The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is known in the cancer research community for funding high-risk, high-impact research. The Salisbury Award is a pivotal platform in executing this commitment.
NFCR’s purpose is to provide researchers “adventure funding” to discover and incubate their novel ideas and approaches to preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer. This clear vision drove NFCR to leverage its access to leading scientists at major universities, cancer centers, and research hospitals into the Salisbury Award Competition for Entrepreneurial Translational Research (Salisbury Award Competition).
Saving Game-Changing Discoveries from the Valley of Death
Over the past decade, there have been an extraordinary amount of cancer discoveries and breakthroughs made in laboratories. However, far more novel ideas have been lost in the “Valley of Death” during this same period.
The stages of cancer research extend from idea through laboratory work and clinical trials stages, before proceeding to regulatory registration and approval of a new technology product. This process typically takes between seven and 15 years. During this timeframe, often referred to as the Valley of Death, many promising and innovative discoveries stall inside laboratories due to a lack of what’s known as “translational” research funding.
NFCR identifies the most promising translational cancer research discoveries and potentially cutting-edge technologies through the Salisbury Award Competition. Selection and judging committees comprised of some of the world’s most respected cancer research, biotechnology investment, and life sciences industry professionals lend prestige and clout to the platform and its participating labs. This high-risk, high-impact model accelerates promising findings along the path to patient usage, commercialization, and the generation of essential data for future regulatory agency filings.
The Salisbury Award Competition also enables access to additional financial and other support by increasing the visibility of selected semi-finalists and exposing their principals and lab directors to NFCR’s worldwide networks across academia, cancer centers, and industry. The platform offers unmatched benefits to cancer researchers and patients as it accelerates promising treatments and technology to clinics and the market.
The inaugural Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research Program was held in February 2019 in San Diego in cooperation with renowned biomedical research institute Scripps Research and its drug discovery division Calibr. Eduardo Laborda, Ph.D., associate director of immuno-oncology at Calibr, was selected as its winner.
Dr. Laborda’s first-place project comprises a switchable, next-generation CAR-T cell therapy potentially applicable to various cancers—including solid tumors. The therapy also addresses cytokine release syndrome, a dangerous side-effect common to first-generation technologies. The project subsequently received co-development support from AbbVie and Fast Track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Applications for the second Salisbury Award Competition were submitted by dozens of leading institutions. Among the many participating early stage, experimental technologies, the cancer research project presented by Emily Han-Chung Hsiue, M.D., and Jacqueline Douglass, graduate students at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, was named the winner.
The winning project comprises a novel antibody-based method of targeting cancer driver mutations. In the many months since the Salisbury Award Competition win, Dr. Hsiue earned her Ph.D. and Ms. Douglass earned her M.D. and Ph.D., while a company was formed which licensed the technology. Currently in so-called “stealth mode,” the start-up is raising venture capital funding and aims to apply the technology as a novel cancer treatment.
During last year’s virtual Salisbury Award Competition, first place was awarded to Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, Ph.D., co-founder and chief scientific officer (CSO) of Israel-based TanoMed, and a professor at Tel Aviv University and director of its Cancer Biology Research Center. The professor’s technology trains host immunity in the tumor microenvironment against a specific member of the carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule family, CEACAM5, that plays a prominent role in gastrointestinal cancers.
What’s in Store for 2022?
NFCR looks forward to hosting the fourth Salisbury Award Competition later this year, with applications opening in March to academic laboratories advancing promising experimental cancer therapeutic, diagnostic, detection, and vaccine innovations.