CPRIT awards $20M to Rice, MD Anderson Cancer Center

B.J. Almond

New center to speed up commercialization of cancer therapies

HOUSTON — (March 30, 2012) — The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded $20 million Thursday for a new pre-commercialization center at Rice University’s BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) designed to bring new technologies and therapies to market sooner to prevent, treat and cure cancer.

The center will be operated by the Houston-Area Translational Research Consortium (HATRC) on the 10th floor of the BRC in collaboration with the new Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The goal of the collaboration is to connect researchers from Rice and partner Texas Medical Center (TMC) institutions and entrepreneurs with funding and management experts. The BRC’s location across from the medical center is ideal for bringing these scientists and business experts together, Rice Provost George McLendon said.

“This collaboration among Rice, MD Anderson and all our TMC partners will provide a powerful institutional model that integrates the best attributes of academic and pharmaceutical science to accelerate the development of new cancer drugs and create a pipeline of new talent ready to drive the treatments from discovery to recovery,” McLendon said. “The opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Ronald DePinho and Dr. Lynda Chin at MD Anderson made this project personally gratifying.”

Cindy Farach-Carson, Rice’s vice provost for translational bioscience and scientific director of the BRC, said that assembling commercialization expertise in a central location should increase the number and success of new products and technologies designed to diagnose, treat and cure cancer.

“A symbiotic partnership between HATRC and the IACS at nearby MD Anderson Cancer Center is key to the center’s success,” she said. “The IACS will bring together the drug discovery, personalized medicine, clinical trials and patient access and data from the largest cancer center in the world to the mission of accelerating translation and driving development of new cancer medicines.

“HATRC will provide infrastructure to IACS and other TMC institutions, including access to basic science research in the natural sciences and engineering, Rice’s top-ranked Jones Graduate School of Business and brilliant graduate and undergraduate students with an interest in entrepreneurship.”

In addition to creating innovative oncology products and technologies, HATRC and IACS should raise the profile of the TMC, Houston and Texas over the next decade, McLendon said. “This area can become a vibrant site for cancer-focused biopharmaceutical, medical diagnostic and medical device industries and generate economic growth and high-quality jobs,” he said. “HATRC can dramatically strengthen Houston and Texas as a region of opportunity to draw entrepreneurs and venture capital, but the ultimate beneficiaries will be people with cancer whose lives are prolonged by the novel treatments that make it to the bedside in a more timely fashion.”

“One of the biggest obstacles to getting life-saving treatments to patients is not a lack of good ideas or good science, but a lack of business expertise,” said Charles Tate, a founding member of CPRIT’s governing board. “CPRIT is proud to support a center that will ensure the best cancer-fighting technologies can make it to market and into the hands of the people who need them the most.”

In 2007 Texas voters established CPRIT by authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas. CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation and commercialization in the area of cancer research and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs and services throughout the state.

The BioScience Research Collaborative is an innovative space where scientists and educators from Rice University and other Texas Medical Center institutions work together to perform leading research that benefits human medicine and health. Designed to facilitate and encourage interdisciplinary interactions among interinstitutional researchers, the BRC is equipped for cutting-edge laboratory, theoretical and computational investigations. It is located at the corner of South Main Street and University Boulevard.

# # #

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.