Billionaire tech entrepreneur Sean Parker announced a $250 million donation to establish the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy to speed research into innovative cancer treatments.
Photograph by AFP via Getty Images
By Laura Lorenzetti
June 21, 2016

Billionaire tech entrepreneur Sean Parker is putting his money to work in the latest and greatest technology. This time around that tech isn’t centered in Silicon Valley or on the Internet. This new technology could potentially save lives and kill cancer.

The technology is called CRISPR. It’s a type of gene-editing technology that allows scientists to precisely locate and cut out bits of DNA from live cells in bacteria, animals, and even humans. Scientists are now looking to use this technology in tandem with immunotherapy to use a cancer patient’s own immune system to battle an invasive cancer.

The CRISPR-centered cancer treatment is now headed into its first human clinical trial, if its approved by a federal advisory panel in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, and is being funded by Parker, according to a report from the MIT Technology Review. The trial will use the gene-editing technology to modify a patient’s T cells to better attack three types of cancer–myeloma, melanoma, and sarcoma.

The study is being lead by the University of Pennsylvania as part of the new Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which was launched in April this year with a $250 million gift from Parker. It’s a collaboration between six of the nation’s leading cancer centers, including Penn, and aims to accelerate the development of breakthrough immune therapies. Parker’s donation is the single largest contribution ever made to the field of immunotherapy and will help fund this new study.

The clinical trial will mark the first human use of the CRISPR technology. It will be a small safety study and will include up to 15 patients across three sites: Penn, the University of California, San Francisco, and the MD Anderson Cancer Center, all of which are part of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

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