St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital today announced nearly $13 million in investment for a new research collaboration with scientists from Columbia University, Duke University, and Stanford University to expand the understanding of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR), which are vital proteins with implications for human health and disease.
The joint research project will be led by two St. Jude researchers, Scott Blanchard, Ph.D., and M. Madan Babu, Ph.D., working with Nobel laureate and Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher, Robert Lefkowitz, MD, from Duke University; Jonathan Javitch, MD, Ph.D., from Columbia University; and Georgios Skiniotis, Ph.D., and Alice Ting, Ph.D., both from Stanford University.
GPCRs have been associated with more than 100 human diseases and disorders, or are involved in them. The GPCR Collaborative will leverage advanced methods including time-resolved single-molecule imaging, cryo-electron microscopy, proximity labeling, data science, and other techniques to develop new strategies for treating a range of catastrophic childhood diseases, including cancer. These approaches could lead to the development of better GPCR-targeted drugs.
Normally, there are few opportunities for teams from different institutions to come together to collaborate. Here, we are pooling our individual, unique innovations and expertise to understand the mechanism by which GPCRs work, with the ultimate goal of using this information to identify and develop more effective drugs. This collaboration will help us define the principles underlying the effectiveness of nature’s GPCR regulators and apply them to clinical therapies to enhance their efficacy and hopefully reduce or eliminate side effects.“
Scott Blanchard, Ph.D., St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
As outlined in the 2022–2027 Strategic Plan, the St. Jude Research Collaboratives program is part of the overall effort of the institution to fund collaborative research addressing complex scientific problems with transformative potential for the diseases treated at St. Jude.
The St. Jude Research Collaboratives program was established to form multidisciplinary teams consisting of St. Jude scientists and their colleagues at other institutions who can address specific challenges related to the treatment of childhood cancer and other catastrophic diseases. To propose a collaboration, a lead researcher from St. Jude must assemble a team comprising leading scientists from St. Jude and other institutions. St. Jude funds approved projects.
„We recognize that a team-oriented approach can accelerate research progress,“ said James R. Downing, MD, President, and CEO of St. Jude. „The complexity of childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases requires the collaboration of the best minds in their respective fields.“
Since 2017, six different research collaboration projects have been funded with an investment of over $80 million with institutions such as Princeton University, Washington University St. Louis, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Broad Institute of MIT/Harvard, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, MIT, Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, and the NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo, Rockefeller University, University of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts General Hospital. By 2027, St. Jude plans to support even more collaborations focusing on unmet needs in science and medicine, increasing the total investment to $160 million.
„The St. Jude Research Collaboratives are designed to focus on problems with the greatest potential to change the understanding of the catastrophic childhood diseases we treat,“ said Charles WM Roberts MD, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, and Director of the St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center, which developed and oversees the program. „The scientific progress we have seen so far in the collaborations has been remarkable, and we are looking forward to exceptional progress with the reinforcement of the GPCR team.“
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital