Texas rustles Dana-Farber science team to spearhead $75M cancer R&D effort

With an eye to ramping up some ambitious new R&D work on a new generation of cancer therapies, Houston's renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center has poached 55 scientists from the equally well known Belfer Institute at Dana-Farber, including a big part of its leadership group, to run a new cancer drug research center that promises to help fill what it sees as a growing void in early-stage research efforts.

Backed with a $75 million pledge, MD Anderson is launching "The Institute for Applied Cancer Science" with a plan to get directly involved in drug development work. The move to rustle top scientists from Boston comes just weeks after the Belfer Institute's Ron DePinho was brought in to run it.

"Pharmaceutical companies have downsized their internal research programs," DePinho tells the local public radio station. "Biotechnology companies, which serve as the pipeline from academia to large pharma, are under significant stress due to the economic crisis." So he says the new institute will step in to help fill the gap, as he sees it.

Several years ago, Texas lawmakers agreed to back an ambitious public effort to support cancer drug research in the state. MD Anderson is part of the University of Texas system. It will be interesting to see if DePinho and his relocated team can attract the interest of pharma companies, some of which have been ramping up operations in Boston specifically to get closer to the academic work under way at Dana-Farber.

- read the story from Houston Public Radio and Kaiser Health News