Newswise — Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) today announced the establishment of The Starr Foundation Program for Discovery Science, a pioneering new initiative made possible by a generous $50 million gift from The Starr Foundation. The program will support the visionary work of scientists at the Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI), the research arm of MSK, by funding foundational laboratory research that will drive the next generation of cancer breakthroughs and ultimately improve the lives of people facing cancer around the world.

The Starr Foundation Program for Discovery Science will have broad impact, channeling funds to ambitious, highly creative basic science investigations as well as multi-institutional and interdisciplinary collaborations. Basic science is the cornerstone of translational research, which is the process of applying lab discoveries to develop new treatments for disease. Several transformative therapies, including immunotherapy and targeted treatment, trace their roots to basic investigations at MSK.

“We are deeply grateful to The Starr Foundation for their generosity and vision, and for this remarkable recognition of the power of basic science to change how we understand and treat this disease,” said Joan Massagué, PhD, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Foundation Chair and Director of SKI. “The impact of this gift will be felt far beyond our labs, as what we discover today will ultimately improve the lives of people facing cancer around the world.”

This latest gift builds on The Starr Foundation’s long history of support for collaborative cancer research at MSK. Since 2005, the Foundation has committed $150 million to the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative, which unites MSK, Weill Cornell Medicine, and The Rockefeller University to conduct trailblazing stem cell research. The Starr Cancer Consortium, established in 2006, is a dynamic research partnership among five institutions, including MSK, made possible by gifts totaling more than $200 million.

“MSK is home to groundbreaking cancer researchers whose work has shaped the field for decades,” said Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of The Starr Foundation. “The most exciting days in cancer research are ahead of us, and we are proud to establish a program that lays the foundation for the breakthroughs of the future.”

The Starr Program will fuel the expansion of a successful grant program, the Basic Research Innovation Award (BRIA), which is a vital pipeline for MSK scientists engaged in research efforts with extraordinary potential but limited preliminary data. Despite their promise, these projects often fall outside the parameters of traditional funding sources, making programs like BRIA an essential engine for their development. A series of new grants designed to foster technology-focused collaborations between MSK and other research institutions will be established as part of the program, alongside investments in data collection and computational technologies to support these endeavors.

An important element of The Starr Program will be the creation of the Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, an endowed position named for The Starr Foundation’s long-time and visionary Chairman. The Starr Program will also support MSK’s efforts to train future leaders in cancer research through a program that will recruit and mentor early-career scientists.