Campus & Community

$100M unites Boston and New York scientists in battle against cancer

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Starr Foundation grant joins Broad Institute with four prominent New York research institutions to apply genomic tools to cancer research

In one of the largest philanthropic gifts ever for cancer research, the Starr Foundation recently announced a $100 million award to fund a five-year consortium spanning five leading biomedical institutions in Boston and New York that is aimed at harnessing the power of genomic technology for the understanding and treatment of cancer. The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard will join forces with four New York research centers – Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University, and Weill Medical College of Cornell University – in the newly created Starr Cancer Consortium, the Starr Foundation announced Sept. 21. The five-year consortium will fund collaborative projects among these institutions.

“Genome technology offers enormous opportunities to accelerate the understanding and treatment of cancer, which is a genomic disease,” said Todd Golub, the director of the Broad Institute’s cancer program, an investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “With these tools, it will be possible to systematically define the molecular pathways underlying cancer and to reveal the Achilles’ heels that can be targeted by new therapies.”

“Transforming the understanding and treatment of cancer will require enormous collaboration and teamwork,” said Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute. “That’s why the Starr Foundation’s gift is so remarkable. It will bring together extraordinary institutions with diverse strengths around a common goal.”

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard is itself a research collaboration involving several Boston-area universities and teaching hospitals, with programs focused on a variety of human diseases. The Broad Institute’s cancer program involves researchers from the MIT Center for Cancer Research, Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The Starr Cancer Consortium will allow these Boston-based researchers to undertake major projects in collaborations with the New York medical community.

“The opening years of the 21st century have brought dramatic advances in understanding cancer and in putting new discoveries to work for the people who need it most,” said Maurice R. Greenberg, chairman of The Starr Foundation. “Our goal in launching the Starr Cancer Consortium is to bring these exceptional institutions together in a manner that assures maximum efficiency and the greatest firepower in targeting cancer. This will enable us to achieve tangible results more quickly and decisively than any one or two members of the consortium could accomplish working alone.”

The five institutions involved in the Starr Cancer Consortium have been pioneers in many of the critical new technologies – including large-scale genomic sequencing, human genotyping, inhibitory RNA (RNAi), animal models of cancer and chemical biology – that together provide both the depth and breadth needed to obtain a comprehensive view of the molecular changes that contribute to cancer. Several of the Boston-based institutions affiliated with the Broad Institute, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital, are also world leaders in the treatment of cancer patients.

“This gift is extraordinary, not only for its generosity, but also for the vision of creating a uniquely capable, collaborative team,” said Harvard University Provost Steven E. Hyman. “We look forward enthusiastically to the scientific results that will emerge.”

About the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was founded in 2003 to bring the power of genomics to biomedicine. It pursues this mission by empowering creative scientists to construct new and robust tools for genomic medicine, to make them accessible to the global scientific community, and to apply them to the understanding and treatment of disease.

Launched with a $100 million founding gift from Los Angeles-based philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad that was generously doubled in 2005, the Institute is a research collaboration involving faculty, professional staff, and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard academic and medical communities. It is jointly governed by the two universities.