Sage Bionetworks receives $6.7 million grant

NCI picks Center-based nonprofit to launch collaborative training program
Dr. Stephen Friend
Dr. Stephen Friend, co-founder and president of Sage, also serves as an affiliate investigator in the Public Health Sciences Division. Photo courtesy of Merck & Co., Inc.

Sage Bionetworks was awarded $6.7 million by the National Cancer Institute’s Integrative Cancer Biology Program to establish a new interdisciplinary research and training center so young scientists can learn to better use genomic data to help improve drug discovery and patient care.

The four-year grant funds a core part of Sage’s mission. The nonprofit was started last year by Dr. Stephen Friend, an affiliate investigator in the Public Health Sciences Division, to create an open-access Internet database for researchers worldwide to share their genomic data and casual disease models—a public commons of sorts for human biology.

Hosted by the Center, Sage scientists are housed in the Arnold Building, working next to PHS computational biologists. Friend serves as Sage president and Dr. Lee Hartwell sits on the organization’s board.

“We are thrilled to receive the strong support from NCI,” said Friend of the funding to support Sage’s operation and the training of four postdoctoral researchers annually. “We are particularly pleased that they share our view on the critical importance of training.”

Each year, Sage plans to identify two postdoctoral researchers who have deep understanding of mathematical models and algorithms and pair them with two biology-focused scientists at the same stage of their careers. Friend said the vision is that these pairs will cross-fertilize each others’ thinking, so that together, they can use math and computing tools to build predictive models that can show the connections between genomic alterations, the faulty proteins that arise from them, and clinical symptoms of diseases that are the end result.

Sage Bionetworks collaborates with the Center, Johns Hopkins University, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the University of Hong Kong and the Netherlands Cancer Institute, as well as with the other Integrative Cancer Biology Program centers. The research projects will initially focus on breast, colon, liver and pancreatic cancer. The computational models will be validated in the laboratory to test their accuracy as well as to help refine and improve the models.

[Adapted from a Sage Bionetworks news release.]

Help Us Eliminate Cancer

Every dollar counts. Please support lifesaving research today.