Hutch Holiday Gala guests to be 'challenged' by scientist

For more information, visit

SEATTLE — Nov. 21, 2006 — An unprecedented appeal from a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center scientist will distinguish the 2006 Hutch Holiday Gala on Dec. 9. Jim Roberts, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Center's Basic Sciences Division and his wife, Pamela Becker, will offer a donation of $1.5 million as the "challenge gift" during a segment of the Gala's live auction. Proceeds will benefit a new source of Hutchinson Center pilot-study funding dubbed the Synergy Fund.

The Roberts/Becker challenge will mark the first time a faculty member has provided a gift to boost the fund-raising potential of the Center's largest benefit event. The challenge will be presented during the "Help the Hutch" part of the live auction, when every dollar donated by a guest will be matched dollar for dollar up to $1.5 million.

The resulting $3 million or more for the Synergy Fund would fulfill the couple's wish to give back to the Center in a way that honors its collaborative spirit and rewards innovation in science. "The word 'synergy' refers to the fund's unique emphasis on promoting synergistic pilot studies," Roberts said. "To be considered for funding, two or more independent yet complementary new research proposals would be submitted together for review by a panel of internal peers."

Small in scale as compared with most government-funded research, pilot studies allow scientists to gather data quickly to test new ideas, some of which may be on the leading edge of research. The Synergy Fund would help compensate for the diminishing availability of pilot-study funds from other sources such as the National Institutes of Health.

"As a research premise progresses toward having practical applications, possible sources of funding tend to increase," Roberts said. "New ideas are the hardest to fund; therefore, it's those new ideas that require the most support. The Synergy Fund will support early stage research that holds the potential to make the greatest impact."

Roberts, who has been with the Center since 1984, is an expert on the cell cycle and cancer, focusing his own research on key proteins that regulate cell division and how alterations in those proteins could lead to cancer. He has founded independent biotechnology ventures including Targeted Growth, a Seattle-based company that develops ways to increase the yield of commercially important crops.

Beyond "Help the Hutch," Gala patrons can expect to spar over some new live-auction packages this year, including an opportunity to rub elbows with celebrities in New York while getting a jump on autumn couture at the Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta fashion shows. Also among the auction offerings are courtside box seats for U.S. Open women's tennis matches and a travel package via a Boeing delivery flight to China. Wine packages, including vintages from Leonetti Cellar and Sloan Estate, are among several auction items that will appeal to oenophiles.

The 31st annual Hutch Holiday Gala will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers. The Gala is a black-tie event featuring spectacular live and silent auctions, an elegant dinner, and late-night dancing with more than 850 business and community leaders in attendance. For more information, visit

Editor's Note
Photos and bios of Roberts and Becker are available upon request.


Media Contacts
Christi Ball Loso
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
(206) 667-5215

# # #

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit