Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) launched the Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller Presidential Innovation Fund. The new initiative, made possible by a transformative $100 million gift from the Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller Foundation, is expected to lead to new, more effective ways to treat and cure cancer by rapidly seeding the most promising projects in translational cancer medicine that might otherwise go unfunded. This gift from the Druckenmiller family is impactful because it can be difficult to support early-stage, innovative research through funding sources despite the transformative potential of the work.
Translational research serves as a bridge between the lab and the clinic, often resulting in the development of novel diagnostics and therapies. MSK is a leader in translational cancer research, with a deep history of developing new ways to improve treatment outcomes for people with the disease. For example, 15 years ago, people with metastatic melanoma had an average life expectancy of mere months, and now they can expect to live years or even decades because of MSK clinical trials that introduced the power of immunotherapy to cancer. And just last year, the FDA approved a new imaging technique that is considered the biggest advance in metastatic prostate cancer since the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. MSK’s translational research initiatives accelerate innovation by gathering multidisciplinary groups of MSK physicians and scientists at the Sloan Kettering Institute (SKI) to convert scientific discoveries into life-changing cancer diagnostics, therapies and cures.
“Over the past years, the Druckenmillers have made a meaningful difference in the lives of our patients at MSK and, by extension, the lives of people with cancer around the world.” said Craig B. Thompson, MD, President and CEO of MSK. “The MSK community is deeply grateful to the Druckenmiller family for their leadership and support of this crucial initiative, which will launch path breaking research and clinical care efforts and bring hope to so many people with cancer. It is an honor to partner with them in this visionary endeavor.”
This new fund will support studies identified by MSK’s President and Chief Executive Officer – in consultation with MSK’s Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer and the Director of the Sloan Kettering Institute – as having the highest potential for transformational impact for people with cancer. It will also provide essential guidance and flexible funding for MSK’s translational research efforts, giving the institution the opportunity to rapidly advance novel ideas, studies, and collaborations as they arise, both within MSK and in partnership with other leading research institutes. Flexible funding for early-stage research has shown to be an effective tool to encourage innovation and advance groundbreaking research. In fact, it was flexible donor funding that financed the first clinical trial that led to the discovery of CAR T-cell therapy; and that launched the first computational biology program at MSK that resulted in the development of MSK-IMPACT, a diagnostic tool that screens for cancer-associated genetic mutations and has transformed the way we diagnose and treat the disease.
“We wanted to create more opportunities to support research endeavors that could lead to lifesaving treatments for many people with cancer. We’re confident that the fund will have a transformative effect on cancer outcomes over the next 10 years,” said Mrs. Druckenmiller.
MSK has benefited tremendously from the Druckenmiller family’s ongoing generosity, and their passion for advancing early-stage cancer research. Mr. Druckenmiller has served on MSK’s Board of Trustees since 1997. In 2015, the Druckenmillers made a gift to establish the Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller Center for Lung Cancer Research (DCLCR), with the goal of providing new and more effective therapies for people with lung cancer. With the center’s establishment, MSK has continued to pioneer advances in lung cancer by providing seed funding to promising projects. Recent breakthroughs have been made in liquid biopsy, patient-derived xenografts, and organoid research – and its members have published their findings in top-tier peer-reviewed journals.
“Time and time again, we have witnessed the incredible advances that come from placing resources in the hands of talented doctors and scientists,” said Mr. Druckenmiller. “I can’t think of another institution better positioned to shape the future of cancer care than MSK.”