Napster Cofounder Launches Cancer Initiative

Billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker donates $250 million to unite the cancer research community around the common goal of developing new immunotherapies.

Apr 13, 2016
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA, AMAGERThe Parker Foundation, a philanthropic organization created by Napster cofounder Sean Parker, is giving a big boost to cancer research, with a $250 million donation meant to increase collaboration among scientists and institutions focused on immunotherapy research. The foundation announced its plan to launch the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy today (April 13).

Parker’s cancer immunotherapy initiative will bring together more than 300 scientists in 40 labs at major research institutions, including Stanford University, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the University of Pennsylvania, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, among others. “Cancer immunotherapy is such an incredibly complex field, and for every answer it seems to pose 10 more questions,” Parker told The Washington Post. “I’m an entrepreneur so I wish some of these questions had been answered yesterday.”

The researchers and institutions will share data and intellectual property on innovations that arise from the Parker Foundation-funded work. “The Parker Institute’s goal is to accelerate the development of breakthrough immune therapies capable of turning cancer into a curable disease by ensuring the coordination and collaboration of the field’s top researchers, and quickly turning their findings into patient treatments,” Parker said in a statement.

The Silicon Valley billionaire had previously donated considerable sums to other cancer research programs and other life-science projects. “[Parker] has the twinkle in his eye of a first-year grad student when I start to talk about immunotherapy,” Lewis Lanier, the immunologist who is head of a new Parker Institute at UCSF, told MIT Technology Review.