News & Notes: Winter/Spring 2023

At The Mark Foundation, we’re proud to see our impact in big and small ways throughout the year. In the past six months, groundbreaking cancer research supported by our award programs led to high-profile publications, including an exciting new finding in the development of certain breast cancers by The Mark Foundation-supported Cancer Grand Challenges SPECIFICANCER team as well as a promising pancreatic cancer vaccine funded in part by an ASPIRE award and Pershing Square Sohn Prize-Mark Foundation Fellowship, to name just two. We’ve also funded exciting new awards with partner organizations around the world and we’re pleased to see Mark Foundation scientists featured as speakers and in leadership roles at conferences worldwide, from AACR to EACR to BioMed Conference Barcelona. Lastly, we’re thrilled to appoint two new high-profile members to our Board of Directors. In this issue of News & Notes, we’re happy to share all of this and much more.

The Mark Foundation Board of Directors Appointments

We’re honored to welcome Nicola Mendelsohn, Head of Global Business Group at Meta, and Otmar Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest scientific organization, to The Mark Foundation Board of Directors. With Nicola’s sharp business acumen and her personal experience as a cancer patient, and with Otmar’s experience running one of the world’s leading cancer institutions, they are well-positioned and uniquely qualified to support the Foundation’s mission. Read More

Nicola was recently featured in a Fortune Magazine article chronicling her rise through the Meta ranks while navigating her incurable cancer. Read Here
New Head of Development
We’re pleased to welcome Amy Fehir as Head of Development for The Mark Foundation. Amy was most recently Senior Director of Business and Program Development at the Milken Institute. Read More
The Mark Foundation Award Announcements
Nicole Cruz, with mentor Robert G. Roeder, at The Rockefeller University, New York, received the latest Mark Foundation for Cancer Research Physician-Scientist award in partnership with Damon Runyon. Nicole will examine how the protein KMT2D regulates gene expression and could potentially be a novel therapeutic target in MLL-rearranged acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer. Read More
Isidro Cortés-Ciriano, a Research Group Leader at EMBL-EBI, received the first EACR-Mark Foundation-Pezcoller Foundation Rising Star Award, presented at the EACR Congress in Torino, Italy in June. Isidro was chosen based on the high quality of his project proposal “IMMUNESCAPE – Dissecting the impact of clonal evolutionary dynamics on tumour immunogenicity.” Read More
In February, ASPIRE Awards granted to twelve outstanding research projects from top academic institutions in Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Spain, and USA, totaling over $4 million, were announced. More than 100 ASPIRE awards have been granted across 12 countries and 58 institutions since the program launched in 2018. Read More
The Mark Foundation announced more than $2 million in funding for two new Drug Discovery Awards chosen to accelerate the trajectory of converting promising scientific discoveries into therapeutics. A project led by Alec Kimmelman, NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Perlmutter Cancer, and Seth Parker, The University of British Columbia, will study novel targets for pancreatic cancer. Jason Sheltzer, Yale University and Jane Endicott, Newcastle University will work toward developing CDK11B inhibitors as a novel anticancer strategy. Read More
Six new Emerging Leader Awards, totaling $4.5 million, were granted to outstanding early-career investigators for projects covering the entire life cycle of cancer, from pre-cancerous conditions and prevention to late-stage metastatic disease. This marks the fifth year The Mark Foundation is encouraging the next generation of oncology superstars through the Emerging Leader Awards program. Our goal is an ongoing relationship with these investigators for years to come. Read More
Grantee Success Story - SPECIFICANCER
The Mark Foundation is a proud supporter of the Cancer Grand Challenges SPECIFICANCER team and their exciting new finding in the development of certain breast cancers. A new paper published in Nature describes a mechanism through which estrogen-induced DNA breaks and their repair by inter-chromosomal translocations initiate a cascade of events that result in oncogene amplification in breast cancer. Congratulations to Peter Park, Jake June-Koo Lee, Stephen Elledge, and the entire SPECIFICANCER team! Read More
Grantee Spotlight - Benjamin Greenbaum
In early June, the report of an early-stage trial where half of pancreatic cancer patients had no tumor recurrence after receiving an mRNA vaccine following surgery was published in Nature. This promising study has been getting much attention, such as this article in The New York Times. The Mark Foundation was acknowledged in the study for our contribution via an ASPIRE II award and Pershing Square Sohn Prize-Mark Foundation Fellowship award to Benjamin Greenbaum of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. While immunotherapy has proven to be a groundbreaking strategy for cancer therapy, it is difficult to predict which patients will benefit. Ben has developed computational models based on cancer patient data to predict more accurately which patients will respond better to immunotherapy.  He is collaborating with Vinod Balachandran to apply some of their more recent results to future vaccine trials.
Investments Spotlight
The Mark Foundation portfolio company Accent Therapeutics has disclosed its lead program, DHX9, which presents a highly promising precision medicine approach for certain patients with colorectal and endometrial cancers. The company shared supporting data for the first time at the AACR Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida in April 2023, where their abstract was selected for oral presentation. DHX9 was discovered through Accent’s platform focused on small molecule inhibitors of RNA-modifying proteins, a bold, target-biology centric approach. This exciting platform first attracted The Mark Foundation to invest in the company’s Series B in 2020 and has yielded multiple first-in-class oncology programs.
Out and About
Mark Foundation CEO Ryan Schoenfeld presented the first EACR-Mark Foundation-Pezcoller Foundation Rising Star award to Isidro Cortés-Ciriano, Research Group Leader at EMBL-EBI, at EACR 2023 in Torino, Italy.
EACR’s The Cancer Researcher Podcast featured Mark Foundation CEO Ryan Schoenfeld, CRUK’s Professor Greg Hannon, and Dr. Arianna Baggiolini of the Institute of Oncology Research in Switzerland sharing their thoughts on grant applications and research funding. Listen In
Our head of venture investments, Anna Turetsky spoke on a powerhouse panel of investors about trends in financing for early-stage life science companies at JNJ Innovation’s “All Funds Are Not Created Equal” program.
The Mark Foundation team at AACR 2023 was delighted to see our impact with eight Major Symposia chaired by our grantees – including three Emerging Leader Awardees Greg Delgoffe, Lydia Lynch, and Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta – an outstanding recognition of these early-career investigators.
Becky Bish attended the Barcelona BioMed Conference at IRB Barcelona featuring talks by Cris Mayor-Ruiz, Dan Nomura, Craig Crews, Georg Winter, and Amit Choudhary, all recipients of Mark Foundation ASPIRE or Drug Discovery Awards.
Dana Farber’s CSO Forum “The Revolutionary Power of Scientific Collaboration” included The Mark Foundation's Becky Bish as a panelist.
Vigorous debate mountainside at the Frontiers in Neuro-Oncology workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in March, sponsored by The Mark Foundation and National Brain Tumor Society.
The Mark Foundation’s Anna Turetsky with friends from the American Cancer Society and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, representing patient-focused cancer investing at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
Georg Winter, Mark Foundation ASPIRE awardee, was selected as winner of the 2023 EFMC Prize in Academia.
Alexander Szalay, a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy on our Mark Foundation Center at Johns Hopkins team, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Alexander and team are developing  Astropath, a cancer-imaging platform utilizing groundbreaking celestial mapping algorithms.
E. John Wherry, member of The Mark Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee, was elected as member of AAAS and received the 2023 AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology.
This year’s Sjöberg Prize was awarded to Professor Kevan Shokat, a Mark Foundation ASPIRE I and II awardee, for a huge scientific breakthrough that is bringing hope to people who are critically ill with lung cancer.
Kevan Shokat (Mark Foundation ASPIRE awardee) and Michelle Monje (organizer of the Oct. ’22 The Mark Foundation pediatric brain tumor workshop), were honored with the prestigious NAS Award.
Jian Ma and Cullen Taniguchi, both recipients of Mark Foundation ASPIRE awards, were honored for their election to the 2022 class of AAAS Fellows.
Published Research
Visit to see our grantees’ recent publications.
The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research actively partners with scientists to accelerate research that will transform the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. We fulfill our mission by supporting groundbreaking science carried out by individual investigators, multi-disciplinary teams, and early-stage companies in the United States and across the globe.
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