The Bridge Project Receives $20 Million Gift From the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research

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Tyler Jacks, PhD

David Livingston, MD

The Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research has pledged $20 million to the Bridge Project, a collaborative research program of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), to accelerate the translation of interdisciplinary cancer solutions toward the clinic. Launched in 2011, the Bridge Project links the cancer research efforts of MIT and DF/HCC, Massachusetts’ two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers.

The Bridge Project funds cross-institutional and interdisciplinary teams of cancer scientists, engineers, and clinicians to solve longstanding problems in the most intractable cancers. The program was designed to integrate advanced cancer science research at both institutions by leveraging MIT’s strengths in basic cancer research and bioengineering and Harvard’s strengths in clinical cancer research and cancer care. As such, each team is co-led by at least one MIT investigator and one DF/HCC investigator.

The Commonwealth Foundation gift, which will be made over the next 5 years, will double the number of grants available to fund these multi-investigator teams each year. It also will create two new funding mechanisms that will extend the pipeline of collaboration and catalyze the translation of basic research toward clinical trials. “Footbridge Grants” will enable new teams to form and establish proof of concept. “Expansion Grants” will provide follow-up funding to existing teams that are on the cusp of making significant advances toward clinical implementation.

This gift follows an initial investment of $4.5 million from the Commonwealth Foundation in 2012. To amplify the impact of this new gift, DF/HCC and MIT will raise matching funds over the next 5 years, resulting in a combined $40 million expansion of the Bridge Project.

15 Teams Funded

Since its inception, the Bridge Project has funded 15 teams that are pursuing clinical advances across a variety of cancer types that represent areas of great clinical need, including brain, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, and advanced prostate cancers. The work of these teams has led to publications in high-profile journals, the filing of invention disclosures and patent applications, the formation of new companies, and the initiation of clinical trials.

Tyler Jacks, PhD, Director of the Koch Institute and the David H. Koch Professor of Biology at MIT, and ­David Livingston, MD, Deputy Director of DF/HCC and the Emil Frei Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, lead the Bridge Project.

The new and expanded funding opportunities will be made available to DF/HCC-MIT teams for the 2016–2017 funding cycle. ■