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CRI introduces new model of philanthropic investment to improve cancer patient care

October 01, 2015

To date, CVAF has finalized collaborations with biopharmaceutical companies in support of the development of two immunotherapies. In the first collaboration, CRI is providing up to $1.5 million in funding to Tolerx, Inc., a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to support clinical development of TRX518, a first in class anti-GITR monoclonal antibody. Tolerx has designed TRX518 in a manner intended to enhance the immune system by enabling T cells to attack cancer cells more effectively. Tolerx is sponsoring a phase I clinical trial of TRX518 in melanoma patients that is currently under way at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The second CVAF collaboration has been completed and will be announced within the coming weeks. Several other companies with cancer vaccine candidates of potential interest are under review.

"We're pleased to be working with CVAF on this promising new immunotherapeutic approach," said Christopher Merrill, senior director of business development at Tolerx. "This partnership leverages CVAF's clinical network and cancer knowledge and, combined with Tolerx's development and immunology expertise, results in a highly synergistic relationship."

Jedd D. Wolchok, M.D., Ph.D., director of immunotherapy clinical trials at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, principal investigator on the TRX518 study, and a CVC investigator, believes CVAF fills a critical gap in cancer patient treatment. "As an oncologist, I see patients every day with advanced melanoma, and they desperately need new treatment options. As a result of CVAF, we are able to study this promising therapy now rather than years later, and that is a source of both hope for patients and advancement of clinical and translational science."

To meet the most critical funding needs, CVAF estimates $40 million is needed over the next five years to enable it to support four to five early phase clinical trials per year. CRI has pledged to contribute $15 million toward that goal. Of the remaining $25 million to be raised, the fund has already secured $7.5 million in five-year commitments from a distinguished group of founding directors.

"In the short time since its launch, CVAF has demonstrated that its ability to leverage the intellectual capital and real-world knowhow of the CRI and LICR is of significant value to companies," says Donald J. Gogel, president and CEO of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, chairman of the CRI Board of Trustees, and a founding principal director and lead investor in CVAF. "It's a powerful example of how nonprofits can join forces to speed the development of new cancer treatments, and I am looking forward to being closely involved with the fund over the coming years."

"Donor support is essential to our success," CRI executive director Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., "and the CVAF model of venture philanthropy is a powerful new platform that enables individuals to have significant impact on cancer in the near term and extend that impact into the long term."

Source: Cancer Research Institute