Sean Parker Is Using His Facebook Millions To Help Find A Cure For Cancer
Keeping the tech philanthropy train moving in a big way, Napster co-founder Sean Parker is donating $250 million to help cure cancer. The gift will launch the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which will work with six U.S. medical schools and research centers. Parker accumulated much of his wealth from being an early investor in Facebook.
The donation and creation of the institute follow prior investments Parker made with cancer researcher Carl June. The University of Pennsylvania researcher was one of the first to use the immune system as a way to fight cancer. He found a cure for chemo-resistant leukemia that sounds pretty out there. It involves taking the T-cells out of your blood, genetically engineering them to attack the cancer and then putting them back into your veins. In 90 percent of cases, the cancer went away.
The University of Pennsylvania is one of the schools that will be working with Parker's institute. Researchers there and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford Medicine, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will receive funding as well as access to shared resources like data scientists and genetic engineering equipment. A total of 40 labs and 300 researchers are involved.
"We are at an inflection point in cancer research and now is the time to maximize immunotherapy's unique potential to transform all cancers into manageable diseases, saving millions of lives," Parker said in a statement. One of his main goals is simplifying the bureaucracy that keeps scientists from building on each other's discoveries. In doing so, he said he hopes to, "broadly disseminate discoveries and, most importantly, more rapidly deliver treatments to patients."
One big change — one of the most contentious for the partner institutions — will be how the treatments are brought to market. Parker's institute will take the lead in licensing and marketing treatments with industry. The rights, however, will belong to the researchers and partner institutions. "This allows us to run a much more competitive negotiation with industry. We would become a kind of one-stop shop for the technology," Parker told the The Washington Post.
Parker is worth about $3 billion. He gave $600 million to start the umbrella Sean N. Parker Foundation and has made other investments in health to fight allergies and diabetes. He explained his stance on philanthropy in The Wall Street Journal in 2015, laying out his blueprint of philanthropy by and for hackers:
Hackers have shown themselves to be less interested in this conventional form of philanthropy. Instead, they want to know that they are having an impact that can be measured and felt. This is where the hackers' ability to spot problem that are solvable gives them a decisive advantage.
Some of his solutions included giving early, using a lot of your money quickly, bet big, and focus on solvable problems. His donations seem to be following his mantra.