AACR and MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation Announce Three Grants to Support Transformative Cancer Research

PHILADELPHIA & CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--()--Three grants for research that could transform cancer therapies have been awarded by the AACR-MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation Transformative Cancer Research Grants Program, an innovative partnership between the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the UBS Oncology Impact Fund (OIF) managed by MPM Capital.

The Transformative Cancer Research Grants Program provides generous funds to investigators so they can pursue innovative research which has the potential to help guide and advance cancer treatment and make a significant impact for cancer patients. These grants are part of OIF’s impact program, which provides support for next-generation basic science research as well as patient access to oncology drugs through the UBS Optimus Foundation. OIF donates a percentage of the fund manager’s profits to the impact program, as well as royalties on approved drugs from OIF startup portfolio companies. To date, OIF’s impact program has provided $6.8 million in philanthropic donations.

“In these challenging times, the need for high-impact, transformative research that will markedly reduce cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality is more important than ever,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The AACR is honored to continue its partnership with MPM Capital and the OIF to support early-career and mid-career scientists whose creative research approaches hold promise for catalyzing paradigm-shifting advances that will result in breakthroughs against cancer.”

“Through these grants, we continue to fund extremely innovative approaches to basic science and beyond,” said Christiana Bardon, MD, MBA, managing director of OIF and trustee of the AACR Foundation. “This year’s grant recipients are each working on bold and exciting science that could transform how we understand and treat cancer.”

These grants were selected through a highly competitive review process including an expert review panel chaired by Nobel Laureate H. Robert Horvitz, PhD, an advisor to MPM Capital and OIF.

”Last year saw the emergence of an international health crisis that has refocused our attention firmly on the importance of scientific progress,” said Tom Naratil, president of UBS Americas and co-president of UBS Global Wealth Management. “While COVID-19 continues to demand our attention and medical resources, we should not forget that cancer remains one of the leading threats to our health. We are thankful that by working with MPM Capital and the AACR, our UBS Oncology Impact Fund can now for the second time fund groundbreaking research projects that could lead to new therapies against cancer.”

The three grants are:

“Bivalent DUB recruiters for targeted protein stabilization”

Sara Buhrlage, PhD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, proposes to develop a novel class of agents, bivalent deubiquitinase (DUB) proximity inducing molecules, that can selectively stabilize targeted proteins. This new drug development paradigm is enabled by her recent success in development of selective DUB ligands for several members of the enzyme family. The successful completion of this proposal has the potential to transform cancer clinical care by delivering a completely new strategy for one of the most prolific undruggable oncology classes, tumor suppressors.

“I’d like to sincerely thank the AACR and MPM for the opportunity to pursue this research project,” said Buhrlage. “As an early-career investigator, the chance to pursue this type of project could propel my career. We will pursue the research aggressively and are optimistic we’ll credential a new cancer treatment paradigm.”

“Targeting the ionic checkpoint on T-cell antitumor function”

Robert Eil, MD, of Oregon Health & Science University, will test the hypothesis that cancer cell death suppresses T-cell function through potassium (K+)-sensitive signal transduction. The study will help to determine the functional significance of cancer cell death byproducts for inflammasome and T-cell activation in human intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, define the mechanism underlying K+ control of T-cell function, and assess the impact of interventions to reprogram T-cell K+ transport as cancer immunotherapeutics.

“Receipt of this AACR-MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation Transformative Cancer Research Grant represents a critical milestone in my development as an independent scientist,” said Eil. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue this exciting line of investigation with the potential to apply groundbreaking immune-based treatments to patients with treatment-resistant cancers.”

“Discovering and targeting cancer-engineered pathways of metastasis”

Hani Goodarzi, PhD, of University of California, San Francisco, will study a class of previously unknown regulatory RNA molecules that appear specifically in cancer cells and can serve as building blocks for cancer-engineered regulatory pathways. The discovery of orphan non-coding RNAs as a cancer-specific class of small RNAs with regulatory potential provides an opportunity for a systematic search for functional neo-regulators of gene expression in cancer cells. In addition to providing insight into tumor evolution, this research will also attempt to discover novel targets that are solely active in cancer cells and develop potential therapies using a new generation of antisense molecules.

“This grant provides a unique opportunity for my team to tackle a high-risk, high-reward project,” said Goodarzi. “In addition to providing support and resources, this represents a vote of confidence in our approach from the leaders in the field.”

Each project will receive $400,000 over a two-year period. In this program, proposed research must represent a highly innovative approach to a major problem or challenge in cancer research that may not be funded through conventional channels. The funded projects are expected to catalyze important advances in cancer research and should have a potentially transformative impact on future clinical practice. The projects can be focused on any area of basic, translational, or clinical research.

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About the American Association for Cancer Research

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes 47,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and patient advocates residing in 127 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 30 conferences and educational workshops—the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting, with more than 100,000 attendees for the 2020 virtual meetings and more than 22,500 attendees for past in-person meetings. In addition, the AACR publishes nine prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients, and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration, and scientific oversight of team science and individual investigator grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and other policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

About MPM Capital

MPM Capital is a healthcare investment firm with over two decades of experience founding and investing in life-sciences companies that seek to translate scientific innovations into cures for major diseases. With its experienced and dedicated team of investment professionals, entrepreneurs, and advisors, MPM strives to power novel medical breakthroughs that transform patients' lives. For more information visit www.mpmcapital.com.

About UBS

UBS provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as private clients in Switzerland. UBS's strategy is centered on our leading global wealth management business and our premier universal bank in Switzerland, enhanced by Asset Management and the Investment Bank. The bank focuses on businesses that have a strong competitive position in their targeted markets, are capital efficient, and have an attractive long-term structural growth or profitability outlook.


For AACR: Julia Gunther, julia.gunther@aacr.org
For MPM Capital: Matt Burke, mattdavidburke@gmail.com
For UBS: Fabian Gmuender, fabian.gmuender@ubs.com


Release Summary

AACR and MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation Announce Three Grants to Support Transformative Cancer Research


For AACR: Julia Gunther, julia.gunther@aacr.org
For MPM Capital: Matt Burke, mattdavidburke@gmail.com
For UBS: Fabian Gmuender, fabian.gmuender@ubs.com