With major donations from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and philanthropist Sidney Kimmel, John Hopkins University announced Tuesday that it is launching a new cancer institute focused on immunotherapy.
The Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy is a notable embrace of Vice President Joseph Biden’s “moonshot” initiative to cure cancer, which proposed immunotherapy as a key focus of research.
In total, nearly $125 million was donated to establish the center on the John Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore Tuesday. Bloomberg and Kimmel each gave $50 million gifts and another $25 million was contributed by more than a dozen additional supporters.
Immunotherapy leverages the body’s natural immune system to fight invasive cancer cells. Instead of the one-size kills all approach of chemotherapy, immunotherapy treatments use a more refined approach, leveraging T-cells to specifically target and destroy cancers.
“We are at the forefront of an emerging and promising field of cancer research and treatment,” Paul Rothman, dean and CEO of John Hopkins Medicine, told The Hub, a university publication. “We are grateful for these tremendous gifts, which will help us accelerate the already rapid pace of discoveries in immunotherapy.”
However, immunotherapy treatments are still relatively early in development and target only a few of the myriad of mutations that cause different cancers. Researchers at Johns Hopkins (and beyond) are hoping to expand the scope of these drugs to target a broader range of cancers with the goal of advancing “immunotherapies to the point where the immune system will ultimately be able to beat 100% of cancers,” Drew Pardol, who will run the institute, told The Hub.
The funds will be used to promote further research as well as help recruit additional scientists, provide new research infrastructure, invest in new technology, and enhance partnerships with the private sector. The center will focus its research on melanoma, colon, pancreatic, urologic, lung, breast, and ovarian cancers.