John Hopkins, UC Berkeley, MD Anderson Cancer Partner with Industry in Immunotherapies

Reflecting increased focus on immunotherapies, John Hopkins University, the University of California (UC) Berkeley, and the MD Anderson Cancer Center have each announced funding to support research in this area through industry and private funding. 

Johns Hopkins will launch a new institute, the Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, with funding of $125 million. The funding includes two $50 million gifts—one from Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and three-term mayor of New York City, and the other from philanthropist Sidney Kimmel, founder of Jones Apparel Group. An additional $25 million for the center was contributed by more than a dozen additional supporters.

The institute will further strengthen Johns Hopkins’ program in cancer immunology, uniting the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center experts with the immunology, genetics, microbiology, and biomedical engineering experts throughout Johns Hopkins in a concentrated effort involving more than 100 scientists and clinicians.

Although funding for the new institute will primarily support research, it will also be used to recruit additional scientists; provide additional infrastructure for engineering cellular products related to immunotherapy research; enhance partnerships with the private sector, including biotech and pharma; and invest in critical technology development, such as new ways to profile the immune response inside the tumor. Research at the institute will focus particularly on melanoma, colon, pancreatic, urologic, lung, breast, and ovarian cancers.

Drew Pardoll will be the institute’s inaugural director. Pardoll is an internationally recognized scientist whose career in immunology and cancer research spans 25 years. He is best known for discoveries related to three types of white blood cells—two kinds of T cells, the foreign substance-fighting soldiers of the immune system; and a type of dendritic cell, which acts as a messenger service for the immune system. Charles Drake, Elizabeth Jaffee, Jonathan Powell, and Suzanne Topalian will serve as institute co-directors.

In the second investment, the University of California (UC) Berkeley, in collaboration with the biopharmaceutical company, Aduro Biotech, Inc., have launched the Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI). IVRI is UC Berkeley's first-ever immunotherapy-focused initiative and, in partnership with Aduro, will combine UC Berkeley's research capabilities with the company's expertise in immunotherapy discovery and development to identify and advance new treatment options and preventive modalities for cancer, infectious disease, and autoimmune disease. Aduro will provide UC Berkeley with $7.5 million in research funding over the next three years, with an option for Aduro to increase and extend funding for up to an additional three years. As part of research projects, researchers at UC Berkeley will also have the opportunity to access the company's novel technology platforms including LADD, STING Pathway Activators, and B-select monoclonal antibodies, which are designed to harness the body’s natural immune system.

And in the third investment, Tesaro, Inc., an oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company, and the Institute for Applied Cancer Science at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have formed an exclusive collaboration to discover and develop small molecule product candidates against undisclosed immuno-oncology targets. This collaboration leverages MD Anderson's expertise in drug discovery and translational medicine and Tesaro’s oncology drug-development and commercialization capabilities.

Under terms of the agreement, Tesaro will receive exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize any small-molecule product candidates that result from this collaboration. MD Anderson will be responsible for conducting research activities aimed at identifying clinical candidates with defined characteristics targeting certain immuno-oncology targets. Tesaro will fund research, development, and commercialization expenses for this collaboration. Additional terms of this agreement were not disclosed.

Source: John Hopkins, Audro Biotech, and MD Anderson Cancer Center

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