Large donations fund new immunotherapy institutes

Published May 4 2016


Two sizeable donations to fund the creation of immunotherapy centers for cancer research were announced within weeks of each other in March and April. Both centers aim to encourage collaboration to speed up the generation of new cancer therapies.

First, Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced $125 million in funding to the Johns Hopkins University for the Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Financed largely by Bloomberg and the philanthropist Sidney Kimmel, with support from more than a dozen others, the institute aligns with the goals of the Obama administration’s Moonshot Initiative to cure cancer. Biden, who lost a son to brain cancer last year, is spearheading the initiative.


Second, Sean Parker, co-founder of the music-sharing site Napster and former president of Facebook, announced that he will be putting $250 million behind the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Parker’s institute will be led by Jeffrey Bluestone, an immune system researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and is intended to bridge research between six major institutions: the University of Pennsylvania; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Stanford University; the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; UCSF; and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Both institutes will put an emphasis on collaboration. The Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute wants to improve relationships between industry and academic scientists. The Parker Institute will manage separately the patenting and licensing of any discoveries among its six involved institutions to streamline the therapeutic development process.


Immunotherapy is a promising approach to cancer treatment, and research in the area is increasing. Immunotherapies can help boost the body’s immune system and train it to seek out and attack cancerous cells.

In a news release from UCSF, Parker expressed hope that his donation will give the promising field the push it needs to be successful for more patients. “We believe that the creation of a new funding and research model can overcome many of the obstacles that currently prevent research breakthroughs,” he said.

“Ending all cancer would rank among humanity’s greatest achievements, and immunotherapy is bringing that dream within reach,” said Bloomberg in a Johns Hopkins press release. He added that the Bloomberg–Kimmel Institute “will build on the pioneering work that doctors and researchers at Johns Hopkins have done in immunotherapy and help fuel new advances and discoveries.”

Bree Yanagisawa Bree Yanagisawa is a science writing intern at ASBMB Today and a Ph.D. candidate in pathobiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.