Newswise — NEW YORK, August 5, 2020—The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all cancers, awarded more than $30.2 million in research grants and fellowships in the 2020 fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. In total, CRI gave 94 awards that will advance cancer immunology research at 56 institutions in 8 countries. This also includes an unprecedented six-month extension of funding support for 23 postdoctoral fellows in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

“While the novel coronavirus has upended all aspects of life across the globe, CRI and our scientists remain committed to fulfilling the promise of cancer immunotherapy,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute. “We’re proud to support these brilliant scientists and clinicians, especially our young researchers and future leaders, at a critical time in order to bring the benefits of immunotherapy to more cancer patients.”

The awards, which are funded entirely by individual, foundation, and corporate donors, include:

  • 5 Lloyd J. Old STAR Awards, providing grants of $1.25 million over 5 years to future “stars” in the field of cancer immunology for the exploration of out-of-the-box and disruptive avenues of research
  • 8 Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator grants, notably including new cohorts for the PORTER prostate cancer platform study in partnership with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and a circulating tumor DNA study in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group
  • 32 Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowships, providing $175,500 over three years to further career development and support laboratory research for promising young scientists working under the mentorship of leading immunologists. In addition, CRI has provided sixth-month extensions to 23 Irvington Postdoctoral Fellows whose research has been disrupted by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 12 Clinic and Laboratory Integration Program (CLIP) grants, providing $200,000 in catalytic support for the translation of basic laboratory discoveries into novel therapies that can be tested in patients
  • 5 Technology Impact Awards, supplying seed funding of up to $200,000 to be used over 24 months to address the gap between technology development and clinical application of cancer immunotherapies 
  • 9 Impact Grants, including funding for the CRI iAtlas interactive web portal for immuno-oncology research, and a grant to study gliomas, a cancer of the brain stem. 

The 2020 Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old STARs, or “Scientists Taking Risks” include:

  • Joshua D. Brody, M.D., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who is refining an approach to therapeutic cancer vaccination, known as in situ vaccination, with the potential to teach patients’ immune systems to recognize tumor cells and target them throughout the body
  • Tal Danino, Ph.D., of Columbia University, who is leveraging modern approaches from synthetic biology to engineer safe and effective bacterial immunotherapies for cancer
  • Greg M. Delgoffe, Ph.D., of University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who is conducting a deep analysis of the interplay between metabolic stress and immune dysfunction in cancer, and attempting to reprogram cell metabolism to bolster immune responses
  • Gavin Peter Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine, who is exploring fundamental questions of glioblastoma immunobiology necessary to the development of cancer immunotherapies for the unique anatomy of the central nervous system
  • Ping-Chih Ho, Ph.D., of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research / University of Lausanne, who is deciphering metabolic crosstalk in the tumor microenvironment to unleash cancer-fighting immune cells.

To help advance immunotherapy for two types of ultra-rare cancer, chordoma and fibrolamellar cancer, which affect the bones of the spine and the liver, respectively, the Cancer Research Institute has partnered with two nonprofits focused on these diseases to fund promising research aimed at improving outcomes for patients with these cancers. These include:

  • The inaugural CRI-Chordoma Foundation CLIP grant, which has been awarded to Cassian Yee, M.D., of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to identify immunogenic targets by directly examining the peptides presented on the surface of chordoma cells using tandem mass spectrometry
  • A CRI-Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, which has been awarded to Francisco Juan Martinez Navarro, Ph.D., in the lab of Sofia de Oliveira, Ph.D., at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who is investigating the role of the innate immune system in fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma progression and how it influences the infiltration of T cells into these rare liver tumors.

Among this year’s Technology Impact Award recipients is Neville Sanjana, Ph.D., of the New York Genome Center, who is using massively-parallel genome engineering to comprehensively map all genes that can boost immune responses against pancreatic cancer, which will hopefully enable the development of next-generation T cell therapies for difficult-to-treat cancers.

Finally, included in the Impact Grants is funding for a glioma study carried out by Robert Michael Angelo, M.D., Ph.D., and Sean Bendall, Ph.D., of Stanford University in collaboration with investigators at City of Hope, Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, San Francisco, who will use Multiplexed Ion Beam Imaging (MIBI) to image intact, well-annotated glial tumor tissue from pediatric and adult patients in response to vaccine, checkpoint inhibitor, and cellular therapies. This dataset will inform therapeutic strategies based on the presence of tumor targets, expression of immune inhibitory proteins, and the types and functional statuses of T cells and myeloid cells within the context of an intact tumor microenvironment. 

To view our full roster of 2020 grant and fellowship award recipients, visit cancerresearch.org/funding. More information about CRI’s grants, fellowships, and other programs is available at cancerresearch.org/grants

 

About the Cancer Research InstituteThe Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is a highly-rated U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to saving more lives by fueling the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes four Nobel laureates and 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $445 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. To learn more, go to cancerresearch.org

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