Cancer immunotherapy is one of the most important medical advances of our time, and the first approach with the potential to generate long-lasting regressions for all types and stages of cancer. Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s own powerful immune system and mobilizes its highly refined disease-fighting arsenal to eliminate cancer cells.
The immune system produces specialized disease-fighting cells that circulate throughout the body, continually seeking out and destroying “foreign” agents. Cancer cells elude detection from the immune system because of their similarities to healthy tissues. Cancer immunotherapies override cancer’s evasive strategies to ensure that a powerful, precise and adaptable immune attack is focused on tumors anywhere in the body.
Why was the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy created?
Sean Parker, the Parker Institute’s founder and chairman, developed a deep interest in and understanding of immunology through his own struggles with allergies, asthma and other immune issues. He recognized that cancer immunotherapy research was at an inflection point and became convinced that the only durable way to fight cancer would be to engage the body’s own immune system.
Beginning in 2013, Parker began architecting a new research model to accelerate this nascent research and treatment revolution. His vision led to the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which launched in April 2016 with the mission to accelerate the development of breakthrough immune therapies to turn cancer into a curable disease.
How is the Parker Institute’s approach different from others?
The Parker Institute is designed to remove the biggest non-scientific impediments to breakthroughs—insufficient funding and research resources, and disincentives to collaboration.
To overcome these barriers, we created a new research model to accelerate research and treatment development. Our model is a coordinated effort that:
Fuels collaboration by bringing the best scientific minds together.
Creates a shared space and provides cutting-edge resources so researchers can do their most ambitious work.
Funds audacious research projects that may not be funded by conventional means.
Provides access to shared intellectual property to leverage the collective knowledge of our researchers.
Creates standardization across the network to learn the most from every trial and research initiative.
What type of organizations does the Parker Institute partner with?
Our flexible model enables us to work with researchers in a variety of ways so we can empower them to do their best science. We started the program by providing institutional support to six academic centers, which are pioneers in the cancer immunotherapy space, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Stanford Medicine; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Pennsylvania and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. More recently, we initiated new programmatic support for outstanding investigators, including a talented group of researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Robert Schreiber, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Philip Greenberg, MD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. We believe that this multifaceted approach to bring the best and brightest minds in basic and translational research will accelerate the development of cancer immunotherapies with the greatest chance of impact on patients.
What does the Parker Institute’s research focus on?
To make the greatest impact, we are focused on four research areas that hold the most promise for advancing the field of cancer immunotherapy and helping patients. The four areas include:
Best-In-Class T-Cells to advance the next generation of T-cell therapies to provide targeted, safe, long-lasting treatments that can conquer cancer.
Checkpoint Blockade Response to uncover the reasons why some patients respond to immunotherapy while others may not, in order to overcome cancer drug resistance.
Tumor Antigen Discovery to pinpoint novel cancer cell markers that will become the foundation for new therapies and personalized treatments.
Tumor Microenvironment to discover how tumor masses impair immune cells, which will jumpstart the creation of therapies to fight back against hard-to-treat solid tumors.
We created a unique funding approach to overcome many of the obstacles that currently prevent research breakthroughs. Traditional scientific grants fund individual research projects without connection to a broader scientific strategy. They deliver small amounts of money and drive only incremental advances.
The Parker Institute takes a new approach. We convene the field’s leading researchers to develop a scientific roadmap, then provide major funding for high-risk, high-reward collaborative research projects to achieve key goals. Failure is an option if it leads to new insights and new avenues for investigation.
How does the intellectual property sharing work?
When one researcher makes a discovery or collects data in a trial, our entire network of researchers gains access to and can work to advance the discovery. Sharing discoveries is a key tenet of our collaborative model and leverages the collective power of our researchers to gain insights quicker and get treatments to patients faster.
The Parker Institute does not own the intellectual property generated by our researchers. Each of our member academic institution owns the intellectual property for their respective inventions. We do, however, manage the intellectual property collaboratively with representatives from each academic institution from discovery to commercialization. This helps ensure that each new treatment or technology has the best chance to benefit patients as soon as possible.