Rapid Three-day Selection Process Accelerates Collaboration Between SU2C Researchers, $950,000 awarded in 5 grants April 7, 2014 – SAN DIEGO – Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the charitable initiative supporting ground-breaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated timeframe, along with its scientific partner the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), announced the five inaugural SU2C Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards during a press event today at the AACR Annual Meeting 2014, held here April 5-9.
These Awards, which were introduced this year to foster collaboration among members of the SU2C scientific community, are given to SU2C scientists to explore synergistic and innovative collaborations that enhance the SU2C mission to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments. Although new research projects from existing collaborations are considered, a particular emphasis is placed on projects that involve SU2C researchers who have not worked together in the past, including collaborations between members of different Dream Teams, between Dream Team members and early-career Innovative Research Grant (IRG) recipients, or between IRG recipients.
Awardees will be selected annually at the SU2C Scientific Summit, granting a total of up to $1 million each year, with individual awards ranging from $125,000 to $250,000 for a period of one to two years.
The researchers selected for the inaugural SU2C Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards are:
Dr. David B. Solit, a member of the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team, and Dr. Nikolaus Schultz, a member of the SU2C-PCF Prostate Cancer Dream Team, both affiliated with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will receive $200,000 over two years for “cBioPortal for Stand Up To Cancer” to develop the cBioPortal platform, a web-based data management and computational resource at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as an SU2C-wide tumor genetic and biological data warehouse.
Dr. Stephen B. Baylin, leader of the SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team (Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University), and Dr. James P. Allison, leader of the SU2C-CRI Immunology Dream Team (The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), will receive $250,000 for one year to study “The Intersection of Epigenetic and Immune Checkpoint Therapy,” which will focus on the combination of epigenetic therapy with immune checkpoint inhibition in cancer treatment.
Dr. Dennis J. Slamon, leader of the SU2C Breast Cancer Dream Team (UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center), and Dr. Tak W. Mak, a member of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee (Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, University of Toronto), will receive $250,000 over two years to support the “Clinical Development of CFI-400945, a PLK4 Inhibitor, in Breast Cancer.” This project will characterize a novel drug that targets an important pathway in breast cancer.
Dr. Dana Pe’er, a 2011 SU2C IRG recipient (Columbia University), and Dr. Padmanee Sharma, a member of the SU2C-CRI Immunology Dream Team (The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), will receive $125,000 over two years to support the “Analysis of High-Dimension Single-Cell Data from Cancer Immunotherapy Clinical Trials.” This project will develop powerful new computational technology to analyze and visualize tumor immune responses in cancer patients treated with experimental immune therapies.
And lastly, Dr. Roger S. Lo, a 2011 SU2C IRG recipient (University of California, Los Angeles), and Dr. Jeffrey A. Sosman, a principal on the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team (Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center) will receive $125,000 over two years to research the “Determinants of Sensitivity and Resistance to MEK-Based Targeted Therapies in NRAS Mutant Melanomas.” This project will develop genome-scale analyses of melanoma treatment sensitivity and resistance.
These grants – named in honor of Nobel Laureate and Chairperson of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., Institute professor at the MIT Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research – were awarded to attendees at the 2014 SU2C Scientific Summit. Each year SU2C Dream Teams and IRG recipients, the best and the brightest minds in cancer research, converge at the annual SU2C Scientific Summit to share their progress and collaborate to bring us closer to the end of cancer.
“I’m humbled by the decision to name this grant in my honor,” said Dr. Sharp. “The award is so exciting because it reflects our focus and attention on collaboration, taking it to a new level.”
The SU2C Scientific Summit 2014 convened during the late January with over 75 researchers present and reporting to the meeting, including members of the SU2C SAC, the 11 Dream Teams, and many of the 26 IRG recipients. In his remarks opening the Summit, Arnold J. Levine, Ph.D., SAC vice-chairperson and professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., announced to summit attendees that one million dollars had been allocated to fund new awards, specifically to take collaboration to a new and higher level.
“Not only has Stand Up To Cancer created a unique path for research, we now have significant funding allocated to reward researchers who so effectively embrace and advance this model of collaborative engagement,” explained Dr. Levine.
Dr. Levine continued that the Stand Up To Cancer research model was premised on assembling teams around a problem and engaging the best researchers, regardless of their institutional affiliation. In support of this mission, SU2C provided the resources to create a new culture of cooperation, collaboration, and communication to facilitate the research process in an accelerated time frame.
“Never before have scientists walked into a scientific meeting with the germination of an idea, and walked out with the funding to pursue it,” remarked Dr. Sharp.
Grant recipients were nominated by members of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the SAC leadership, Dr. Sharp, Dr. Levine, and William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Through the course of the three-day Summit, SAC members observed participant interactions while the Dream Team researchers, preeminent leaders in their fields, and many of the IRG researchers presented their progress and findings. They considered the dynamics of reactions, questions and discussion, and the collaborative conversations that ensued, and consulted with other members of the scientific community at the summit.
Consistent with the distinct SU2C operating practices, the evaluation team focused on synergistic collaborations already underway that supplement, but were not anticipated in, their scope of SU2C-supported work. These interactions include trans-Dream Team and trans-discipline synergies, collaboration between scientists from different teams, between established-career Dream Team members and early-career IRG researchers, as well as between members of the SAC and SU2C-funded researchers.
“The nature of research is that inevitably there are outcomes that are not unanticipated – but certainly unexpected and extraordinary,” remarked Dr. Nelson. “Through this award process, we were looking for opportunities for researchers to come together and interact in new productive approaches, what I like to call ‘collaboration squared,’ a new higher level of collaboration and synergy that has the potential to generate important or innovative outcomes.”
“Our primary consideration was how award of these prizes might accelerate the development of new cancer treatments to impact patient care sooner,” Dr. Levine added.
At the close of the Summit’s research meetings, the SAC considered recommendations and identified two Dream Team pairs, two Dream Team/IRG pairs, and one Dream Team/SAC member pair, who were asked to submit a scope of work and budget for consideration by the SAC leadership for the Award. The Awardees will be required to submit annual progress and financial reports, consistent with SU2C standards for rigorous review and accountability. The Awardees will also provide updates to the SU2C research community during subsequent SU2C Scientific Summits.
The AACR is responsible for administering the grant and provides ongoing scientific oversight to ensure that progress is being made. Since the launch of SU2C, the AACR has played an integral role as SU2C’s Scientific Partner by providing scientific leadership, expert peer review, grants administration, and oversight of progress.
For more information on Stand Up To Cancer visit http://www.standup2cancer.org.
About Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who utilize the industry’s resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and to increase awareness about progress being made in the fight against the disease. As SU2C’s scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and a Scientific Advisory Committee led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., conduct rigorous, competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and provide expert review of research progress.
Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Talk Show Host, Journalist and well-known Cancer Advocate Katie Couric; Sherry Lansing, Chairperson of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Board of Directors and Founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation; EIF President and CEO Lisa Paulsen; EIF Senior Vice President Kathleen Lobb; Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz of the Robertson Schwartz Agency; Pamela Oas Williams, President of Laura Ziskin Productions and Executive Producer of Stand Up To Cancer’s In-house Production Team, and Nonprofit Executive Ellen Ziffren. All current members of the CFA were co-producers of the 2012 televised special. The late co-founder Laura Ziskin executive produced both the Sept. 5, 2008, and Sept. 10, 2010, broadcasts. SU2C was formally launched on May 27, 2008. Sung Poblete, Ph.D., R.N., has served as SU2C’s president and CEO since 2011.
About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 18,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit http://www.AACR.org. Follow the AACR on Twitter: @AACR. Follow the AACR on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aacr.org.
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Entertainment Industry Foundation
Jane E. Rubinstein
American Association for Cancer Research