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Cancer Research Institute Awards $28.5 Million in Grants and Fellowships

  • New funding to academic scientists and clinicians around the world aims to further discoveries about the immune system, deepen understanding of its relationship to cancer, and harness its power to effectively treat more types of cancer
  • CRI grants and fellowships span the continuum of discovery, from postdoctoral research to clinical trials, technology innovation, data sharing, and interdisciplinary collaboration

NEW YORK, July 22, 2021 — The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to saving more lives through the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all cancers, announced today that it has awarded more than $28.5 million in research grants and fellowships during the 2021 fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. In total, CRI gave 79 awards that will support immunology and cancer immunotherapy research at 43 institutions in 8 countries.

“Advances in immunology and cancer immunotherapy are being made at an accelerating pace thanks in part to new technologies and techniques that are opening up exciting new ways to explore the complex relationship between cancer and the immune system,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, CEO and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute. “However, it is the brilliant scientists who apply these new tools and techniques to test their bold hypotheses that make possible true progress in the fight against cancer. CRI is proud to support their promising ideas to advance research and improve cancer patient care.”

The awards, which are made possible through generous donations from individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors who support CRI’s lifesaving mission, include:

12 Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator Grants

These grants total $10.7 million for the launch, expansion, or ongoing support of platform studies including the AMADEUS biomarker study as well as the IPROC (ovarian cancer), PORTER (prostate cancer), and REVOLUTION (pancreatic cancer) studies testing novel immunotherapy combinations in these hard-to-treat cancers.

6 Lloyd J. Old STAR Awards

Each award provides a grant of $1.25 million over 5 years to future “stars” in the field of cancer immunology to support exploration of unconventional, high-risk/high-reward research directions that have significant potential to advance cancer immunotherapeutics. The 2021 Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old STARs, or “Scientists Taking Risks” include:

  • Guoliang Cui, PhD, of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ), who is studying the immunological functions of skeletal muscles and their link to T cell exhaustion in the context of cancer and chronic viral infection
  • Peter Edward Fecci, MD, PhD, of Duke University Medical Center, who is working to understand and remove barriers to T cell function within the skull
  • Malay Haldar, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, who is characterizing diverse subsets of mononuclear phagocytes found within tumors and identifying pathways through which they might be targeted therapeutically
  • Ning Jiang, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, who is applying a systems immunology approach to characterize the T cell repertoire in cancer
  • Enrico Lugli, PhD, of the Fondazione Humanitas per la Ricerca, who is studying T cell stemness and exhaustion in immunosuppression and adoptive cell transfer immunotherapy
  • Ivan Zanoni, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, who is exploring the role of the innate immune system in the development and control of colorectal cancer

31 CRI Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowships

Each fellowship provides up to $175,500 over three years to support laboratory research, training, and career development for promising young scientists working under the mentorship of leading immunologists.

3 CRI Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowships to Promote Racial Diversity

As part of CRI’s new health equity initiatives launched this year, this program is designed to address opportunity disparities in immunology and tumor immunology faced by U.S. Black, Hispanic, and Latino scientists. Each fellowship provides up to $175,500 over three years to support laboratory research, training, and career development and mentoring.

Together, the 34 fellows awarded in 2021 are working to improve our understanding of fundamental cancer and immune biology by developing new technologies like single cell-sequencing, liquid biopsies, and a personalized CAR T-on-a-chip screening platform, and by exploring topics such as antiviral immune memory, abnormal genomic elements known as retrotransposons, and natural killer cell exhaustion and re-programmability, among other promising research areas.

13 Clinic and Laboratory Integration Program (CLIP) Grants

Each grant provides $200,000 in support for the translation of basic laboratory discoveries into novel therapies that can be tested in patients. The 2021 CLIP grantees are investigating how diverse cell types like macrophages and gamma-delta T cells influence the tumor microenvironment, how the innate immune system senses and responds to threats, and how epigenetic reprogramming could boost checkpoint immunotherapy’s effectiveness.

This year, CRI is proud to announce that 5 of the 13 CLIP grantees are co-funded in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research: Tullia Carmela Bruno, PhD, at the University of Pittsburgh; Silvio J. Gutkind, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego; Adilia Hormigo, MD, PhD, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Justin Paul Kline, MD, at the University of Chicago; and Tannishtha Reya, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego.

Additionally, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, MD, at Northwestern University, has been named the new CRI-Chordoma Foundation CLIP Investigator, and is working to identify and target immune suppression in malignant chordoma, a rare cancer of bones of the skull base and spine.

5 Technology Impact Awards

Each award supplies seed funding of up to $200,000 to be used over 24 months to address the gap between technology development and clinical application of cancer immunotherapies. 2021 awardees are exploring research areas including T cell generation to re-establish T cell immunity, an inducible molecular memory system to overcome immunotherapy resistance, and a gene therapy platform to improve safety of drug delivery at the tumor site.

9 Impact Grants

These grants total $905,000 and include support for a glioblastoma immunotherapy consortium intended to facilitate development of novel targets for cellular therapy and a research technician pipeline program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center aimed at attracting underrepresented minority graduate students to pursue careers in academic scientific research.

To view our full roster of 2021 grant and fellowship award recipients, visit cancerresearch.org/funding. More information about CRI’s grants, fellowships, and other programs is available at cancerresearch.org/grants.

Media Contact:
Brian M. Brewer, Chief Communications Officer
[email protected] or +1-212-688-7515 x242

About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is a highly rated U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to saving more lives by fueling the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all cancers. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes four Nobel laureates and 27 members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested $474 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. To learn more, go to cancerresearch.org.

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