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Sean Parker to Donate $250 Million to Cancer Research at UCLA, Elsewhere

Sean Parker, 36, co-founded the pirate music network Napster and later became Facebook's first president, a role that netted him a fortune valued by Forbes at $2.4 billion. (Thinkstock: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Sean Parker, 36, co-founded the pirate music network Napster and later became Facebook’s first president, a role that netted him a fortune valued by Forbes at $2.4 billion. (Thinkstock: Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, announced Wednesday he is donating $250 million toward collaborative cancer research at UCLA and five other centers across the country.

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Center at UCLA will enable campus scientists to collaborate with other leading researchers, clinicians and industry partners, with a goal toward triggering the body’s own immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells.

“Cancer immunotherapy is one of the most important medical advances of our time, and there is now widespread scientific consensus that the immune system is a powerful mechanism to defeat cancer,” said Dr. John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and CEO of UCLA Health.

“With the pioneering work being done at UCLA and the Parker Institute’s paradigm-shifting research model, we can dramatically accelerate the development of new treatments and potentially save the lives of millions of people,” Mazziotta said.

The donation, the largest of any yet made for immunotherapy, will fund Parker institutes at UCLA, Stanford Medicine, UC San Francisco, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“We are at an inflection point in cancer research and now is the time to maximize immunotherapy’s unique potential to transform all cancers into manageable diseases, saving millions of lives,” Parker said.

More than 300 scientists and researchers from more than 40 laboratories will work together in the hope of turning discoveries into cancer treatments, Parker said.

Parker, 36, co-founded the pirate music network Napster and later became Facebook’s first president, a role that netted him a fortune valued by Forbes at $2.4 billion.

Cancer immunotherapy gained notice recently after former President Jimmy Carter saw success in treating his melanoma with an immunotherapy drug.

Parker said he was inspired to act partly by the commitment of Hollywood producer Laura Ziskin (“Pretty Woman,” “Spider-Man”), who co-founded Stand Up to Cancer and died in 2011.

UCLA’s effort will be led by Dr. Antoni Ribas, a professor of medicine and director of the tumor immunology program at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This is an exciting time for cancer immunotherapy research,” Ribas said. “Now, through this initiative between UCLA and the Parker Institute, we have the potential to broaden immunotherapy’s benefits to more patients. Working with our colleagues from across the nation, we hope to be able to develop the next generation of cancer immunotherapies and test them in the clinic.”

 

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