SEATTLE, Dec. 26 -- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced its first-ever grants from its newly established Evergreen Fund to spur researchers’ efforts to advance bold ideas toward creating or partnering with a commercial entity.
A total of $1 million was awarded to eight Fred Hutch research projects ranging from the development of new immunotherapies for cancer to finding new treatments for HIV/AIDS.
“The Evergreen Fund is an innovative, bold initiative by the Hutch to promote commercialization of its latest research into lifesaving therapies for cancer and other diseases,” said Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutch. “We firmly believe it will lead to new ventures and partnerships that will significantly improve outcomes in the battle to defeat cancer and other diseases. It’s a new chapter in our ongoing commitment to creating enterprises that will be game-changers for global health.”
The recipients were selected from dozens of applications in a process overseen by the 26-member Advisory Committee that includes venture capitalists, intellectual property lawyers, Fred Hutch leaders, and top executives from biotech, medtech and pharmaceutical firms.
“The Evergreen Fund will provide critical funding to advance the work of eight commercially-viable projects within Fred Hutch,” said Dr. Niki Robinson, Vice President, Business Development and Industry Relations. “We are so excited to create the possibility for advancing and accelerating these important studies, and have assembled an amazing advisory committee of scientific, industry and venture leadership who has helped us select the most promising projects for funding.”
In this inaugural round of grants, the Evergreen Fund divided its awards into two levels: Pilot and Beyond Pilot. The former, according to the Request for Proposals, is “for big and bold ideas with commercial application that don’t yet have data to determine validity. It will provide up to $50,000 in direct funding with a maximum of six months of timing from start of project.”
The RFP says that Beyond Pilot Awards are “for work that already has promising data, an identified commercial path forward, and needs further development to attract external financial support. “ These grants are for a two-year period and provide up to $200,000. Recipients of Pilot Awards are eligible to apply for Beyond Pilot Awards upon completion of their projects.
The $1 million is part of a previous gift for commercialization projects made by Pamela Becker and her husband Dr. Jim Roberts, the former director of Fred Hutch's Basic Sciences Division and currently an advisory member in the division. (Roberts, who is also founder and chief scientific officer at Matrix Genetics, serves on the Evergreen Fund Advisory Committee.) The Hutch has committed internal funds from licensing and royalty revenue to keep the program sustainable.
"The Evergreen Fund is a launching pad for some of the Hutch’s most exciting commercial ideas,” said Roberts. “We designed it to help make current Hutch innovations ready for the marketplace and also to retain value in order to perpetually support future innovation."
Dr. Alice Chen, Vice President at Accelerator Corporation and an Advisory Committee Member, added: “I truly enjoy working with the Fred Hutch commercialization team to support the Evergreen Fund and stay connected with exciting projects emerging from the Hutch. I look forward to leveraging the capabilities of Accelerator to support the Hutch in this important translational effort.”
Grant recipients were notified of their awards on Dec. 16. Here are the eight projects from the Evergreen Fund’s inaugural round.
Worldwide millions of people suffer from malignant, genetic, or infectious blood diseases such as leukemia and HIV/AIDS. The Kiem lab has identified a stem cell population using preclinical small and large animal models to demonstrate this population of cells can quantitatively predict engraftment and repopulation of blood cells. The goal of the proposal is to translate this into clinical practice and overcome major barriers that limit the broad utilization of gene-modified hematopoietic stem cell transplants.