A $250 million grant from Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, announced on Wednesday, aims to speed development of more effective cancer treatments by fostering collaboration among leading researchers in the field.
The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy will include over 40 laboratories and more than 300 researchers from six key cancer centers: New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering, Stanford Medicine, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Francisco, Houston's University of Texas MD Anderson and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
"Any breakthrough made at one center is immediately available to another center without any kind of IP (intellectual property) entanglements or bureaucracy," Parker, the co-founder of music-sharing website Napster and the first president of Facebook, told Reuters in an interview.
The institute will focus on the emerging field of cancer immunotherapy, which harnesses the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.
Recently approved drugs such as Yervoy and Opdivo from Bristol Myers Squibb Co and Merck & Co Inc's Keytruda have helped some patients sustain remission. But those first-generation therapies do not work for everyone, and scientists are trying to understand how to make them more effective.
"Very little progress has been made over the last several decades," Parker said, referring to cancer drug research. "Average life expectancy has only increased three to six months with some of these drugs that cost billions to develop."