The Starr Foundation launches multi-institutional cancer consortium

New York, N.Y., Sept. 21, 2006 – The Starr Foundation today announced that it has made a $100 million grant to create a wide-ranging cancer consortium to coordinate the efforts of five internationally renowned research institutions in the fight against cancer. Joining this ambitious undertaking is The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medical College.

The five will collaborate on research aimed at understanding cancer at its most fundamental levels and at developing new approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the many forms of the disease that together constitute one of the greatest threats to human health.

The program, to be known as the Starr Cancer Consortium, will provide an innovative framework for research that brings together world-class biomedical investigators with a critical mass of technology. It will build on the complementary strengths of the five institutions, including one-of-a-kind experience in applying the power of genomics to biomedical problems, a proven expertise in the study of cancer genetics in humans and animals, and a strong clinical operation and vast collection of cancer specimens that offer a crucial resource for studying cancer in humans.

"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 Starr Foundation, with assets today of approximately $3.5 billion, has donated in excess of $2 billion – more than $1 billion in New York City alone – making it one of the largest private foundations in the United States. The Foundation supports education, cultural institutions, medicine and healthcare, human needs, public policy, and the environment.

Each institution taking part in the Starr Cancer Consortium enjoys international distinction as a leader in scientific research and discovery. At the same time, they have each compiled an impressive track record of collaborative work in a variety of partnerships. The Starr Foundation grant of $100 million will be earmarked specifically for joint projects involving two or more institutions, including several highly promising initiatives already underway.

Key areas of focus for the Starr Cancer Consortium will include:

  • Creation or accelerated development of powerful technology platforms designed to unravel the genetic and molecular basis of cancers

  • Application of these technologies in joint projects aimed at developing new and highly effective approaches to diagnosis and treatment

  • Support for basic biological research to provide insights into the fundamental molecular and cellular processes underlying cancer

Activities selected for funding through the Starr Cancer Consortium will be determined by an executive committee including leaders of the five institutions: Eric Lander of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Bruce Stillman of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Harold Varmus of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Paul Nurse of The Rockefeller University and Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., of Weill Cornell Medical College.

Inspired by The Starr Foundation's visionary generosity in establishing the Starr Cancer Consortium, the five collaborating institutions (profiled below) are committed to achieving dramatic progress in addressing the enormous challenges posed by cancer and in seizing one of today's greatest scientific opportunities.

The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT– located in Cambridge, Mass., is a new research collaboration among MIT, Harvard University and Harvard's affiliated hospitals, including the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Already recognized for its accomplishments in applying the power of genomics to important biomedical problems, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT is led by Eric S. Lander, Ph.D., a principal leader of the Human Genome Project.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory – is a renowned research and educational institution with a rich tradition of studying cancer in animals through the use of cancer viruses and genetically altered mice. It is also highly regarded in the fields of whole-genome-based analysis of DNA, bioinformatics and RNAi methods. Founded in 1890, it is headed by Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., a leading specialist in DNA replication.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – is the nation's preeminent center for research, education and patient care focused exclusively on cancer. The Center's president and CEO is Harold Varmus, M.D., a recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking research into the genetic basis of cancer. Dr. Varmus is a former Director of the National Institutes of Health and a founder of the Public Library of Science, a model for providing open access to scientific publications.

The Rockefeller University – is an internationally recognized basic research institution that today brings a strong and steadily growing emphasis to addressing fundamental questions about cancer from perspectives that span a wide range of scientific disciplines. It is headed by Paul Nurse, Ph.D., a 2001 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine whose research focuses on the molecular machinery that drives cell division and controls cell shape.

Weill Cornell Medical College – is one of the nation's top-ranked clinical and medical research centers, with an array of twenty academic departments devoted to the scientific disciplines that inform both the study of medicine and investigations into the major human diseases, such as cancer. Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., M.D., D.Phil., a specialist in coronary heart disease risk and lipid disorders, serves as Provost for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Medical College.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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