Melanoma Research Alliance Announces $8.2 Million for 33 Grant Awards to Advance Melanoma Research

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In advance of Melanoma Awareness Month, the Melanoma Research Alliance
(MRA), the largest non-profit funder of melanoma research, today
announced funding for 33 innovative research awards totaling $8.26
million.

The newly selected research awards will address critical unmet needs in
melanoma detection, prognostication and treatment. Five awards – three
of which were generously funded by the Michael and Jacqueline Ferro
Family Foundation
– will investigate ways to better harness
artificial intelligence to improve the early detection and prognosis of
melanoma. Several other projects will examine novel drug targets, new
treatment approaches for brain metastases, and ways to overcome targeted
therapy resistance.

“For so many patients and loved ones who have been affected by melanoma,
research is hope,” said Debra Black cofounder and chair of MRA. “While
progress is steadily being made, we won’t stop until we have cured
melanoma. MRA-funded research is accelerating our progress toward better
treatments and ultimately a cure for this disease.”

These new research awards come at a critical time, as rates of melanoma
have doubled over the last 30 years. This year in the United States more
than 96,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma and over 7,000 people
will succumb to the disease.

“While the explosive rate of new melanoma cases is alarming, I am
encouraged by the reduced rate of mortality from melanoma. This is a
testament to the vast progress we are making in the lab and in the
clinic,” said MRA Chief Science Officer, Marc Hurlbert, PhD. “We still
have a long way to go, but we are making headway. Additional investment
in basic and clinical research is essential to keep the momentum.”

The new awards will support research at 28 institutions in seven
countries, comprising 16 Established Investigators, 12 Young
Investigators and five Pilot awards. The grants were selected by MRA’s Grant
Review Committee
through a diligent peer review process and
confirmed by the MRA Board of Directors. The awards announced today
bring MRA’s total investment in life-saving melanoma research to over
$110 million, in addition to $150 million in outside, leveraged funds.

“At MRA, we’ve seen our funded research translate to true real world
improvements in the prevention, detection and treatment of melanoma. We
have no doubt that these new awards will take us even closer to
achieving our goal of ending pain and suffering due to melanoma,” said
MRA President & CEO Michael Kaplan.

MRA’s 2019 grant awards are made possible through the significant
contributions of individuals, families, institutions and corporate
allies. Donors and partners providing financial support for 75% or more
of an award are listed below within the named award.

2019 Grant Awards

Established Investigator Awards

Epigenetic Regulation of Resistance to Targeted Therapies in Melanoma

MRA Established Investigator Award
Rhoda Alani M.D., Boston
University

Targeting MAPK and PI3K signaling via CK2 inhibition in acral melanoma

MRA Established Investigator Award, collaboratively funded by
Columbia University

Angela Christiano Ph.D., Columbia University

Applying AI to Assess Histologic Features to Improve Melanoma
Diagnosis

Michael and Jacqueline Ferro Family Foundation – MRA Established
Investigator Award for Artificial Intelligence Applied to Melanoma

Joann
Elmore M.D., M.P.H., University of California Los Angeles

DGAT1 is a novel melanoma oncogene

MRA Established Investigator Award
Adam Hurlstone Ph.D.,
University of Manchester

Eradicating melanoma drug-tolerant cells

MRA Established Investigator Award
Jean-Christophe Marine
Ph.D., VIB

Enhanced-OCT for discriminating nevi from melanomas

Michael and Jacqueline Ferro Family Foundation – MRA Established
Investigator Award for Artificial Intelligence Applied to Melanoma

Mohammadreza
Nasiriavanaki Ph.D., Wayne State University

Developing a predictive tool using machine learning algorithm in
melanoma

MRA Established Investigator Award, collaboratively funded by New
York University School of Medicine

Iman Osman M.D., New York
University School of Medicine

Metabolic Control of T cell Senescence for Melanoma Immunotherapy

MRA Established Investigator Award
Guangyong Peng M.D.,
Ph.D., Saint Louis University

Preclinical development of a disrupter of BRAF-containing dimers

MRA Established Investigator Award
Neal Rosen M.D., Ph.D.,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Studying the effects of intra-tumor heterogeneity on anti-tumor
immunity

MRA Established Investigator Award
Yardena Samuels Ph.D.,
Weizmann Institute

Nanomedicine targeting melanoma-astrocytes interplay in 3D brain
metastases

MRA Established Investigator Award
Ronit Satchi-Fainaro
Ph.D., Tel-Aviv University

Targeting CD39 in melanoma

MRA Established Investigator Award
Mark Smyth Ph.D., The
Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research

Mechanism of EBF3 Tumor Suppression in Melanoma

MRA Established Investigator Award
Hensin Tsao MD, PhD,
Massachusetts General Hospital (The General Hospital Corp.)

Proof of practice: melanoma screening using computer vision

MRA Established Investigator Award, collaboratively funded by
University of California, San Francisco

Maria Wei M.D., Ph.D.,
University of California, San Francisco

Understanding and targeting metabolic heterogeneity in melanoma

MRA Established Investigator Award
Bin Zheng Ph.D.,
Massachusetts General Hospital

Finding Pathways That Drive T-Cells Into Melanoma

MRA Established Investigator Award
Leonard I. Zon M.D.,
Harvard University


Young Investigator Awards

Identification of metabolic liabilities of melanoma cells

MRA Young Investigator Award
Kivanc Birsoy Ph.D., The
Rockefeller University

Discovering unconventional CD8+ T-cell epitopes in metastatic melanoma

Bristol-Myers Squibb – MRA Young Investigator Award in Immunotherapy
Yiwen
Chen Ph.D., University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Optimization of GITR antibodies for melanoma immunotherapy

MRA Young Investigator Award, collaboratively funded by Weizmann
Institute of Science

Rony Dahan Ph.D., Weizmann Institute

Targeting copy number alterations to overcome immune evasion in
melanoma

Julie and Edward J. Minskoff – MRA Young Investigator Award
Teresa
Davoli Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine

Microbial metabolites in immunotherapy of malignant melanoma

Bristol-Myers Squibb – MRA Young Investigator Award in Immunotherapy
Simon
Heidegger M.D., Klinikum rechts der Isar der Technische Universitat
Munchen

TANK-Binding Kinase 1 (TBK1) As A Novel Cancer Immunotherapy Target

Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation – MRA Young Investigator Award
Russell
Jenkins M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital

Transcriptional and Epigenetic Regulators of Melanoma Initiation

MRA Young Investigator Award
Charles K. Kaufman M.D., Ph.D.,
Washington University in St. Louis

Dissecting tumor-immune cell interactions in uveal melanoma

Ellen and Gary Davis – MRA Young Investigator Award
Ashley
Laughney Ph.D., Weill Cornell Medical College

Identifying new molecular targets and drugs to treat resistant
Melanoma

Jill and Jay Bernstein – MRA Young Investigator Award
Nir
London Ph.D., Weizmann Institute

Factors that Influence Artificial Intelligence-based Melanoma
Diagnosis

Michael and Jacqueline Ferro Family Foundation – MRA Young
Investigator Award for Artificial Intelligence Applied to Melanoma

Veronica
Rotemberg M.D., Ph.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Elucidating cross-presentation of melanoma-derived antigens

Lee Grinberg Family – MRA Young Investigator Award
Stefani
Spranger Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The multifaceted Ambra1-based signaling in melanoma response to
therapy

MRA Young Investigator Award
Daniela De Zio Ph.D., Kraeftens
Bekaempelse


Pilot Awards:

Development of Novel YAP-TEAD Inhibitors for Uveal Melanoma

MRA Pilot Award
Fernando Camargo Ph.D., Children’s Hospital
Boston

Mitochondrial Control of Melanoma Initiation

MRA Pilot Award, collaboratively funded by Icahn School of Medicine
at Mount Sinai

Jerry Chipuk Ph.D., Icahn School of Medicine at
Mount Sinai

Blood vessel co-option by brain tropic melanoma cells

MRA Pilot Award
Andrew Dudley Ph.D., The University of
Virginia

Spliced immune receptors for immune regulation and melanoma
immunotherapy

MRA Pilot Award
Michal Lotem M.D., Hadassah Hebrew
University Medical Center

Targeting ferroptosis to combat resistant forms of melanoma

MRA Pilot Award
James Olzmann Ph.D., University of
California, Berkeley

About Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA)

Founded in 2007 under the auspices of the Milken Institute, with the
generous support of Debra and Leon Black, the Melanoma Research Alliance
exists to accelerate treatment options and find a cure for melanoma. As
the largest nonprofit funder of melanoma research, it has dedicated over
$110 million and leveraged an additional $150 million towards its
mission. Through its support, MRA has championed revolutions in
immunotherapy, targeted therapies, novel combinations and diagnostics.
Due to the ongoing support of its founders, 100 percent of donations to
MRA go directly to its melanoma research program. MRA’s ability to fund
wide-ranging research in melanoma is amplified by unique collaborations
and partnerships with individuals, private foundations, and
corporations. Visit http://www.CureMelanoma.org
for more information.

Contacts

Cody R. Barnett, Director of Communications
M: (717) 880-7100
E-mail:
cbarnett@curemelanoma.org

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