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PRESS RELEASE: The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance announces 2016 winners

THE PERSHING SQUARE SOHN CANCER RESEARCH ALLIANCE AWARDS FUNDING TO SEVEN NEW YORK CITY-BASED CANCER RESEARCH SCIENTISTS

The Pershing Square Sohn Prize winners are making bold advances in research for all cancers including leukemia, lymphoma, lung, pancreatic, and breast cancer

 NEW YORK, May 4, 2016 – The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance (“the Alliance”) today announced seven winners of the third annual Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research (“the Pershing Square Sohn Prize”). Each will receive $200,000 in funding per year for up to three years to enable them to continue to pursue explorative and high-risk/high-reward research. Due to the number of high-caliber applicants, in addition to six winners fully funded by the Alliance, this year marks the formation of a unique partnership with The New York Community Trust (“The Trust”), which will support a seventh prize winner.

The Pershing Square Sohn Prize will enable each exemplary recipient to pursue groundbreaking research at a stage where traditional funding is often lacking. With this support, the Alliance continues to identify and support future leaders and innovators who can accelerate the potential for cures. The funding will permit continued work in the search for new therapeutic avenues on cancer treatment and eradication.  Specific areas of study include genetic alterations in malignant cells, treatment options for radioresistant cancers, and the creation of a new technique to scan proteins.

Formed in 2013, this highly competitive initiative was created by a $25 million alliance formed by The Pershing Square Foundation and The Sohn Conference Foundation to help bridge the gap between academia and the business community. The Pershing Square Sohn Prize is awarded to scientists based in New York City, a hub for a number of leading academic institutions, research facilities, and hospitals. In order to facilitate these collaborations, each Prize winner is given a mentor in the pharmaceutical industry and the opportunity to present his or her work to scientific and business audiences. In the three years since its inception, The Alliance has already established itself as an innovator in the world of philanthropy due to its unique and exemplary methods of identifying talent and vetting potential candidates.

This year’s winners are:

  • Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Dr. Abdel-Wahab’s research focuses on the identification of novel transcripts, pathways, and therapeutic strategies to target spliceosomal-mutant malignancies in leukemias.
  • Uttiya Basu, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center: Dr. Basu’s research focuses on infections disease induced DNA alterations in B cell malignancies. The goal is to develop antibody mediated-therapy for B cell lymphomas.
  • Christopher Mason, PhD, Weill Cornell Medical College: A finalist in last year’s prize, Dr. Mason’s research focuses on using new computational and biochemical methods to target and re-program specific sites of epigenetic aggressiveness in AML (acute myeloid leukemia) patients.
  • Agnel Sfeir, PhD, NYU School of Medicine: Dr. Sfeir’s research focuses on identifying the molecular players in the chromosome biology of breast cancers. The goal is to uncover the mechanistic basis of DNA double-strand pathway repairs and reduce the initiation, progression, and drug resistance of cancers.
  • Samuel Sidi, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai: Dr. Sidi’s research focuses on genetic mutations in tumors and the creation of the first viable treatment options for patients with radioresistant cancer. He is being funded through the partnership with The New York Community Trust, which has several permanent funds dedicated to cancer research. The Trust targets them to support innovative, early-career researchers at New York institutions. It will use two funds, the Carol and Charles Spaeth Memorial Fund and the Traer Fund, to support one of the Pershing Square Sohn Young Investigator Awards.
  • Christopher Vakoc, MD, PhD, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: A finalist in last year’s prize, Dr. Vakoc research employs a novel CRISPR technique for ‘scanning’ proteins that reveals the key molecular details for how they can cause a cancer, which may guide the development of next generation cancer therapies.
  • Andrea Ventura, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Dr. Ventura’s research applies new genome-editing technologies to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying lung cancer initiation and progression to help model and possibly overcome acquired resistance to targeted anti-cancer therapies in multiple forms of cancer.

Additional details about the Prize winners can be found on the PSSCRA website at http://psscra.org/winners/.

“We are pleased to announce our third cohort of the Pershing Square Sohn Prize winners,” said Bill Ackman, co-founder of The Pershing Square Foundation and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. “We formed this prize to enable talented scientists to pursue bold research at a critical time in their careers. We are extremely pleased with the network the Pershing Square Sohn Prize has created and hope through collaboration we can accelerate the potential for a cure.”

“The Sohn Conference Foundation has a long history of supporting those who aim to find an end to the plague of cancer,” said Evan Sohn, vice president of the Sohn Conference Foundation. “In recent years, the science community has made notable progress in this journey for a cure, although much work still remains. This Prize ensures that our most talented minds are able to pursue their life altering work as they continue the fight against cancer’s relentless assault on our global community.”

“Once again, the quality of this year’s applicant pool was truly superlative and we continue to be deeply impressed with the research conducted by these young investigators as well as the spirit of collaboration among New York’s life-sciences researchers and the institutions with whom they’re working,” said Olivia Tournay Flatto, President of the Pershing Square Foundation. “We are thrilled to name these newest researchers as Pershing Square Sohn Research Alliance Prize winners and look forward to witnessing the culmination of their efforts as they search for innovative and groundbreaking cures and treatments.”

“Our partnership with the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance pairs their rigorous selection process for identifying promising local cancer researchers with funds in The New York Community Trust dedicated to advancing the field of medicine,” said Irfan Hasan, The Trust’s senior program officer for health.

As part of the selection process, The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance relied on the guidance of a highly accomplished advisory board that reflects the culture of collaboration the Alliance wanted to implement. Prize Advisory Board members include Jeanne B. Ackman, MD, Director, Thoracic MRI, Radiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School; Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD, President , Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer, Inc.; Laurie Glimcher, MD, Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean, Weill Cornell Medical College; Allan Goodman, PhD, President and CEO, The Institute of International Education; Pablo Legorreta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Royalty Pharma; Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center, Author of “The Emperor of All Maladies”; James E. Rothman, PhD, Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Yale University, 2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine; Bruce Stillman, PhD, President and CEO, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Marc Tessier-Lavigne, PhD, President, The Rockefeller University; and Craig Thompson, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.   

About The Pershing Square Foundation

The Pershing Square Foundation is a private family foundation, based in New York, founded in December 2006 by Karen and Bill Ackman. The Foundation has committed more than $375 million in grants and social investments to support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable impact. Bill is the CEO and portfolio manager of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P. For more information visit: www.pershingsquarefoundation.org.

About The Sohn Conference Foundation

The Sohn Conference Foundation is dedicated to the treatment and cure of pediatric cancer and other childhood diseases. The Foundation supports cutting-edge medical research, state-of-the-art research equipment, and innovative programs to ensure that children with cancer survive and thrive. The Foundation raises its funds through premier investment conferences and special events, including its renowned annual New York Sohn Investment Conference.

Founded in 1995, the Conference honors the memory of Ira Sohn, a Wall Street Professional who lost his battle with cancer at age 29. The Foundation has expanded its reach to include the Sohn London Conference, Sohn San Francisco Conference, Sohn Canada Conference, Sohn Hong Kong Conference, and Sohn Tel Aviv Conference. To date, the Foundation has raised $70 million. More information on the Sohn Investment Conference is available at www.sohnconference.org.

About The New York Community Trust

Since 1924, The New York Community Trust has been the home of charitable New Yorkers who are committed to improving life and work in the City and its suburbs. Thanks to donors—including teachers and nurses, entrepreneurs and investors—The Trust supports effective nonprofits that help make New York a vital place to live, learn, work, and play, while building permanent resources for the future. The Trust welcomes new donors. Information at nycommunitytrust.org.

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