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FINDING CURES TOGETHER<sup>SM</sup>

The AACR-MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation Announces First Grants to Support Transformative Cancer Research

12/17/2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA and CAMBRIDGE, MA - Two grants for research that could transform cancer therapies have been funded through an innovative partnership between the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and MPM Capital through its management of the UBS Oncology Impact Fund (OIF). This unique grant program allows investigators who can make a significant impact to pursue transformative research. 

The AACR-MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation Transformative Cancer Research Grants program is announcing its first two grants totaling $800,000 in support of research that has the potential to explore new approaches to cancer treatment. These grants mark only the beginning of a long-term commitment by MPM Capital to finance groundbreaking research, and the program expects to announce another grant opportunity in mid-2020. 

“Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and there is a vital need for high-impact, transformative research that will markedly reduce the incidence, morbidity, and mortality of this devastating disease,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The AACR is delighted to partner with UBS and MPM Capital in support of early-career and mid-career scientists whose exciting research holds promise for catalyzing paradigm-shifting advances in cancer research that will result in breakthroughs in cancer treatment.”

MPM Capital’s investment strategy is focused on developing breakthrough therapies based on cutting-edge science, to treat diseases with severe unmet medical needs. The UBS OIF, a first-of-its-kind impact fund investing exclusively in oncology therapeutics, is managed by MPM Capital in collaboration with UBS. Through the innovative impact structure of UBS OIF, MPM Capital is committed to funding academic research to develop novel cancer cures in addition to providing access to cancer care in the developing world.  

"It is gratifying to see the efforts from our collaboration with UBS and the AACR supporting such important science," said Christiana Bardon, MD, MBA, Managing Director of the UBS Oncology Impact Fund (OIF) and Trustee of the AACR Foundation. “These competitive grants are funding groundbreaking research programs that have incredible potential to transform how we treat cancer.” These grants were selected through a highly competitive review process including an expert review panel chaired by MIT Nobel Laureate H. Robert Horvitz, PhD, an advisor to MPM Capital.

Tom Naratil, President of UBS Americas and Co-President of UBS Global Wealth Management, said: ”We are thankful and excited that through our innovative collaboration with MPM Capital and the AACR, we can now fund groundbreaking research projects that could lead to new therapies against cancer. We hope the UBS Oncology Impact Fund will become a case study of how private investments in healthcare can be a valuable part of our clients' portfolio while having a profound societal benefit at the same time.”

The first two grants from the AACR-MPM Oncology Charitable Foundation grants program are: 

“Reconstructing the differentiation dynamics and genealogy of cancer cells”

Sahand Hormoz, PhD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will study how genetic alterations in stem cells that generate new blood cells can disrupt normal blood development and cause cancers known as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). MPNs may behave as an indolent disease or progress to more aggressive diseases that can be life-threatening. Hormoz will reconstruct the lineage history of the mutated stem cells and characterize them by leveraging a single-cell profiling technology platform developed in his lab. The findings from the study are likely to provide in-depth understanding of when MPN-like blood cancers originated in individual patients and how they evolved over time. A better understanding of how MPNs form can potentially transform treatments for these diseases, allowing the development of patient-specific targeted therapies.

“This award recognizes the importance of innovative research and gives my lab the freedom to tackle fundamental questions in blood cancers using creative approaches that otherwise would not be possible,” Hormoz said. 

“Deciphering the mechanisms of ferroptosis signaling and death in cancer”

Liron Bar-Peled, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, will focus on understanding how metabolic reprogramming in cancer cells can be targeted to develop therapeutic strategies. Using novel proteomic and metabolomic technologies, he aims to understand how altered metabolic pathways in cancer cells induce a form of cell death known as ferroptosis. A better understanding of this type of cell death will improve our knowledge of how cells succumb to ferroptosis and lay the foundation for a potentially powerful way of fighting cancer. 

“We are now emboldened to undertake creative and cutting-edge research to address fundamental biochemical mechanisms by which cancer cells adapt to metabolic stress,” Bar-Peled said. “The ultimate goal is to translate these basic discoveries into therapeutic insights for cancer patients.”

Each project will receive $400,000 over a two-year period. Under the 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 in any area of basic, translational, or clinical research.