Thursday, November 14, 2019
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) conducted its latest Salisbury Award Competition for Entrepreneurial Translational Research on November 14, 2019. This event featured 16 individual cancer research projects from 15 institutions, selected from among a total of 36 applications. It concluded with an evening ceremony at which finalists were recognized, the winner and runners-up were named and the founding Salisbury family of NFCR was honored.
The Salisbury Award encourages and promotes innovative scientists and early stage start-up companies to translate their discoveries into therapies that can improve the lives of cancer patients. Its establishment honors the Salisbury family’s vision and legacy of funding “high risk, high impact and high reward” cancer research.
Conducted over the course of the full day in Bethesda, Maryland, the Salisbury Award Competition culminated in the selection of 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, as its winner. Projects represented by Manijeh Goldberg, Ph.D., CEO of Privo Technologies, and Igor Garkavtsev, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, were named the two runners-up.
Judging the competing presentations was a panel of cancer research key opinion leaders and business professionals from the life sciences and venture investment sectors. Its members were Harvard Medical School’s Raju Kucherlapati, Ph.D., the chair, along with International Cancer Impact Fund’s Paul Abrams, M.D., J.D., Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research’s Webster Cavenee, Ph.D., Scripps Research and Calibr’s Pamela Garzone, Ph.D., former Avera Cancer Institute’s Brian Leyland-Jones, M.D., Ph.D., NFCR’s Michael Wang, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., and Hillhouse Capital Management’s Vincent Xiang, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Dr. Hsiue and Ms. Douglass’s winning project, from the laboratory of Bert Vogelstein, M.D., and Kenneth Kinzler, Ph.D., comprises a novel antibody-based method of targeting cancer driver mutations, called “MANAbodies.” Dr. Goldberg’s first runner-up project, associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory of Robert Langer, Sc.D., represents a topical, nano-engineered platform that can reformulate existing chemotherapy drugs to deliver and retain high concentrations at tumor sites and lymph nodes. Dr. Garkavtsev’s second runner-up project, delivered in conjunction with his laboratory’s director, Rakesh Jain, Ph.D., involves improving cancer treatment by targeting cancer stem cells and immunosuppression. Honorable mention went to the cancer research project presented by Calviri CEO Stephen Johnston, Ph.D., associated with the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University’s Center for Innovations in Medicine, which he directs.
The awardees were honored with a cash prize and will be introduced to NFCR’s extensive cancer scientific and biopharmaceutical industry networks. In addition, the start-up firms directly associated with these projects will in the future compete in the Salisbury Venture Competition for direct investment of up to $250,000.
“We are very pleased to see so many innovative labs and early stage oncology companies competing for the Salisbury Award,” said NFCR President and CEO Sujuan Ba, Ph.D. “This program is designed to identify ‘high risk, high impact and high reward’ projects and help accelerate the pace for them to get into clinics faster. Cancer patients can’t wait.”
Specially honored at the ceremony which capped off the Salisbury Award Competition were the three members of the Bethesda-based family—Franklin, Sr., Tamara and Franklin, Jr.—whose combined 80-plus years of service galvanized NFCR into a significant force for cancer research worldwide. Franklin Salisbury, Sr., co-founded the organization in 1973 along with Albert Szent-Györgyi, M.D., Ph.D., and served as its founding chief executive officer until his death in 1997. Tamara Salisbury, who passed away in 2013, served as its chief operating officer from the start and until her retirement in 2003. Franklin Salisbury, Jr., was CEO until the end of 2018 and now serves in an emeritus capacity.
“Translating cancer research discoveries into technologies which will benefit cancer patients—this is what NFCR’s Salisbury Award program is about,” summarized Franklin, Jr.