New grant program launches to advance therapeutic discovery for follicular lymphoma

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Today saw the launch of a dedicated grant program aimed at advancing therapeutic discovery for follicular lymphoma (FL), The Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF) CURE FL Awards - Curative Research to Eliminate Follicular Lymphoma.

The FLF CURE FL Awards will focus on work in two areas identified as the most likely currently to lead to curative therapies available to FL patients: cellular immunotherapy, e.g., CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor T cells), and other targeted therapies, either as stand-alone treatments or in combination with other treatments.

The FLF CURE FL Awards intends to fund up to four research grants in this first round, each providing up to $500,000 over the course of two years to support pre-clinical or clinical research focused on the development of cellular immunotherapy or targeted therapy for FL. The FLF CURE FL Awards are managed and administered by the Milken Institute's Center for Strategic Philanthropy.

The FLF CURE FL Awards funding program is designed to encourage creative approaches to examine how these therapies can best target a cure for FL. Criteria for assessment will include the potential of any work funded to go into a clinical trial or be applied directly to patient treatment in the near term.

These awards are positioned to drive the field closer to its goal of a cure for FL. This is the first grant round of planned annual assessments, all with a view of accelerating the development of therapeutic candidates.

Why this approach?

Outcomes for patients with FL have improved substantially over the last 40 years: the 5-year survival rate has increased from 65 percent in 1980 to 90 percent in 2021. However, nearly all patients experience relapse, often multiple relapses, over the course of their disease. A subset of patients experience early disease progression and face 5-year survival rates as low as 50 percent. Even patients with more favorable survival rates endure both the psychological toll of an incurable, relapsing disease and the increasing toxicities of therapies designated for later relapses.

Advances in understanding the biology of FL give hope that curative therapies can be developed in the near future. The same advances also teach us that FL is a heterogeneous disease so that such curative therapies will likely require having a tool kit containing various treatment options. Curative treatments and combinations will need to be individualized based on each person's disease.

To date, FL has rarely been the central focus for drug development: most drugs available to treat FL are also indicated for other lymphomas. By putting FL front and centre, this initiative will catalyse focused development of therapies for this still underserved patient population. Ultimately, the goal is to make curative therapies available to FL patients as soon as possible.

Nicola Mendelsohn, Founder of the FLF said, "We are hugely excited to launch The FLF CURE FL Awards. We are determined to push as rapidly as possible for new treatments that not only improve and extend the life of patients with follicular lymphoma, but that cure the disease once and for all".

Melissa Stevens, Executive Director of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, said, "In recent years, smart, strategic philanthropy has been the force behind advancements in medical research. We are proud to work with the FLF to spur research progress that will lead to better treatments for people with FL."

Tools are now available to better understand the biology, immunology, and heterogeneity of FL, while novel cellular and targeted therapies are already improving outcomes but will benefit from personalized approaches. Now is the opportune time to take advantage of these rapid scientific and therapeutic advances to eradicate FL."

Dr. Mitchell Smith, Chief Medical Officer, FLF

Grant proposals for The FLF CURE FL Awards are welcome from industry and research institutions around the world. Initial letters of intent are due February 4, 2022, and full proposals are due April 15, 2022. Funding decisions will be announced in Fall 2022. Inquiries should be directed to [email protected].


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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