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Bridge Project receives $20m gift for cancer research

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In an effort to drive more cancer research projects into clinical trials, the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research announced Wednesday it was committing $20 million to the Bridge Project, which funds joint research teams from the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

The donation, which will be doled out over five years, should at least double the number of grants given to scientists each year, the institutions said in their announcement.

The Bridge Project provides money to teams made up of experts from both sides of the river, bringing together cancer scientists, bioengineers, and clinicians.

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“We’re looking for the best people, regardless of where they are, to tackle these very important problems,” said Tyler Jacks, director of the Koch Institute.

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Past Bridge Project recipients have developed new imaging technology to uncover previously invisible melanomas, tracked down resistant cancer cells in leukemia patients, and created drug delivery devices that reduce side effects.

“We want to break through the barriers of non-responsive or minimally responsive tumors and elevate them to the status of being imminently treatable,” said Dr. David Livingston, deputy director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

The Bridge Project started in 2011 and has only been able to fund a handful of projects each year. Last year it awarded just over $2 million in grants to three teams.

Meanwhile, more and more researchers have been applying for the awards. A review committee will determine in the next few months which of the roughly 40 teams that applied this year will receive funding.

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MIT and the Harvard institutions are also fundraising to try to match the foundation’s donation.

In 2012, the Richmond, Va.-based Commonwealth Foundation gave the Bridge Project $4.5 million. In a statement, Bill Goodwin, the foundation’s chairman, issued a call to other potential donors.

“We share the Bridge Project’s goal to move important discoveries out of the lab and into the clinic — and hope other families and foundations will be inspired to join this effort,” he said.

Andrew Joseph can be reached at andrew.joseph@statnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @DrewQJoseph. Follow Stat on Twitter: @statnews.