Sean Parker founded music-sharing site Napster and was the first president of social media giant Facebook. It only makes sense, then, that he sees sharing as key to bolstering one of the most important medical advances of our time — cancer immunotherapy. In an unprecedented effort that reflects Parker’s record of being a pioneer, his $250-million gift launched the collaborative Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which includes $10 million in initial funding for UCLA, with an additional $10 million investment over four years.
The grant connects more than 40 laboratories and 300 researchers across six institutions: UCLA, UCSF, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In an exceptional arrangement meant to accelerate progress, these centers have agreed to share intellectual property with each other, enabling all researchers to have immediate access to a wide array of core discoveries as they are made. Immunotherapy mobilizes the body’s own powerful immune system to engage and eliminate cancer cells. It is a new model in the fight against one of the world’s most intractable diseases. “We are at an inflection point in cancer research, and now is the time to maximize immunotherapy’s unique potential to transform all cancers into manageable diseases and save millions of lives,” says Parker.
The Parker Institute has identified three key areas of focus to start: develop best-in-class T-cells, discover novel paths and new treatments to improve checkpoint blockade responses, and identify new tumor-specific markers for immune recognition.
As a member of this consortium — a formidable new foe in the fight against cancer — UCLA will build on its impressive record in cancer research and join forces with some of the nation’s most outstanding immunotherapy experts to bring the best treatments to patients faster.
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(ABOVE) When chemotherapy did not work for Emily Whitehead, immunotherapy did. Here she is with her parents and actor Bradley Cooper at the L.A. launch of the Parker Institute.
Photo Credit – Getty Images for Parker Media