Newswise — (MEMPHIS, Tenn., January 18, 2024) St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital today announced a nearly $13 million investment toward a new research collaboration with scientists at Columbia University, Duke University and Stanford University to expand the understanding of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR), which are vital proteins that impact human health and disease.

The collaborative research project is led by two St. Jude researchers, Scott Blanchard, Ph.D., and M. Madan Babu, Ph.D., who are working with Nobel laureate and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., of Duke University; Jonathan Javitch, M.D., Ph.D., of Columbia University; and Georgios Skiniotis, Ph.D., and Alice Ting, Ph.D., both of Stanford University.

GPCRs have been linked to or implicated in more than 100 human diseases and disorders, and the GPCR Collaborative will use advanced methodologies, including time-resolved, single-molecule imaging, cryo-electron microscopy, proximity labeling, data science and other techniques to develop new strategies to treat a number of catastrophic pediatric diseases, including cancer. These approaches could lead to the development of better GPCR-targeting drugs. 

“Ordinarily, there are few opportunities for teams from different institutions to come together for collaboration. Here, we’re bringing together our individual unique innovations and expertise so we can understand the mechanism by which GPCRs operate with the ultimate goal of using this information to identify and design more effective drugs,” said Blanchard. “This collaboration will help us define the principles underpinning the effectiveness of nature’s GPCR regulators and apply them to clinical therapies to increase their effectiveness, and hopefully reduce or eliminate side effects.”

As outlined in the 2022-2027 Strategic Plan, the St. Jude Research Collaboratives program is part of an overall effort by the institution to fund collaborative research addressing complex scientific problems with transformative potential for the diseases treated at St. Jude.

The St. Jude Research Collaboratives program was established to create multi-disciplinary teams consisting of St. Jude scientists and their peers at other institutions who can address specific challenges involved in the treatment of pediatric cancers and other catastrophic diseases. Proposing a collaborative requires a St. Jude principal investigator to assemble a team composed of leading scientists from St. Jude and other institutions. St. Jude funds approved projects.

“We understand that a team-oriented approach can increase the speed of research progress,” said James R. Downing, M.D., president and CEO of St. Jude. “The complexities of pediatric cancers and other life-threatening diseases demand collaboration among the best minds in their respective fields.”

Since 2017, six different Research Collaborative projects have been funded with an investment of more than $80 million with institutions including Princeton University, Washington University St. Louis, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Broad Institute of MIT/Harvard, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research of MIT, Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, and the NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, The State University of New York at Buffalo, The Rockefeller University, University of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts General Hospital. By 2027, St. Jude plans to support even more collaborations focused on unanswered needs in science and medicine which will increase total investment to $160 million.

“The St. Jude Research Collaboratives are designed to focus on problems with the greatest potential to transform understanding of the pediatric catastrophic diseases we treat,” said Charles W.M. Roberts M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president and director of the St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center, which developed and oversees the program. “The scientific progress we have seen to date across the collaboratives has been remarkable and we are looking forward to exceptional advances with the addition of the GPCR team.”


St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening disorders. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% since the hospital opened more than 60 years ago. St. Jude shares the breakthroughs it makes to help doctors and researchers at local hospitals and cancer centers around the world improve the quality of treatment and care for even more children. To learn more, visit, read St. Jude Progress blog, and follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.