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Inspiring Generosity: Gift to Fuel Multifaceted Approach to Discovery

Landmark donation from Bezos family to Fred Hutch will fund multiple scientific priorities, including clinical trials support, translational research capabilities and recruitment
Photo of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center campus
The Bezos family has committed $710.5 million to Fred Hutch to accelerate breakthrough discoveries in cancer and infectious disease research. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

The Bezos family is committing $710.5 million over the next 10 years to radically scale and speed what Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center does best: Using fundamental science to answer the most complex biological questions and translating the answers into new ways to prevent, treat and cure cancer and infectious diseases.

The landmark gift supports the organization’s commitment to drastically increasing the pace and breadth of medical breakthroughs in cancer and infectious disease, an effort that could require up to $3 billion in total donor support over the next decade. It comes at a time when Fred Hutch is newly poised to accelerate discoveries through its recent merger with the former Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and its strengthened relationship with UW Medicine. Fred Hutch, an independent organization, now serves as UW Medicine’s cancer program.

“Mike and Jackie [Bezos] strategically structured their gift for maximum impact,” said Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr., Fred Hutch president and director and holder of the Raisbeck Endowed Chair. “It will enable us to speed the pace of discovery from multiple angles simultaneously, so that progress in each area can inform, advance and accelerate evolution in all the others.”

Photo of Mike and Jackie Bezos
This landmark gift from long-time supporters Mike and Jackie Bezos and their family reflects their commitment to patients who are counting on science and their confidence in Fred Hutch’s strategic vision. They invite others to join them in the pursuit of scientific and medical breakthroughs.

The family’s gift will enable investigators to collaboratively tackle questions about cancer and infectious diseases and quickly share their findings, permitting information to flow freely across disciplines and institutions in real time — speeding the cycle of discovery and application.

The gift will provide resources for four priorities:

  • $300 million to bring on 36 new early-career, mid-career and senior investigators with expertise in a variety of scientific areas. The funding includes resources for lab space, equipment and technology to support the collaborative research that inspired the Bezos family’s gift.
  • $225 million to support construction of a new 390,000 square-foot research building that will house the Stuart and Molly Sloan Precision Oncology Institute, which was announced last month.
  • $149.5 million to expand Fred Hutch’s institution-wide clinical research capabilities to allow for more collaborations between bench scientists and bedside researchers and increase both the number of studies available to patients and the number and diversity of patients enrolled in clinical trials. The Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic provides a model for bringing breakthrough treatments to patients more quickly.
  • $36 million for the Immunotherapy Integrated Research Center at Fred Hutch to expand immune-based strategies for treating cancer and deepen understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying immunotherapy.

Every contribution is vital

The Bezos family, longtime champions of collaborative science, are committed to broadening Fred Hutch’s vibrant community of supporters and collaborators. They believe that everyone working toward cures — clinicians, researchers, patients who enroll in clinical studies, and donors at every level — has something unique to contribute.

“We hope this announcement highlights the science happening at Fred Hutch as they pursue a future where cures exist for cancer and infectious diseases,” said Jackie Bezos. “It is also a call to action to support the science and be part of the next breakthrough. When we come together, we are bigger than the problems facing us. Let’s make the impossible possible.”

She’s seen it firsthand. The family’s first major donation for cellular immunotherapy, in 2009, came with a challenge to others: “Join us.” People from across the community enthusiastically responded, doubling the family’s gift within a year and giving Fred Hutch scientists catalytic support for a series of scientific discoveries demonstrating the potential of cellular immunotherapy. These breakthroughs quickly attracted support from the National Institutes of Health and biotech industry.

Photo of Gary Gilliland, Fred Appelbaum, Jackie and Mike Bezos, David Maloney
Jackie and Mike Bezos (third and fourth from left) celebrated the opening of the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic in 2016 with (from left) Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director emeritus; Dr. Fred Appelbaum, executive vice president and Metcalfe Family/Frederick Appelbaum Endowed Chair; and Dr. David Maloney, medical director for the Immunotherapy Integrated Research Center and Leonard and Norma Klorfine Endowed Chair. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

In 2016, Fred Hutch created the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, the first clinic anywhere dedicated to providing experimental cellular immunotherapies directly to patients. In the years since then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved six CAR T-cell therapies and all are directly derived, at least in part, from discoveries made at Fred Hutch and propelled by the family’s 2009 challenge and subsequent gifts. Nearly half of the 53 studies now underway or planned at the Bezos Family clinic are based on science that originated at Fred Hutch.

“These efforts have resulted in a whole new approach to treating cancer, and the potential of immunotherapy is just enormous,” said Dr. Fred Appelbaum, Fred Hutch executive vice president and holder of the Metcalfe Family/Frederick Appelbaum Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. “Jackie and Mike saw this from the start and have been wonderful partners as this work has progressed.”

Beyond cancer, beyond Fred Hutch

The gift will be used to advance the next generation of immunotherapies while fueling similar progress in — and collaboration across — five other interrelated research areas: precision oncology, viruses and vaccines, prevention and early detection, data science and health disparities.

“As we saw in the global response to COVID-19, scientific progress can move quickly when leading experts are rapidly provided with the resources needed,” said Lynch.

Since the pandemic’s start, Fred Hutch scientists have been unraveling how the virus interacts with the immune system, decoding its molecular structure, tracking the evolution of COVID-19 variants and developing and testing vaccines and treatments.

“Our experts in basic immunology, virology and large-scale trials came together to have an enormous impact in record time,” Lynch said. “We never would have accomplished all of this at the pace we did without the resources to move all the levers at once.”

The Bezos family’s gift, he added, will move more levers at once in more areas of science. “It gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to profoundly change our approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancers and infectious diseases while increasing health equity.”

Photo of Thomas J. Lynch, Fred Hutch president and director and holder of the Raisbeck Endowed Chair
Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr., president and director and Raisbeck Endowed Chairholder, says the gift from the Bezos family will enable Fred Hutch scientists to “speed the pace of discovery from multiple angles simultaneously.” Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Growing Fred Hutch’s faculty and creating new research spaces are central to Lynch’s strategy because “people make discoveries, and they need the right kind of space to do it,” he said. The “right kind of space,” he noted, encompasses enabling technologies and ready access to robust shared technologies, such as cryo-electron microscopy, a Biosafety Level 3 lab for studying infectious pathogens, cellular manufacturing and more. The Bezos gift will support and expand these resources, allow renovation of existing laboratory spaces and fund investments in emerging technologies.

The gift will also advance established research partnerships and create new ones to drive scientific breakthroughs.

“It is because of [its] commitment to collaboration and innovation that we previously supported the Hutch,” said Mike Bezos. “We’ve seen the impact as each discovery lays the groundwork for the next one and scientists from different fields and institutions apply new perspectives and build solutions.”

He continued, “Science, particularly cancer and virus research, is at such a pivotal point. We hope our investment in the Hutch leads to answers for the most pressing medical questions. We also hope this inspires others to join us now in pursuing scientific and medical breakthroughs.”

'Philanthropy sets the pace for progress'

This and other recent gifts provide a foundation for Fred Hutch’s expansive vision.

“Biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries play a critical role in developing treatments, but they depend on our nation’s cancer centers and other research organizations to fuel that work,” Lynch said. “This landmark gift strategically targets growing our research pipeline, increasing collaboration, expanding clinical trials and investing in research infrastructure — and that directly accelerates our ability to make breakthroughs.”

Lynch estimates that the institution will need $3 billion in total philanthropic support in the next ten years to achieve its objectives. “Ambitious goals demand bold investment,” he said, noting that donor support accelerates science by freeing investigators to explore new angles that emerge from their science.

“Our work is urgent,” Lynch added. “Philanthropy sets the pace for progress, and every gift of every size matters.”

With their generous gift, the Bezos family is giving researchers the chance to answer fundamental scientific questions and illuminate some of the most important, and least understood, questions in cancer and infectious disease. People everywhere stand to benefit.

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Last Modified, October 12, 2022