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Campaign Yields $5.7M to Date for MD Anderson Basic Sciences Institute

By Alex Philippidis

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's basic sciences research hub is among five virtual institutes that stand to benefit from the $1 billion it is seeking to raise by the end of next year.

The campaign has raised $761 million through last month toward the billion-dollar goal that MD Anderson has set for the end of 2011, its 70th anniversary year.

Of those funds, $5.7 million have been allocated so far toward the basic science institute, which would receive $75 million from the campaign, Scott Merville, a spokesman for MD Anderson, told GenomeWeb Daily News.

The institute carries out research in seven virtual centers of excellence — biological pathways; epigenetics; environmental and molecular carcinogenesis: genetics and genomics; immunology, inflammation, and cancer; stem cell and developmental biology; and the structure, chemistry, and function of macromolecules — and makes use of MD Anderson core facilities in bioinformatics and biostatistics.

"The central purpose of the Institute for Basic Science and its seven centers of excellence is to bring scientists and physicians from across our institution together to collaborate on critical research topics," Merville said.

Merville could not say if any expansions in equipment, or staff, have been contemplated as a result of the institute, but did say a $20 million portion of the campaign proceeds will fund new endowed faculty members as well as endowed research funds for the basic science institute and other operations.

The $20 million is part of a total $100 million to be raised toward graduate education, training, and faculty support. The remaining $80 million will be divided among MD Anderson's Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, its Odyssey Program, its Advanced Scholars Program, and its Physician-Scientist Program.

Another $340 million will go for the cancer survivorship and pediatrics programs, as well as for unrestricted research support.

Merville spoke nearly a month after MD Anderson went public with the campaign, titled "Making Cancer History: The Campaign to Transform Cancer Care." The campaign — the largest in MD Anderson history — is chaired by Harry Longwell, a retired executive vice president and director of ExxonMobil, with former president George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush serving as honorary chairs.

The basic science institute is one of five virtual institutes designed to unite researchers from different departments and disciplines across MD Anderson in order to study the entire spectrum of cancer care, from prevention to survival.

In addition to supporting the basic science institute, MD Anderson envisions growing:

• The Red and Charline McCombs Institute for the Early Detection and Treatment of Cancer, which will receive $25 million from the campaign. The McCombs institute was established in 2004 to translate into diagnostic tests and treatments basic science about the genes that cause cancer, and the molecular pathways that promote its growth, survival, and metastasis.

• The Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention and Risk Assessment, set to receive $50 million from the campaign, will examine genetic and lifestyle risk factors that lead to cancer.

• The Institute for Cancer Care Excellence, which will use $25 million and focus on enhancing the quality of cancer care, ensuring patient safety and well-being, and measuring the effectiveness of their treatment.

• The Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy will base its treatments on the genetic and molecular abnormalities in the cancers of individual patients. It will receive $150 million from the campaign.

• The Institute for Basic Science: This institute will focus on areas most critical to advancing fundamental knowledge about cancer genetics and genomics; epigenetics; stem cell and developmental biology; structural biology; environmental and molecular carcinogenesis; biological pathways; and immunology, inflammation, and infection.

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