Immune to Cancer: The CRI Blog



CRI Highlights First Recipients of Postdoctoral Fellowship to Promote Racial Diversity in Immuno-Oncology

“Facilitating diversity in the sciences is absolutely critical,” according to Nobel Laureate Dr. James P. Allison, director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council and a member of the CRI Postdoctoral Fellowship Review Committee, “because only by bringing in all of the best and brightest minds from our society can we solve the complex questions in cancer research that lie before us.”

To that end, CRI recently launched its Postdoctoral Fellowship to Promote Racial Diversity to address barriers to professional advancement for Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino American, or American Indian or Alaska Native scientists in the U.S. pursuing careers in immunology or tumor immunology. The first three promising young scientists to be supported are Ryan K. Alexander, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, who is exploring strategies to target pancreatic cancer with nanobody-based CAR T cells and macrophages; Nelson M. LaMarche, PhD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who is studying macrophage development in the context of lung cancer immunotherapy; and Christopher B. Medina, PhD, of Emory University, who is characterizing the unique classes of inhibitory receptors involved in “killer” T cell exhaustion.

Financial support and guidance are two barriers commonly cited as affecting the ability of aspiring scientists from underrepresented communities in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), and this CRI fellowship seeks to address both.

“Many underrepresented minority students feel pressure to pursue careers that represent a stereotypical idea of success and may overlook fields that they are truly passionate about,” said LaMarche. “This early funding will allow my lab to perform important and often expensive foundational experiments that will inform my work for years to come.”

Medina also echoed these sentiments. “Many people like me who are first-generation college students need more guidance and direction to help us understand our options, inform us about careers in STEM, and generally outline how to accomplish this. CRI’s creation of this program can open the door to more minds, different thinkers, and unique perspectives, for which there is always room in science.”

“At the core of transformative science is creativity, and nothing breeds creativity better than diverse groups of scientists joining forces to tackle problems,” added LaMarche.

And who better than the CRI network, filled with now-esteemed scientists who also faced steep odds early in their career through their commitment to cancer immunology, to provide support for these aspiring innovators? “Tapping into the network of mentors at CRI will help me structure my training experience from an early stage to achieve my career goals,” LaMarche said.

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