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PICI Welcomes Dana-Farber and Gladstone Institutes to its Network of Leading Experts Advancing Cures for Cancer

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI), a network of the largest concentration of immuno-oncology (IO) expertise in the world, has added Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Gladstone Institutes to its network of preeminent academic and medical research institutions at the forefront of the fight against cancer. Through the partnerships, each new network member will establish cancer immunology research centers with grant funding from PICI.

PICI’s funding of the centers will support bold, high-risk scientific research, bridging academia and biotech through the formation of companies focused on next-generation therapies for cancer. PICI also streamlines and provides access to advanced bioinformatics and analytics, cutting-edge technologies, cell manufacturing, genetic engineering and clinical trials management. PICI Network institutions are also offered resources to develop the next generation of scientific leaders as part of PICI’s Early Career Researchers program.

“We are excited to welcome Dana-Farber and Gladstone Institutes to the PICI Network, where they join the world’s top cancer research centers,” said Sean Parker, PICI’s founder and chairman. “These centers bring unique strengths to the PICI Network — Dana-Farber is home to researchers and clinicians who have made pioneering discoveries in our understanding of the immune response, and Gladstone’s focus on cutting-edge science and technologies in immuno-oncology is fully aligned with PICI’s mission. The continued growth of the PICI Network represents unprecedented collaboration in the fight against cancer and will enable us to accelerate breakthrough treatments to cancer patients.”

Collaboration with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has been on the front line of cancer research, particularly in immunotherapy, with an impressive history of discoveries. For example, Dana-Farber research revealed that a protein known as PD-L1 that’s on the surface of both normal and cancer cells enables cancers to evade the immune response, and that blocking PD-L1 or a related protein, PD-1, can unleash the immune system to attack tumor cells.

As PICI Network collaborators since 2017, top researchers from Dana-Farber have contributed to high-profile PICI cancer research studies, including the AMADEUSREVOLUTION and PRINCE clinical trials; TRIBUTE, a data-driven approach to metastatic triple negative breast cancer; the Tumor Neoantigen Selection Alliance; and the discovery of a cancer detection protein in the immune system.

“Dana-Farber investigators are innovators in immuno-oncology,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, Dana-Farber’s president and CEO. “As an institutional member of the PICI Network, we will have even more opportunity to work jointly with fellow leaders in the field, bringing together a powerful combination of expertise and resources that will have an even greater impact on patients.”

Collaboration with Gladstone Institutes

An independent, nonprofit organization, Gladstone Institutes has created a research model that disrupts how science is done, funds big ideas and attracts the brightest minds — all to overcome unsolved diseases through transformative biomedical research. Gladstone investigators are combining the power of genomics and CRISPR technology to learn how to control human immune cells precisely and design next-generation immunotherapy approaches for clinical testing.

Alex Marson, MD, PhD, founding director of the Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, also will serve as director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Gladstone Institutes. In 2019, backed by an initial investment of $25 million from PICI, Marson and PICI Network scientific leaders from UC San Francisco, the University of Pennsylvania, Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute co-founded cancer cell therapy developer ArsenalBio. This successful endeavor exemplifies the collaborative and valuable work among researchers brought together by PICI.

“Our Gladstone team is working at the forefront of the exciting field of genomic immunology,” Marson said. “We are pioneering new CRISPR genome-editing technologies that may offer faster, cheaper and more precise ways to rewrite DNA programs in human immune cells. We are also developing novel synthetic programs to help the immune system fight cancer more effectively. As a long-time member of the PICI community, I’m thrilled to join forces with other leading institutions to bring the next generation of immunotherapies to cancer patients quickly and efficiently.”

In addition to the two new centers, the PICI network of institutions and collaborators includes: the University of California, San Francisco; the University of California, Los Angeles; Stanford Medicine; the University of Pennsylvania; The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“We’ve always said that by coming together, we stand apart,” said John Connolly, PhD, PICI’s chief scientific officer. “Collaboration is key to rapidly turning bold ideas into promising therapies, and as the PICI Network of leading immuno-oncology experts continues to grow, we are confident this will lead to more breakthroughs for patients.”