Bristol-Myers Squibb Funds Two MRA Young Investigator Awards in Immuno-Oncology

By Kristen Mueller, Ph.D., MRA Scientific Program Director | 6 September 2017 | Allies & Partnerships, Science, Treatment


MRA is pleased to announce Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has provided generous support for two Young Investigator Awards from our 2016-2017 grant cycle. The recipients of the Bristol-Myers Squibb - MRA Young Investigator Award are Dr. Erica Stone of The Wistar Institute and Dr. Manuel Valiente of Fundación Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas Carlos III. MRA’s independent panel of academic experts selected these two immuno-oncology research programs to receive funding in 2017.

Stone PhotoDr. Stone’s Work:

The Bristol-Myers Squibb - MRA Young Investigator Award project by Dr. Stone entitled, “Down-regulating CTLA4 on effector T cells to improve anti-CTLA4 efficacy,” will try to better understand why some patients never respond to immunotherapies like ipilimumab, which target a molecule called CTLA4. Dr. Stone will also test for a therapeutic strategy to overcome this resistance so that more patients can benefit from this game-changing therapy. One of the limitations of targeting CTLA4 is that it can lead to the loss, via cell death, of the exact type of white blood cells that kill tumors. Dr. Stone will test whether blocking a specific molecule expressed by tumor-killing T cells in conjunction with anti-CTLA4 therapy will lead to better therapeutic efficacy in mouse models of melanoma. These studies will provide important preclinical data to aid in the translation of a potential new drug candidate.

Valiente Photo2Dr. Valiente’s Work:

The Bristol-Myers Squibb-MRA Young Investigator Award to Dr. Valiente entitled, “Blocking melanoma brain metastasis by targeting the microenvironment” aims to provide new insight into the process that melanoma uses to spread, or metastasize, to the brain. Brain metastases remain a major unmet need in the field since the disease is more difficult to treat and brain lesions often disqualify patients from enrolling in clinical trials. Working primarily in mouse models of melanoma, Dr. Valiente will determine how a specific population of brain cells called astrocytes impacts anti-tumor immunity in the brain, thereby contributing to the growth of melanoma brain metastases. He also plans to target these cells therapeutically, with the aim to reduce melanoma dissemination to the brain.

MRA’s Young Investigator Awards help attract early career scientists with innovative and creative ideas into melanoma research, thereby recruiting and supporting the next generation of melanoma researchers. Thanks to the support of generous donors like BMS, MRA has invested over $13.5 million during the past 10 years in 77 different Young Investigator Awards; and has supported 101 Young Investigators across the total MRA portfolio.  See all MRA Young Investigator Awards recipients. 

“MRA is strongly committed to enhancing Young Investigator research careers as these scientists become the next melanoma leaders,” said MRA Chief Science Officer Louise Perkins, PhD. “Moreover, these awards have multiple benefits.  They not only enable exciting, ambitious research projects but often lay the groundwork for further funding by NCI and others.” 

MRA wishes Dr. Stone and Dr. Valiente luck as they begin to undertake this important work. 

Research Young Investigators