MIT has announced a $100 million gift from Koch Industries executive and MIT alumnus David H. Koch that will usher in new paradigms in highly integrative cancer research. The gift will bring together MIT scientists and engineers under one roof to develop new and powerful ways to detect, diagnose, treat, and manage this often deadly disease.
The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research–the cornerstone of a major research initiative comparable to MIT’s spearheading the development of radar technology in World War II–will be housed in a new state-of-the-art cancer research facility, scheduled to open in 2010.
The new Koch Institute will build on the pioneering research of MIT’s Center for Cancer Research (CCR), founded by Nobel Prize winner Salvador E. Luria in 1974, and will bring to the next level MIT’s longstanding commitment to unraveling the molecular core of the disease.
“The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research will harness the power of MIT scientists and engineers to address one of the most pressing challenges to human health: The ultimate eradication of cancer, starting with real improvements in detection, treatment and prevention,” commented MIT President Susan Hockfield. “David Koch’s extraordinary generosity will make possible a level of collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and training unparalleled in the world. The convergence of life sciences and engineering enabled by his gift will chart a new course for cancer research, for which we are deeply grateful.”
Unique to the Institute is the concept of pooling MIT’s molecular geneticists and cell biologists with engineers. “This is a new approach to cancer research with the potential to uncover breakthroughs in therapies and diagnostics,” Mr. Koch said. “Conquering cancer will require multi-disciplined initiatives and MIT is positioned to enable that collaboration. As a cancer survivor, I feel especially fortunate to be able to help advance this effort.”
The new institute will house the laboratories of approximately 25 MIT faculty members, including a blend of faculty from the School of Science and from the School of Engineering. Among the scientists are Angelika Amon, winner of the Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation as the nation’s top young scientist or engineer, and Phillip Sharp, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Engineering faculty include Angela Belcher, a MacArthur Award winner who was named Scientific American’s Researcher of the Year in 2006. MIT Professor Robert Langer will also conduct his engineering research within the new Koch Institute. Dr. Langer’s collaborative research efforts have led to numerous patented discoveries and novel ways to improve the clinical management of cancer. He was awarded the 2006 National Medal of Science.
Building on the advances in traditional areas of cancer exploration such as molecular genetics and cellular biology, the state-of-the-art facility will focus on five target areas of research at the intersection of biology and engineering, including (1) defining the specific vulnerabilities of cancer cells by creating a complete “wiring diagram” of the key pathways that allow cancer cells to keep dividing and remain alive; (2) engineering entirely new nanotechnology paradigms for cancer treatment; (3) understanding how tumors evade immune recognition and developing methods to overcome these avoidance mechanisms, including more effective anti-cancer vaccines and other forms of immunotherapy; (4) using powerful new tools to dissect the molecular and cellular basis for metastasis; and (5) shifting the curve of cancer diagnosis and prevention to earlier and earlier stages using advances such as genomics, novel imaging agents and micro-scale monitoring devices.
Tyler Jacks, the David H. Koch Professor of Biology at MIT, will serve as the director of the Koch Institute at MIT. “By housing leading cancer biologists with world-class engineers, we are creating a formidable team motivated to understand cancer and to do something about it. We expect to rapidly deliver important new tools for oncologists and their patients,” Jacks said. “Our goal is to make the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research the gold standard in interdisciplinary disease-focused research. Our organization will build an expanding and highly effective relationship network that also involves other academic oncology centers, industrial partners and cancer-focused foundations. Together we will dramatically expand our research and training efforts and seek to deliver powerful clinical solutions.”
Mr. Koch, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from MIT, is an executive vice president and board member of Koch Industries, Inc., a diverse group of companies with about $90 billion in revenues, 80,000 employees, and a presence in nearly 60 countries. Koch companies are involved in refining and chemicals, process and pollution control equipment and technologies, minerals and fertilizer, fibers and polymers, commodity and financial trading and services, and forest and consumer products.
In addition to his business activities, Mr. Koch has personally pledged and contributed more than $400 million to a wide variety of organizations and programs that further cancer research, enhance medical centers and support educational institutions, and sustain arts and cultural institutions. Mr. Koch received a presidential appointment to the National Cancer Advisory Board of the National Cancer Institute in 2004. His contributions to MIT have established the David H. Koch School of Chemical Engineering Practice, and he has been honored with the dedication of the David H. Koch Biology Building at the university.