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The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Trains the Next Generation of Scientific Leaders in Cancer Immunotherapy

SAN FRANCISCO – The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy recently announced six awards to support talented young researchers in cancer immunotherapy. The three programs, the Parker Scholars, the Parker Bridge Scholars and the Parker Fellows, will provide up to $3.46 million for 2017 awardees, as well as mentorship and access to resources, to help these young researchers advance the field and translate their discoveries to benefit cancer patients.

“Supporting and training the rising stars in cancer immunotherapy directly connects to our mission of developing breakthrough immune therapies to turn cancer into a curable disease,” said Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D., CEO and president of the Parker Institute. “We launched the programs to give these young researchers the opportunity to train with the top scientists in the field, and we encourage them to think outside the box, take risks and push the boundaries of their research.”

This year’s awardees include:

  • Zinaida Good, a Ph.D. candidate in computational and systems immunology at Stanford Medicine, Parker Scholar
  • Alexander Huang, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Parker Bridge Scholar
  • Scott James, M.D., Ph.D., an oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Parker Bridge Scholar
  • Andrew Rech, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Parker Scholar
  • Ansuman Satpathy, M.D., Ph.D., a clinical pathology instructor and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford Medicine, Parker Bridge Scholar
  • Santosha Vardhana, M.D., Ph.D., a medical oncology/postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Parker Fellow

The Parker Institute launched the three programs in spring of 2016. 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 senior-level researchers who have recently completed their M.D. or Ph.D. and are ready to establish a laboratory or independent program in cancer immunotherapy.

“Having this type of funding from the Parker Institute allows a remarkable amount of freedom because it gives you time and opportunity to develop novel ideas,” said Santosha Vardhana, Parker Fellow. “If you’re trying to achieve paradigm shifts in cancer immunotherapy, you need years to develop, test and prove ideas. There is immense value in having time to pursue high-risk, high-reward research.”

Parker Scholars, Bridge Scholars and Fellows receive more than funding from the Parker Institute. They also benefit from a collaborative network of leading researchers in immunotherapy, access to key resources including cutting-edge tools and technologies, as well as early access to data from clinical trials and pre-published papers to guide their research. The Parker Institute model also removes barriers like grant writing, so investigators can focus on the science rather than administrative tasks.

“I am excited to join a community of some of the best cancer immunotherapy scientists and work with them toward a common goal,” said Zinaida Good, Parker Scholar. “The level of support, not only financially, but also through sharing data, administrative help and feedback on ideas, gives me the opportunity to contribute more to cancer immunotherapy research.”

For 2017, awardees were chosen from a pool of eligible candidates from the institute’s partner research institutions. They were selected on the basis of their academic achievement, scientific approach, innovation, the significance of the proposed work to advance the field and the promise of their research to advance the mission and goals of the Parker Institute.

This new class of young researchers joins two current Parker Scholars, Roberta Zappasodi, Ph.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Dagmar Gotthardt, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and two current Parker Fellows, Katelyn Byrne, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, and Matthew Spitzer, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco.

About the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy brings together the best scientists, clinicians and industry partners to build a smarter and more coordinated cancer immunotherapy research effort.

The Parker Institute is an unprecedented collaboration between the country’s leading immunologists and cancer centers, 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. The Parker Institute network also includes more than 40 industry and nonprofit partners, more than 60 labs and more than 300 of the nation’s top researchers focused on treating the deadliest cancers.

The goal is to accelerate the development of breakthrough immune therapies capable of turning most cancers into curable diseases. The institute was created through a $250 million grant from The Parker Foundation.

Contact Information:
Anna Prince
Director of Communications
Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy