CHOP Researcher Part of Team Receiving Up to $25 Million from Cancer Grand Challenges

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An international team of experts, including Nikolaos G. Sgourakis, PhD, Associate Professor in the Center for Computational and Genomic Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), has been awarded a grant of up to $25 million for a research project by Cancer Grand Challenges, an international research initiative - co-founded by the National Cancer Institute in the US and Cancer Research UK - that awards teams aimed at making progress against cancer’s toughest challenges.

Their team, Team MATCHMAKERS, will collect data on T cell receptors and the antigens – foreign substances linked to pathogens or cancers – and their interactions in order to build computer models to predict which antigens will be recognized by different T cell receptors. An essential component of the MATCHMAKERS Team is the inclusion of 3D structural data on T cell receptor interactions, to inform the development of computational methods for predicting receptor specificity and to design new receptors that can be used for targeted therapies.

Currently only conducted in a few labs around the world, this project has the potential to make T cell analysis part of routine care. This would allow patients to be more appropriately matched with therapies that could improve responses and chances of remission from certain cancers.

The Sgourakis Lab will contribute their expertise in structural biology methods, particularly Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), using systems and tools that they have been developing over the past 10 years. Their efforts will be greatly enhanced by a new state-of-the-art 800 MHz NMR spectrometer recently purchased by the University of Pennsylvania expected to arrive in March 2024. This resource, that is also available to the CHOP research community, will enable a premier center for translational structural biology at CHOP & UPenn.  

“It’s an honor for our team’s project to be selected among so many eligible cancer research projects,” Sgourakis said. “Our lab here at CHOP is thrilled to share its expertise in the molecular mechanisms of antigens associated with cancer in a way that makes this data more readily available to clinicians all over the world.”

This team is funded by Cancer Research UK, the National Cancer Institute and The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research through Cancer Grand Challenges. Read more about Team MATCHMAKERS and this project in this announcement.

In addition to the Team MATCHMAKERS award, Team KOODAC3 led by Dr. Yael Mosse also received a Cancer Grand Challenges award of up to $25 million.

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