SEATTLE – March 30, 2017 – The quest for cancer cures at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has just been expedited with a $35 million gift from the Bezos family, the Seattle-based center announced Thursday. It is the largest private contribution in the center’s 41-year history.
“What we are really giving is the gift of time for all those people who will benefit from new treatments and cures. It’s the gift of more hugs, more graduations and more moments,” said Jackie Bezos. “Mike and I have had the pleasure of getting to know many of the Hutch scientists over the years. President and Director Dr. Gary Gilliland is leading an extraordinary team and we wanted to invest in his vision and enable him to have flexible resources to recruit more stars.”
“We are incredibly grateful to the Bezos family for their continued generosity and partnership in our commitment to finding cures for patients,” said Gilliland. “These funds allow us to move rapidly and be nimble, and we will use this gift in ways that can have the highest impact in finding cures for cancer. Thanks to the generosity of the Bezos family we will be able to invest in promising science and recruit new leaders.”
The Bezos family is offering this unprecedented gift to address Fred Hutch’s top priority — to identify and attract more world-class talent to lead and propel the research priorities at the core of the Hutch’s new strategic plan. In consultation with the Fred Hutch leadership team, Gilliland plans to focus the gift on areas with potential for huge impact:
- Translational data science: “We can cure some cancers but we need to understand who is being left behind,” Gilliland said. His vision is for Fred Hutch to develop methods that allow massive data sets to be analyzed to understand the best treatments for individual patients and know in advance, for example, which patients will respond to immunotherapy, an innovative treatment approach that empowers the human immune system to overcome cancer. This effort will also integrate data from large-scale studies to benefit not only individual patients but also illuminate public health issues and drive new discoveries in basic, translational and clinical research throughout the Hutch.
- Pathogen-related cancers: About 20 percent of cancers globally and as many as 60 percent in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa are caused by pathogens. Further investment in this area “provides an opportunity to attack cancer in the same way we attack viruses ― through preventive vaccines and other mechanisms,” Gilliland said.
- Transplantation and immunotherapy: Building on Fred Hutch’s long history and core strengths in bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy, the center will be able to investigate new ways to extend and multiply cures across a broad range of tumors.
This gift recognizes the Hutch’s tradition of researchers working collaboratively, bringing together the brightest minds from different areas to find answers to the most vexing questions.
Former Gov. Christine Gregoire, chair of Fred Hutch’s board of trustees, noted that the gift is a testament to the vision Gilliland has brought to his two years at the helm of Fred Hutch. In 2015, he boldly declared that we would find cures for most, if not all, cancers in the next decade. A countdown clock outside his office is a constant reminder of that urgency.
“Gary is a brilliant leader and this gift affirms the Bezos family’s confidence in him and in Fred Hutch,” Gregoire said. “It comes at a particularly poignant time with the proposed White House budget cuts to funding from the National Institutes of Health. While private donations could never make up for the loss of NIH funding, gifts such as this are essential, allowing Fred Hutch to expedite its lifesaving work. We are profoundly grateful to the family. I can also say that as a cancer survivor myself, it provides hope for patients that more cures are on the way and that Fred Hutch will not waiver in its determination to find them.”
In December, Fred Hutch celebrated the grand opening of the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, located at the Hutch’s clinical care partner Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The Hutch named the clinic in recognition of the Bezos family’s past generosity and early investment in immunotherapy research.
Gilliland said he is grateful for the continued partnership with the family. “A gift like this most of all offers our patients, their families and faculty inspiration and hope.”
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit fredhutch.org or follow Fred Hutch on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.