Science
7:42 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Power Team: Fred Hutch, Sloan-Kettering Launch Cancer Research Start-Up

Dr. Phil Greenberg, head of the immunology program at Fred Hutchinson, is a co-founder of Juno Therapeutics, a commercial venture.
Credit Fred Hutch Photo/Bo Jungmayer

Imagine if rivals Boeing and Airbus teamed up on a new plane, or Microsoft and Apple built a computer.

That’s a bit like what Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are attempting. Together, the two have launched a start-up, the goal being to develop a new cancer treatment that targets immune cells in the body and turns them into cancer-fighting soldiers.

The partnership includes Seattle Children’s Research Institute, which is working to develop treatment for pediatric cancers. The group has $120 million in initial backing.

As with any new partnership, there will be adjustments. “I can tell you they’re better dressed than we are, that was clear at the meeting,” Dr. Phil Greenberg, an immunologist at Fred Hutchinson, said with a chuckle.

Greenberg, also a co-founder of Juno Therapeutics, the groups’ commercial venture, said that the researchers have known each other’s work for years. That’s what will guide them through the transition, he said.

“Fortunately we’re all scientists,” Greenberg said. “And it’s the data that actually makes the decisions for all of us.”

Greenberg said it makes sense to collaborate in the current financial environment, where research dollars are shrinking. Everybody has to look for ways in which they can stand out, he said.

“One way to stand out is to have more expertise than you have yourself,” he said. “A lot of these collaborative groups have risen largely because of that because it’s an essential component to get funding to support the work.”