Stanford Medicine to join new Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy

Crystal Mackall will lead a cancer immunotherapy center at Stanford that is being launched with an initial $10 million grant from the Parker Foundation.

Crystal Mackall

A center is being created at Stanford Medicine as part of the new Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, a multi-institution effort established with a $250 million grant from the Parker Foundation.

Crystal Mackall, MD, professor of pediatrics and of medicine, will lead the Stanford center, which is being launched with an initial $10 million grant from the foundation, with additional support expected in the following years. The foundation was established by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean Parker, who co-founded the Internet file-sharing service Napster and served as the first president of Facebook.

“This unprecedented institute captures the essence of our vision for precision health, which is allowing us to use immunotherapy and other approaches to prevent diseases like cancer before they strike — and cure them decisively if they do,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “We are thrilled to partner in this initiative with the Parker Foundation and our peers, working together with them to bring about a better future for cancer patients everywhere.”

The new institute includes six university-based centers, as well as partnerships with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and with nonprofit health organizations.

Although advances in radiation and drug treatment of cancer have helped many patients, cancer immunotherapy — the use of the body’s the immune system to attack cancer cells — has the promise to dramatically change cancer outcomes, the institute’s founders say. The creation of the institute is timely because the cancer immunotherapy field is at an “inflection point,” Parker has said. That message was echoed by Mackall. 

Sean Parker

“The Parker-Stanford partnership will create a powerful synergy that will enable the deep scientific and clinical resources within Stanford Medicine to be rapidly and efficiently translated into new immunotherapies for patients with cancer,” Mackall said.

The Stanford center will include a core team of researchers, including Mark Davis, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection.

“It’s exciting to be joining this unique effort to pool the efforts of six different medical centers to focus on advancing cancer immunotherapy,” said Davis, who is also the Burt and Marion Avery Family Professor. “It’s also a testament to the expertise we have built up here at Stanford over the past 10 years to develop new methods to analyze the immune responses of patients with cancer and other diseases.”

Mackall is also associate director of the Stanford Cancer Institute and co-medical director of the Stanford Laboratory for Cell and Gene Medicine. She specializes in T cell homeostasis, the maintenance of a healthy number and diversity of these cells. She previously led the Immunology Section at the National Cancer Institute.

The other five participating centers are Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Pennsylvania; and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The Parker Foundation established the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research at Stanford in 2014 with a $24 million gift.



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