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Collaboration Breaks Down Walls and Moves Ideas Forward

By BCRF | October 17, 2016

BCRF fosters collaboration across industry and funded investigators to benefit those living with breast cancer

Collaboration across scientific disciplines and institutions is critical to advancing breast cancer research to benefit patients living with the disease. BCRF promotes collaboration among its researchers, and just as these collaborations move the field forward, so do BCRF’s partnerships and collaborations with other nonprofit organizations and industry partners.

BCRF Joins Forces with a Community to Benefit Patients Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC)

BCRF has been a member of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance (MBC Alliance) since its inception in 2013 and today, the Alliance is the largest collaboration of its kind for MBC with more than 40 organizations involved. Breast cancer nonprofits, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, advocates and advocate organizations are committed to working together in the Alliance with three overarching goals:

1. advance research for metastatic breast cancer

2. increase support service for patients living with MBC

3. increase awareness of MBC.

BCRF plays an active role in each of the Alliance’s focus areas with contributions from each of the Research Program staff;  BCRF associate director of grants Dr. Margaret Flowers is currently leading one of the Alliance Research Taskforce sub-groups. The group convened a think tank in January 2016 of more than 50 representatives from academia, government, industry and patient advocacy to discuss gaps and opportunities in clinical and translational research in MBC. The think tank discussions resulted in more than a dozen recommendations that if enacted would stand to improve MBC research and impact the lives of people living with this disease.

Dr. Maneesh Kumar, BCRF program manager, mentored an undergraduate student on the development of a visualization tool that will facilitate information sharing about clinical trials in MBC among researchers and inform patients of outcomes of clinical trial for specific therapies. Read more about this project in a blog from the MBC Alliance.

Dr. Marc Hurlbert, BCRF’s chief mission officer, is currently serving as the MBC Alliance Chair. Dr Hurlbert is involved in nearly every aspect of Alliance goals and strategic planning.

Sharing Ideas That Build Best Practices and Enhance BCRF’s Impact

The Health Research Alliance (HRA) is a coalition of nonprofit, non-governmental funders of biomedical research that fosters collaboration across the funding community to advance research and improve outcomes for patients of a variety of chronic or fatal diseases from Alzheimer’s to autism to heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy and many cancers.  Member organizations work together to share best practices in grant management, program evaluation and communication to ensure that the maximum donor dollars go to support the mission and goals of each organization.  As BCRF’s research program continues to expand, it benefits from the experience of other nonprofit funders.

Another crucial aspect of HRA is its ability to compile data on the grant programs of it member organization. In a 2012 article, HRA reported grant data on 32 member organizations who provided data between 2006-2008. Over the three-year period, HRA members awarded 9,934 grants, totaling $2,712,418,254 in research and training support. Grant funding increased by 26% between 2006 and 2008. In contrast, NIH research spending increased by only 3% over the same time. Such analyses highlight the impact of nonprofit funders in supporting biomedical research. HRA can conduct these analyses because all member organizations code their grants using a standard coding system that allows comparisons against other funders, such as the NIH. For more about BCRF’s program, read our announcement on new awards for 2016.

As a member of the HRA, BCRF attends its biannual meeting held in the spring and fall. The meetings include invited speakers on key topics, discussion, and breakout sessions that foster collaboration and build best practices. BCRF’s Dr. Maneesh Kumar attended the most recent meeting in Bethesda, MD September 27 and 28, where Dr. Luciano Borio, acting chief scientist of the FDA, discussed how nonprofit funders and the FDA can work together to advance health through science. Dr. Kumar participated in a panel discussion to share strategies and ideas on how nonprofits can interact and partner with industry to drive innovation and maximize funding dollars.

Collaborating with Industry to Advance New Treatments

Even within our own grant-making programs, we try to utilize meaningful collaborations. BCRF has partnered with the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), as part of the newly launched Drug Research Collaborative, to design and conduct innovative and high-impact clinical trials for breast cancer. During the Collaborative’s initial year of funding, BCRF has received support from Pfizer, who has committed $15 million over three years and access to 16 of its oncology drugs to BCRF investigators for laboratory and clinical trial research. “[This program] will encourage more creative, academic-driven research and give more patients access to clinical trials.  We believe this unique approach has the potential to greatly accelerate and impact research progress, and ultimately, lead to more breakthrough discoveries,” said BCRF scientific director Dr. Larry Norton on the program.

BCRF’s partnerships with the MBC Alliance, HRA and health industry help advance our mission by fostering new and exciting innovations and ideas.  BCRF promotes collaboration both within the Foundation and in the field among its funded researchers. We believe collaboration breaks down walls and fuels advances for the greater good of science with the hope that by uniting together we can be the end of breast cancer.