IN for the Hutch is the signature fundraising event of Fred Hutch's Innovators Network. Thanks to our remarkable supporters, our 2018 IN for the Hutch raised $1.2 million to support the inaugural Innovators Network Endowed Chair.
We’re excited to share that Fred Hutch has appointed cancer geneticist and lung cancer researcher Dr. Alice Berger as the inaugural Innovators Network Endowed Chair made possible through funds raised at the 2018 IN for the Hutch. A trained cancer geneticist, Dr. Berger joined Fred Hutch in 2016 as an Assistant Member of the Human Biology and Public Health Sciences divisions. Much of her work focuses on adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer that is becoming more common in young women who have never smoked.
We recently sat down with Dr. Berger to learn more about her research and how she plans to use her new chair.
It is an incredible honor to receive this chair so early in my career. The funding it provides will give me the flexibility and freedom to pursue new pilot projects. Once my lab generates data showing these pilots are feasible, we can secure additional funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or from private foundations to move the projects forward. The chair will really act catalytically by enhancing our lab’s ability to do cutting-edge research.
Absolutely, it is true. It is wonderful to have a source of flexible funding to pursue new ideas. The new projects we want to get off the ground involve studies of therapeutic response and resistance in lung cancer.
In the first study, we’ve modified CRISPR, a gene-editing technique, to help identify drug targets in lung cancer cells that other approaches likely have missed. If successful, our results could lead directly to new clinical trials for lung cancer patients and ultimately make an impact on the quality of life of patients, which is our main goal.
In the second project, we’ll be collaborating with Dr. Chris Baik, a clinician at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and Dr. Gavin Ha, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, to study how patients undergoing cancer treatment become resistant to their therapy. By understanding at a molecular level how treatment resistance develops, we hope to propose new strategies to delay, prevent, or even overcome this resistance. It’s extremely difficult to get initial seed funding for these “translational” types of projects, so I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.
Philanthropy is so critical for biomedical research. It is important for scientists to have diverse sources of funding support outside of the NIH, because NIH funding is in increasingly high demand, and its availability ebbs and flows with the economy and the government’s ability to fund research. Private support is an important complement to federal funding and gives investigators the flexibility they need to pursue the most creative and impactful research.
I would like to thank IN for the Hutch attendees for taking this bold step to endow a young investigator. I’m also grateful to Fred Hutch leadership for selecting my lab for this great honor. Lastly, I owe thanks to my fantastic lab members who do incredibly creative and rigorous science, which keeps me excited about the progress we are making toward curing and preventing cancer.