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PRESS RELEASE: PERSHING SQUARE SOHN PRIZE AWARDS $4.2M TO SEVEN “NEXT GENERATION” INNOVATORS IN CANCER RESEARCH

PERSHING SQUARE SOHN PRIZE AWARDS $4.2M TO SEVEN “NEXT GENERATION” INNOVATORS IN CANCER RESEARCH

 The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance Has Invested Over $22 Million in the New York Life Science Ecosystem by Funding NYC’s Most Innovative Cancer Researchers

 NEW YORK, May 21, 2019 – The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance today announced the seven winners of the 2019 Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research, awarded annually to talented New York City-area cancer research scientists and physician-scientists.  The Prize, totaling $4.2 million in funding awarded, emboldens early-career investigators to pursue research projects at a stage when traditional funding is lacking. Recipients receive $200,000 per year for up to three years.  The awards will be presented on May 22, 2019.

Over the past six years, the Alliance has awarded over $22 million to 39 talented scientists.  With this funding, provided at the early stage of their promising careers, the recipients are growing New York City as a biomedical research hub.  In addition to funding, the Alliance provides Prize winners with opportunities to present their work to scientific and business audiences, helping to bridge the gap between the academic and business communities.

“We are so proud of the seven passionate, brilliant and innovative recipients of this year’s Pershing Square Sohn Prize,” said Bill Ackman, Co-Founder of The Pershing Square Foundation and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P.  “To date, the Pershing Square Sohn Prize has been awarded to 39 outstanding scientists who think unconventionally and explore new areas of research as they work to discover novel cancer therapies.  We are honored to partner with them.”

The winners of the 2019 Pershing Square Sohn Prize are:

  • Swarnali Acharyya, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center: Dr. Acharyya’s project will study the biology of metastatic progression and the systemic changes induced by these tumors. Her group will investigate how tumor factors induce muscle wasting, a debilitating condition associated with advanced cancer. Many cancer patients die from the systemic effects of their tumors and this work could lead to an alternative strategy of treating cancer that could prolong patient survival.
  • Adrienne Boire, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Boire studies the spread of cancer into the spinal fluid (Leptomeningeal metastasis, “LM”). Her project will explore how cancer cells exploit immune cells in order to metastasize and spread into the spinal fluid through a structure called the choroid plexus. Unlocking the mechanisms by which cancer cells spread into the spinal fluid will reveal potential targets for therapy and a novel approach for LM treatment.
  • Yael David, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Dr. David’s research looks at how cancer cells evade damage from modifications to proteins in the cell after exposure to sugars, known as glycation. She hypothesizes that through overexpressing the gene DJ-1, these cancer cells survive and thrive in an unstable metabolic environment that would typically induce cell death.
  • Matthew Greenblatt, MD, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine: Dr. Greenblatt’s research will focus on tumor growth in the bone. His lab has discovered the presence of different stem cells in the bone and how specific groups of skeletal cells participate in the ability of tumors to destroy bone. This research will establish a new paradigm for how tumors interact with bone and will lead to the development of drugs that promote the growth of cells that make the bone inhospitable for cancer growth and prevent bone destruction.
  • Liam Holt, PhD, New York University School of Medicine: Dr. Holt is combining technologies from bioengineering and concepts from biophysics to understand the relationship between compression, the physical properties of cells and cancer behavior. His project will examine how pancreatic cancer cells adapt to survive under the physical pressure that builds up in tumors, and how this adaptation could be reversed to drive cancer cell death.
  • Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – Mathers Foundation Fellow: The laboratory of Dr. Kentsis studies DNA transposase molecules that can mediate ‘cut-and-paste’ rearrangements of human genes and can cause mutations in childhood and select adult tumors. The goal is to develop new therapies to treat cancers caused by such “jumping genes” and to develop potential strategies for their prevention.
    Dr. Kentsis is being funded in partnership with The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation, which aims to advance knowledge in the life sciences by sponsoring scientific research that will benefit mankind. Basic scientific research, with potential translational application, is central to this goal, and fundamental to their operating principles.
  • Daniel Mucida, PhD, The Rockefeller University – Mathers Foundation Fellow: Mucida studies the role of immune cells called Intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) in the surveillance of the intestinal epithelial barrier and their role in the initiation or progression of colorectal cancer. Using novel imaging tools and genetic approaches, they will address whether IEL surveillance of the epithelial layer prevents the development of cancer, for example, by killing transformed epithelial cells. The goal is to help prevent damaged epithelial cells from progressing into cancer and to reveal new targets for immune therapies.
    Dr. Mucida is also generously being funded in partnership with The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation.

“We continue to be impressed by the superb quality of the scientific proposals we receive as well as the exceptionally talented researchers that are working in the New York academic institutions,” said Olivia Tournay Flatto, PhD, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance and President of The Pershing Square Foundation.  “It is our goal to build a community of innovative and talented individuals and to connect them with a family of funders and collaborators in pursuit of novel ideas, therapies, technologies, and, ultimately, knowledge.”

“The work to find new treatments and cures for cancer continues to be an urgent global health priority so we are heartened by the research approaches of this year’s Prize winners,” said Evan Sohn, Vice President of the Sohn Conference Foundation.  “We are confident that with the passion, creativity, and insights we’ve seen from this group of scientists, they will make discoveries that will have a lasting impact for the patients for whom our Foundation fights.”

“The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation is pleased to partner with the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance in our pursuit of scientific excellence. Our two organizations share many common goals and visions, and an outstanding selection process is used to support the most innovative and promising proposals in cancer research in the New York metropolitan area,” Howard A. Chester, MD, Executive Director of the of the Mathers Foundation remarked. “The 2019 Pershing Square Sohn Prize Mathers Foundation Fellows, Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Daniel Mucida, PhD, at The Rockefeller University, are early career investigators whose research proposals are truly innovative and promising. Dr. Kentsis’ proposal should uncover new principles and mechanisms controlling aberrant genetic pathways in solid tumor development, and Dr. Mucida’s project should provide a better understanding of the role of immune cells in the microbiome, and future immune strategies in treating chronic inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and colorectal cancer.”

As part of the selection process, the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance relied on the guidance of a highly accomplished advisory board.

Prize Advisory Board members include: Jeanne B. Ackman, MD, Director, Thoracic MRI, Radiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School; Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD, President, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer, Inc.; Allan Goodman, PhD, President and CEO, The Institute of International Education; Pablo Legorreta, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Royalty Pharma; Richard P. Lifton, MD, PhD, President, The Rockefeller University; Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology, Columbia University Medical Center, and Author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate History; James E. Rothman, PhD, Fergus F. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Yale University and 2013 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine; Bruce Stillman, PhD, President and CEO, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Craig Thompson, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and George D. Yancopoulos, MD, PhD, President and Chief Scientific Officer, Regeneron.

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

Link to press release on Business Wire. 

About The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance was formed in 2013 through a $25 million commitment by The Pershing Square Foundation, which partnered with The Sohn Conference Foundation.  The Alliance is dedicated to playing a catalytic role in accelerating cures for cancer by supporting innovative cancer research and by facilitating collaborations between academia and industry.  Annually, the Alliance awards the Pershing Square Sohn Prize to young New York based scientists who are engaged in cutting-edge cancer research. For more information, visit http://psscra.org/.

About The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation

The mission of The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation is to advance knowledge in the life sciences by sponsoring scientific research that will benefit mankind. Basic scientific research, with potential translational application, is central to this goal, and fundamental to its operating principles. For more information: http://www.mathersfoundation.org/.