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October 21, 2016

Napster founder to visit Penn for Philly launch of cancer-curing initiative he funded with $250 million

In what seems like an unlikely pairing, Napster founder and founding president of Facebook Sean Parker will be in Philadelphia on Tuesday to celebrate the launch of a cancer-curing initiative at Penn Medicine.

Parker – Silicon Valey techie turned philanthropist – will be participating in a panel discussion for the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, a "groundbreaking collaboration" between Penn and five other medical centers. The initiative was made possible with a whopping $250 million gift from the Parker Foundation that will be divided over time to six partnered centers. The foundation was established by Parker in 2015 with a $600 million gift to help fund ideas and projects in technology, media, company building and public policy.

It's the largest single contribution ever made to the field of immunotherapy, according to Penn Medicine officials.

The event will be at the Henry Jordan Medical Education Center in University City Tuesday at 5:30. Parker will be joined with Penn's scientists and medical professions moderated by ABC's Richard Besser.

The Parker Institue is made up of more than 40 lab researchers from six other medical centers, including Penn. Holly Auer, a Penn Medicine spokesperson, said Parker's upcoming visit is the Philadelphia celebration of the launch. The collaboration was kicked off in Los Angeles in April.

“We are tremendously excited to join this collaboration, which will allow us to investigate promising new immunotherapy avenues for the treatment of cancer outside of our institutional silos in very unique ways,” said the Parker Institute’s Penn director, Dr. Carl June, when the collaboration was announced. “Working together will enable us to make quicker progress as we work to translate our laboratory findings into clinical trials.”

But, why cancer research? Why Penn? Why Philadelphia? Parker doesn't have any ties to the area, whatsoever.

Well, it has nothing to do with the location, really. Parker has a personal interest in immunology. He has an auto-immune disease himself, he said in an interview with Fortune magazine.

He hopes that the collaboration between the handful of leading centers will fast-track research.

“We are at an inflection point in cancer research and now is the time to maximize immunotherapy’s unique potential to transform all cancers into manageable diseases, saving millions of lives,” Parker said after the April launch. “We believe that the creation of a new funding and research model can overcome many of the obstacles that currently prevent research breakthroughs."

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