Facebook, Napster Trailblazer Sean Parker Wagers $250 Million to Launch Cancer Immunotherapy Institute

Facebook, Napster Trailblazer Sean Parker Wagers $250 Million to Launch Cancer Immunotherapy Institute
April 13, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

SAN FRANCISCO – Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker, of Napster and Facebook fame, will donate $250 million to back some of the top oncology researchers to come together and develop effective cancer immunotherapy treatments under the banner of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, CNN reported this morning.

The new cancer institute, which will be formally announced today, looks to bring together more than 40 cancer laboratories and more than 300 researchers to tackle cancer. Research centers participating include Memorial Sloan Kettering, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, Stanford, UCLA and UCSF, CNN said. The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy “aims to increase collaboration among researchers and accelerate the development of immune therapies,” CNN reported.

“Cancer immunotherapy is such an incredibly complex field, and for every answer it seems to pose 10 more questions. I’m an entrepreneur so I wish some of these questions had been answered yesterday,” Parker said, according to the Washington Post.

The new model will provide additional funding for researchers while they continue to work at their home base of operations. Parker told the Washington Post the model he envisions will allow researchers to collaborate without worrying about bureaucratic red tape. A centralized steering committee will set research agendas and coordinate collection of data, the Post said.

The institute will be helmed by Jeff Bluestone, an immunologist with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Other noted scientists involved in the project include Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania and James Allison at MD Anderson, the Post noted.

Immunotherapy is one of the areas of cancer research many companies, such as AstraZeneca , Genentech , Clovis Oncology , Kite Pharmaceuticals and more, are focusing on for cancer treatments. Immunotherapy is a treatment approach that focuses on harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. Scientists are using various approaches to trigger immune system responses, including the use of checkpoint inhibitors.

Parker is not the only billionaire to provide funding to expedite cancer research. Earlier this year, billionaire physician and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong established a coalition of oncologists, companies and other stakeholders to launch The National Immunotherapy Coalition and The Cancer MoonShot 2020. The focus of these two new organizations is to develop and test combination therapies for various forms of cancers. Increasingly, drug makers are finding that two, three or more combinations of drugs used together are proving more effective in treating cancer. Soon-Shiong’s coalition will have access to 60 novel and approved cancer drugs and has plans to design, initiate and finish randomized clinical trials in up to 20 tumor types in cancers of all stages in 20,000 patients by the year 2020.

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