Massachusetts General Hospital has announced the inaugural recipients of the Krantz Awards — the hospital’s most significant internal funding opportunity for trailblazing cancer research and innovation. The award series was established in 2023 by philanthropists Jason and Keely Krantz to catalyze research projects within the Krantz Family Center for Cancer Research at Mass General that are believed to have the potential to change the course of cancer treatment and care.
“The innovative insight on display in these proposals is testament to the passion, intellect and exceptional skill of our Krantz Center teams,” says Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, director of Mass General Cancer Center and the Krantz Family Center for Cancer Research. “Together, these projects have the potential to tackle fundamental challenges in cancer research and have major impact on developing new treatments for cancer.”
The review committee, which includes Mass General Cancer Center scientific and clinical leadership and external advisors, issued 12 awards in four categories, totaling $6 million in funding.
2023 Krantz Award Recipients
The Quantum Award was conceived to support research projects that have the potential to transform the understanding and treatment of cancer. The inaugural Krantz Quantum Award was presented to the team of Liron Bar-Peled, PhD, Michael Lawrence, PhD, and Chris Ott, PhD.
The team will receive $2 million over two years to explore a new chemical technology to target transcription factors, a type of protein that can act as a genetic driver of cancer. Transcription factors are considered “undruggable” with current therapies. If their collaborative work is successful, Drs. Bar-Peled, Lawrence and Ott — who each oversee their own individual labs in the Krantz Center — could help usher in a new class of cancer therapeutics.
“Transcription factors account for almost 20% of all known cancer-causing genes,” says Dr. Haber. “This visionary project could open a transformative new front in the battle against many currently untreatable cancers.”
The Breakthrough Awards were established to advance and accelerate promising scientific concepts in cancer research. The following teams will each receive $1 million over two years:
- Max Jan MD, PhD, Robert Manguso, PhD, Marcela Maus MD, PhD, and Debattama Sen, PhD, are working to optimize CAR T-cell immunotherapy by improving the technology’s ability to kill cancer cells, reducing treatment failure (so-called CAR T-cell “exhaustion”), and developing ways to prevent side effects and toxicity in the patient.
- Genevieve Boland MD, PhD, Russ Jenkins MD, PhD, and Moshe Sade-Feldman, PhD, are using a combination of surgical expertise, in vitro culture technologies and molecular sequencing to identify optimal strategies for using adoptive T-cell therapy, a promising immunotherapy approach utilizing the body’s natural tumor-seeking immune cells.
- Nabeel Bardeesy, PhD, and Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD, are exploring if targeting the genes that control cancer cell metabolism can be used to suppress the disease.
The Spark Awards are intended to allow researchers to test exciting and thought-provoking new ideas. The following Krantz Center scientists will each receive $100,000 in funding:
- Andrew Elia, MD, PhD, to study the role of DNA damage pathways within immune cells.
- Gad Getz, PhD, to develop a deep learning molecular language model for cancer drug discovery.
- Abner Louissaint, MD, PhD, to create and test models of patient-derived lymphomas.
- Mo Motamedi, PhD, to explore chromatin regulation in combination with cancer chemotherapy.
- Shannon Stott, PhD, to study non-invasive blood testing for immunotherapy complications.
Technology Support Fund
In addition to the research-focused awards, the Krantz family also established a Technology Support Fund to provide for the addition of cutting-edge equipment and technological innovation. This year’s awards include funds to support the purchase of advanced microscopy, flow cytometry, real-time cell culture technologies and high content imaging data handling.
About the Awards and the Krantz Family Center for Cancer Research
The Krantz Awards are at the heart of the Krantz family’s landmark gift to Mass General Cancer Center. The September 2023 gift, which also included an endowment to ensure the sustainability of the Krantz Center’s work, was the largest contribution in the 34-year history of Mass General Cancer Center and the largest cancer research-directed gift in the hospital’s history. In recognition of their landmark commitment, Mass General Cancer Center’s Center for Cancer Research was renamed the Krantz Family Center for Cancer Research.
“Mass General is at the center of the biotech universe,” says Jason Krantz, founder, CEO and executive chairman of Definitive Healthcare. “By focusing our investment there, we are showing the world our confidence that Mass General has what it takes to lead the way in cancer research, and the broader medical discoveries that are certain to follow for patients everywhere.”
With 50 independent laboratory-based faculty members with appointments across Mass General and Harvard Medical School, and more than 500 postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, trainees and technicians, the Krantz Family Center for Cancer Research is home to some of the brightest scientific minds all focused on one goal: understanding the fundamental biology that drives cancer and applying that knowledge toward its eradication. Beyond its international reputation for scientific excellence, the Krantz Center is also known for a culture of collaboration and partnership between the lab and the clinic. The Krantz Awards are intended to capitalize and further cultivate this powerful engine for scientific discovery.
“Jason and Keely’s generosity and partnership will have profound impact, energizing the careers of many of our scientists, launching Mass General into the highest realm of cancer discovery and, ultimately, making a difference for cancer patients around the world,” says Dr. Haber.
Learn more about the Krantz Awards here.