The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all types of cancer, announced today the newest cohort of scientists chosen for the CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR Program (Scientists Taking Risks). Each STAR will receive a grant of $1.25 million payable over five years to carry out high-risk/high-reward research that has the potential to produce transformative leaps forward in tumor immunology. This long-term funding provides a degree of flexibility and freedom for CRI STARs to explore new and disruptive avenues of cancer research.
“The competitive CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR program supports gifted, mid-career scientists working at the intersection of immunology, technology, and bioinformatics to identify specific molecular and genetic factors that influence patient responses to immunotherapy, discovering answers to the field’s key scientific questions to potentially effect a sea change in how cancer patients are diagnosed and treated,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute, which now actively supports twenty-two STARs throughout the U.S. and Europe.
The announcement comes during the tenth annual Cancer Immunotherapy Month™ celebrations in June of scientists who are driving new and lifesaving advances in the immunological treatment and prevention of cancer. This year’s Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old STARs include:
- Kole T. Roybal, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology, who has developed a synthetic biology approach to modifying immune cell receptor and signaling gene programs to create “smart cell” therapeutics with enhanced abilities to target tumors more precisely and more safely than current cell therapies, which have so far proven largely ineffective against solid tumors despite their successes in treating cancers of the blood.
- Matthew H. Spitzer, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Gladstone-UCSF Institute of Genomic Immunology, who is using cutting-edge experimental and computational technologies to explore the role of immune cells circulating outside tumors – rather than those within the tumor microenvironment – in conferring long-term protection against cancer and infection, leading potentially to the identification of therapeutic targets involved in tumor-mediated immune suppression throughout the body.