In 2016, the tech billionaire Sean Parker launched the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy with a $250 million investment. Not content with simply funding researchers to work independently, the institute set out to foster path-breaking collaboration between scientists, clinicians and industry across the worlds of immunotherapy and cancer research. Its members include some of the nation’s top cancer research centers.
In addition to working with leading senior researchers, the institute is keen to train the “next generation of scientific leaders in cancer immunotherapy.” Most recently, it awarded seven early career researchers a collective $3.1 million in funding as part of the Parker Scholars, Parker Bridge Scholars and Parker Fellows programs.
Investing in young scientists is a common strategy for philanthropist seeking to catalyze biomedical breakthroughs—especially when donors are playing the long game and want a strong pipeline of talent into the research areas they care about.
The Parker Scholars program supports graduate students and researchers entering their first postdoctoral appointment who are focused on high-impact, high-risk projects. The Parker Bridge Scholars program supports senior postdoctoral investigators as they transition to faculty positions. The Parker Fellows program supports investigators who have recently completed their M.D. or Ph.D., and are ready to establish a laboratory or independent program in cancer immunotherapy.