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The Parker Institute looks to grow, leveraging outside donors and equity stakes

LOS ANGELES — Internet billionaire Sean Parker has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his fortune — and almost entirely his fortune alone — in an effort to build a new model for developing treatments that harness the immune system to fight cancer.

Now, his Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy is increasingly looking to sources of funding beyond Parker himself.

More than three years after its launch, PICI, as the nonprofit is sometimes known, has been approached by two major donors who have expressed interest in funding one of its seven centers at leading academic medical institutions, Parker told STAT. (Parker declined to say who, saying he’d “have a lot of pissed-off people” if he disclosed their names.) The institute expects to announce their names within the next year.

PICI is also taking more equity stakes in biotech companies, hoping for sizable returns if they make it big. The institute, meantime, is slowly beginning to bring in revenue from an unusual model that allows it to make money when the academic research it funds gets licensed out to a life sciences company.

With all three revenue streams, the goal is to find a way to become self-sustaining — and then some — to fund more of the best, riskiest ideas of leading scientists working on cancer immunotherapy.

[…]When Parker launched PICI in 2016, he initially committed $250 million. Most of that money has been distributed, and all of it will be spent five years in, around 2021, he said. Since then, Parker has quietly pumped hundreds of millions of dollars more of his own money into PICI, he said, though he wouldn’t provide a precise figure.

To be sure, the institute has previously turned to outside sources of funding: It’s received several philanthropic gifts from other individuals and organizations for specific clinical trials, and deals with drug companies and other nonprofits have also helped fund studies.

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