This Wednesday, Sean Parker announced the launch of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. He donated $250 million from his own money through his foundation, The Parker Foundation. The initiative wants to link 6 major research teams for one clear purpose, getting rid of cancer for good. Jeff Bluestone will be the institute’s president, he and an executive board will oversee the work of the organization.
Over 300 researchers from 40 laboratories are going to try and crack the puzzle. Their progress is going to be managed by six major centers: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford Medicine, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Francisco, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Pennsylvania.
“We will pursue complete solutions by acting as a bridge between the need for philanthropic investment, public policy expertise, science and technology, and all other capabilities to achieve our goals.” says at the Parker Foundation’s blog describing its approach on problems.
Parker told the press that in decades, there has not been real progress on cancer treatment. In fact, he said the only thing segregated research has managed to do is to extend life expectancy a couple months. Ever since he heard about immunotherapy, he has been talking to leaders and authorities around the world to bring them down under a big roof to work for a single goal.
But why immunotherapy?
— Sean Parker (@sparker) April 13, 2016
Cancer cells are really good at hiding, that’s why our body can’t deal with it properly. With this in mind, a group of scientists has been approaching the disease in a different way. They want to help the immune system do its job, Mr. Bluestone is one of those men. He discovered that the immune system has some settings which limit its performance or “checkpoints” if you will.
He also discovered a drug that can unlock this limitation at the same time as Jim Allison, this kind of drug is called “checkpoint inhibitor”. The problem is that it does not work for everyone. Immunotherapy wants to give the body tools to defend itself and so far, it is the only method that is reporting new contributions and possible permanent solutions to the problem.
— Ray Chambers (@RaymondChambers) April 13, 2016
Sean Parker realized that all these discoveries were happening in different centers and he saw how much these studies would benefit if they shared information. The institute not only will give all that scientists need to perform their studies, it will also create a shared database and all the centers will have access to it. Which means, that if someone discovers something, everyone can use it.
Mr. Parker is working hard to eliminate bureaucracy. The organization expects and investment return, but it priories on finding treatments and performing clinical tryouts. In fact, he said all the economic discussions will take place after the patents have been approved by the government.