Massachusetts Biotechnology Council Issues $1.4 Million Cancer Research Challenge to Support American Cancer Society

AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and Novartis step forward with lead commitments to fund three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--()--Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MBC) President Robert K. Coughlin will announce at the MBC Annual Meeting in Boston today that the organization is issuing an unprecedented challenge to life sciences companies to fully fund our regions most promising cancer research in 2008, through a partnership with the American Cancer Society. MBC member companies, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and Novartis have generously stepped forward with the lead commitments to each fund a three-year American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship. Both companies have significant operations in Massachusetts and are committed to ensuring that the states pipeline of talented research investigators remains full. AstraZeneca has a major cancer research facility in Waltham, and operations located in Westborough, while Cambridge is home to Novartis headquarters for its global research organization and the headquarters for its global Vaccines Division.

An unprecedented partnership involving academic, nonprofit, and corporate sectors, the MBC Cancer Research Challenge will dramatically increase the amount of basic scientific research in the regions universities and academic medical centers, with the goal of funding 100 percent of American Cancer Society top-ranked Postdoctoral Fellowships in New England.

While cancer research has increased, particularly in Massachusetts, a recent study has shown that federal funding for basic science research has, in fact, declined. Alternative sources of funding, such as the American Cancer Societys research program, are increasingly critical. By funding talented beginning investigators with innovative ideas, American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowships launch hundreds of new cancer researchers and research directions each year. In fact, Society-funded investigators have contributed to most of the major cancer advances of the last 60 years.

The goal of the MBC Cancer Research Challenge is to fund a total of ten (10) additional $140,000 American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowships in 2008, meeting the following criteria:

  • Top-rated, already peer-reviewed research proposals for which there currently is no funding;
  • Each commitment of $140,000 supports one three-year Postdoctoral Fellowship;
  • Commitments may be a multi-year pledge of up to three (3) years.

There is no area of investigation that has received greater attention among Massachusetts biotechnology companies than cancer research, said Robert Coughlin, President of MBC. The MBC Research Challenge sends a clear message that we are committed to keeping our most important resource, our educated and talented researchers and future life science leaders, in the state to ensure that we continue to be the leader in solving unmet medical needs of patients around the world.

There has never been a more promising time in the field of cancer research than today, said Donald J. Gudaitis, CEO of the American Cancer Society, New England Division. The future of cancer discovery lies in the creative minds of beginning researchers, whose pioneering work can change the therapeutic landscape and accelerate the pace of progress toward cures. We can secure the future of cancer research and the regions pipeline of scientific talent by showing these highly sought-after young researchers that we value the contributions they will make toward conquering cancer.

About Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MBC) is the nations oldest biotechnology trade association. Founded in 1985, the MBC is a not-for-profit organization that represents and provides services and support for the Massachusetts biotechnology industry. The MBC is committed to advancing the development of critical new science, technology and medicines that benefit people worldwide. Representing over 500 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, research hospitals, and service organizations involved in life sciences and health care, the MBC works to advance policy and promote education, while providing member programs and events, industry information, and services.

About the American Cancer Society

The mission of the American Cancer Society is to eliminate cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, service and advocacy.

As the largest private, not-for-profit source of funding for cancer research in the world, the American Cancer Society targets beginning investigators working in institutions throughout the country, and directs research money into high-priority projects not being emphasized by other funding agencies. The Societys Extramural Grants are awarded to individual investigators in medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the country for both basic and applied science, providing as much as 20-25% of all grant monies available to beginning cancer researchers. The American Cancer Society uses a rigorous peer-review system to evaluate proposals, and only the best are selected for funding. As of January 2008, the American Cancer Society is supporting over 800 current multi-year grants at institutions around the country totaling over $400 million dollars.

Despite these impressive numbers, the American Cancer Society is able to fund only 50% of the top-ranked New England research projects approved for funding by the volunteer peer review system. The lack of funding for these exciting and worthwhile projects often means that great ideas are not funded and young researchers must leave or never are able to enter the field of cancer research.

The Societys total investment in research about $3.4 billion since 1946 has launched the careers of generations of scientists and generated major advances in virtually every aspect of cancer. Among the researchers who have received Society funding, 42 have gone on to receive sciences highest recognition, the Nobel Prize a record unmatched by any other funding organization in the world.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a major international healthcare business engaged in the research, development, manufacturing and marketing of meaningful prescription medicines and supplier for healthcare services. AstraZeneca is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies with healthcare sales of $29.55 billion and is a leader in gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory, oncology and infectious disease medicines. In the United States, AstraZeneca is a $13.35 billion dollar healthcare business with 12,200 employees committed to improving peoples lives. AstraZeneca is listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (Global) as well as the FTSE4Good Index.

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Massachusetts Biotechnology Council
John Heffernan, 617-674-5145


Massachusetts Biotechnology Council
John Heffernan, 617-674-5145