Cancer Research Institute Media Room




CRI Awards Grant to Develop Powerful Genomic Data Resource for Cancer Immunotherapy Researchers

The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization established in 1953 to advance biomedical research with the goal of developing lifesaving immunotherapies for all forms of cancer, announced that it has awarded a technology innovation grant to two nonprofit research institutes, Sage Bionetworks (Sage) and the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), for the creation of the Cancer Research Institute iAtlas, an online database and web resource designed to help basic and clinical researchers navigate immunological data across multiple tumor types. The CRI iAtlas database is the first comprehensive effort in immuno-oncology to address the recent National Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel recommendation to establish a pan-cancer immune atlas that would help catalyze new research in cancer immunotherapy.

“The surge in cancer immunotherapy research and clinical trials has resulted in an unprecedented flood of data about patient responses to immune-based treatment, and we believe these data hold the key to unlocking the full potential of this treatment modality for more and eventually all cancer patients,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute.

“The Cancer Research Institute iAtlas resource will greatly facilitate this aim through its organization of easily accessible, high-quality, open data.”

Sage and ISB will partner to build the Cancer Research Institute iAtlas resource on Sage’s Synapse platform for data management and sharing, while also leveraging the capabilities of ISB’s Cancer Genomics Cloud to enable immuno-oncology researchers to perform flexible data query and visualization. Its structured data repository will integrate multiple characterizations of the immune response in tumors made by a working group formed by The Cancer Genome Atlas, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The CRI iAtlas will serve as a central knowledge base to capture data on the tumor microenvironment and its impact on anti-cancer immune responses. Data generated by the working group, which includes molecular profiling of over 10,000 tumors across 33 tumor types as well as a series of results on immune-tumor interaction and response mechanisms, will provide rich characterizations of the relationship between tumors and the immune microenvironment and its impact on patient outcomes.  

“Insights derived from these data will be critical to improving the effectiveness of current cancer immunotherapy treatments and developing new immune-based treatment strategies,” said Justin Guinney, PhD, principal investigator, director of computational oncology and bioinformatics at Sage Bionetworks.

“CRI’s technology innovation grant enables us and our research partners to kick-start this comprehensive immuno-oncology resource ahead of anticipated funding following the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel,” said Ilya Shmulevich, PhD, professor at ISB.

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and eventually cure all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes three Nobel laureates and 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $336 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment. Learn more at

About Sage Bionetworks
Sage Bionetworks is a nonprofit biomedical research organization, founded in 2009, with a vision to promote innovations in personalized medicine by enabling a community-based approach to scientific inquiries and discoveries. Sage Bionetworks strives to activate patients and to incentivize scientists, funders and researchers to work in fundamentally new ways in order to shape research, accelerate access to knowledge and transform human health. It is located on the campus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington and is supported through a portfolio of philanthropic donations, competitive research grants, and commercial partnerships. More information is available at

About Institute for Systems Biology
The Institute for Systems Biology is a nonprofit biomedical research organization based in Seattle, Washington. It was founded in 2000 by systems biologist Leroy Hood, immunologist Alan Aderem, and protein chemist Ruedi Aebersold. ISB was established on the belief that the conventional models for exploring and funding breakthrough science have not caught up with the real potential of what is possible today. ISB serves as the ultimate environment where scientific collaboration stretches across disciplines and across academic and industrial organizations, where our researchers have the intellectual freedom to challenge the status quo, and where grand visions for breakthroughs in human health inspire a collective drive to achieve the seemingly impossible. Our core values ensure that we always keep our focus on the big ideas that eventually will have the largest impact on human health. ISB is an affiliate of Providence Health & Services. Learn more at

Media Contacts
For Cancer Research Institute:
Elliot Fox, W2O Group
(212) 257-6724
[email protected]

For Sage Bionetworks:
Diane Gary, Director of Operations
(206) 667-3038
[email protected]

For Institute for Systems Biology:
Hsiao-Ching Chou, Director of Communications
(206) 732-2157
[email protected]

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