by their own scientists.

“This generous award by the Grays will help expand the mission of the Basser Center by allowing us to support innovative researchers outside of Penn and widen the circle of those who are working to find new ways to prevent and treat cancers associated with BRCA mutations,” said Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Research Center and the Basser Professor of Oncology at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. “There are many research teams doing exceptional work in BRCA1/2 research who are finding it difficult to compete for the shrinking pool of federal and foundation funding for biomedical research, and this program provides a new avenue to accelerate progress across the field.”

Research grant applications are being accepted for projects in basic science, prevention, early detection, or targeted therapeutics relevant to the study of BRCA1/2. Two types of awards will be given to four promising innovative projects – such as immunologic approaches to preventing cancer, novel therapies unique to tumor type, and new methods for early detection – including:

• Basser Team Science Award – A $1 million, two-year ($500,000/yr), project will be awarded. The teams must have a minimum of two principal investigators and preference will be given to multi-institutional applications.

• Basser Innovation Award – Three $100,000, one-year, innovative idea projects will be awarded.

To date, more than 75 investigators have submitted letters of intent to apply for the grants. Applications are due on Friday, February 14, 2014. For more information, visit the Basser Research Center web site.

“As the nation’s only center solely devoted to research into the prevention and treatment of BRCA-related cancers, the Basser Research Center for BRCA is uniquely positioned to help fund team science and original ideas,” said Chi Van Dang, MD, PhD, director of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. “With these grants, we hope to support interdisciplinary multi-institutional teams that take cutting-edge, creative research with the greatest potential to change clinical approaches to individuals predisposed to cancer resulting from BRCA mutations.”

The Basser Research Center was established in memory of Mindy Gray’s sister Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44.

Recognizing and funding leaders in the field of BRCA research is a cornerstone of the Basser Center’s mission. Last year, the first Basser Global Prize was awarded to cancer biology and genetics expert Alan Ashworth, FRS, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Cancer Research in London and leader of the Gene Function team in the ICR’s Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre. As part of the award, Ashworth, a pioneer in efforts to develop therapies to target cancer cells that contain BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, will give the keynote address at the annual Basser Research Center for BRCA Symposium in May 2014. Also in 2013, the Basser Center awarded its second year of grant funding – more than $2 million – to 19 Penn investigators representing a wide array of disciplines. Together, they are studying topics ranging from potential vaccine therapies to prevent BRCA1/2-related cancers to optimal nutrition and exercise for BRCA-positive cancer survivors to managing the side effects associated with prophylactic ovary removal.

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