Birthing the Boston Immunotherapy Initiative

Birthing the Boston Immunotherapy Initiative

This spring, the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) began to put together a new collaborative network, the Boston Immunotherapy Initiative (BII), dedicated to accelerating the transition of promising vaccines and immunotherapies into clinical trials. The Boston Immunotherapy Initiative seeks to identify new vaccine and immunotherapy approaches with significant potential to prevent and treat cancer, infectious diseases and other immune-mediated diseases, and provide critical bridge funding to enable their rapid transition into clinical testing.

The first phase of BII has been funded by philanthropist Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who in January had announced Cancer Moonshot 2020 program, a private effort to establish a new approach to cancer treatment. He provided initial funding for BII with the idea that the Initiative could serve as a means of stimulating new immunotherapy-based clinical trials using a rapid, milestone-based funding approach with promising technologies and bringing a network of industry, regulatory, and manufacturing experts alongside investigators to guide these immunotherapy efforts toward success.

The immediate goal of BII is to identify promising new therapeutics that could rapidly move into clinical trials, and to fund up to three of these projects this year. The first round of applications will be received on June 10 with anticipated funding in the summer.

As part of formative planning, VIC has initiated discussions with investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Tufts Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital to create the core of the collaborative effort. This was followed by a call for applications from these institutions. A number of proposals are now in full application development for review by a group of scientists and industry leaders in the summer.

Dr. Soon-Shiong visited Massachusetts General Hospital in May to hear about the progress of BII and to present his vision of the Cancer Moonshot 2020 program. The briefing was attended by representatives from the collaborating institutions in the BII, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Tufts Medical Center.