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MD Anderson Launches Translational Cancer Science Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will use up to $15 million over five years to start a new institute that will focus on using biomarker-driven translational science to develop new cancer drugs and diagnostics.

MD Anderson said yesterday that the Institute for Applied Cancer Science will blend academic and industrial research approaches to identify and validate new cancer targets for therapeutics and complementary diagnostics and to advance these agents into clinical trials.

The center said it plans to raise external funding totaling $2.5 million in its first year and at least $42 million by its fifth year.

"The Institute for Applied Cancer Science will exploit the enormous opportunities provided by recent truly transformative scientific and technological advances to improve the appallingly low rate of success in the nation's current cancer drug development system," MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho said in a statement.

"Only 5 to 10 percent of potential cancer drugs make it from initial discovery all the way to patients as approved treatments. And more than half of those fail in phase III clinical trials, the final step of development," he added. "Improving this unacceptable performance requires that we hit the reset button and develop a new organizational model that systematically secures the knowledge needed to fully understand key targets and develop a clear clinical path for new therapies."

The new institute will be located in MD Anderson's South Campus Research Buildings 3 and 4, located on Houston's East Road.

The institute's core goal will be to convert basic discoveries that are often made by academics into new drugs and diagnostics, which traditionally have been developed by bioscience companies, through multidisciplinary collaborations and partnerships with industry.

"In recent years, academic researchers have moved into translational research, those final steps between the lab and first-in-human Phase I clinical trials that were once largely the domain of pharmaceutical companies," MD Anderson Executive VP and Provost Raymond DuBois said.

"Efficient conversion of discoveries into effective medicines will require seamless integration of not only discovery and applied science, but also the exploratory and goal-oriented cultures in academia and industry," DuBois added. "Our institute leaders are highly accomplished in both realms and have outstanding experience in bridging the gap between them."

Those leaders will include MD Anderson scientists Giulio Draetta and Lynda Chin, who will serve as the institute's director and scientific director, respectively. Draetta formerly was deputy director and chief research development officer at the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science, where Chin also served as scientific director. Chin also serves on the central committee of the National Institutes of Health's Cancer Genome Atlas.

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