14:24 Apr. 13, 2016
USD 250 million, 300 scientists and 40 labs are to stop cancer
Billionaire Sean Parker, famous for his founding roles at Napster and Facebook, is backing an unconventional USD 250 million effort to attack cancer that involves persuading hundreds of the country's top scientists — who often are in competition with each other — to join forces and unify their research targets.
The consortium, which will be formally announced Wednesday, focuses on immunotherapy, a relatively new area of research that seeks to mobilize the body's own defense systems to fight mutant cancer cells. Many believe it represents the future of cancer therapy.
More than 300 scientists working at 40 labs in six institutions — Stanford, the University of California, San Francisco, and University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Pennsylvania, MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center — have already signed on.
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"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.
He describes the effort as a way to remove obstacles related to bureaucracy and personality that will allow scientists to borrow from each other's labs unencumbered. The researchers will continue to be based at their home institutions but will receive additional funding and access to other resources, including specialized data scientists and genetic engineering equipment set to become part of the nonprofit Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in San Francisco.