MRA Announces RFP for Translational Research

MRA is pleased to announce a Request for Proposals (RFP) soliciting high-impact translational research from scientists and clinicians around the world. This RFP is for 2015-2016, with awards being announced in the spring of 2016.

The RFP calls for ideas that have the potential to lead to near-term clinical application in melanoma prevention, detection, diagnosis, staging, and treatment. Due to the generosity of our founders and supporters, we anticipate awarding at least $10 million in grants for this awards cycle.

Proposals will be accepted for:

  • Team Science Awards
  • Young Investigator Awards
  • Academic-Industry Partnership Awards (for Established Investigators)
  • Special Opportunity Awards

Several Special Opportunity Awards are available through the RFP, including:

  • Saban Family Foundation-MRA Team Science Awards (for Israel-led teams)
  • L’Oreal Paris-MRA Team Science Award for Women in Scientific Research
  • Uveal Melanoma Team Science Award
  • Acral Melanoma Team Science Award
  • Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer-MRA Young Investigator Award

MRA announced its first RFP in August, 2015 and the second RFP in September, 2015. The RFP that is currently available includes the complete range of applications for 2015-2016, including the Special Opportunity Awards.

Important Dates:

October 12, 2015: Team Science Award Letters of Intent are due

November 16, 2015: Young Investigator Award and Academic-Industry Partnership Award proposals are due

As in years past, we look forward to receiving high quality proposals that will help advance the field of melanoma research. Good luck!

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Taking a Closer Look at MRA’s Recent Grant Funding

By Laura Brockway-Lunardi, PhDLaura Brockway Lunardi
Scientific Program Director
Melanoma Research Alliance

Recently, MRA announced the results of its latest round of grant-making, enabling more than $13 million of melanoma research. The awards, which include a total of $7.6 million from MRA’s research funds and $5.7 million obtained through the organization’s collaborative funding program, will support:

  • 34 projects
  • 43 Principal Investigators (PIs)
  • 26 academic institutions in 4 countries

With this latest round, MRA has awarded almost $68 million to 237 PIs at 99 institutions in 14 countries since its founding in 2007. These awards aim to:

  • advance the understanding of melanoma risk factors
  • identify new therapeutic approaches
  • develop biomarkers that lead to the improvement of existing treatments

Expanding the Pool of Melanoma Researchers

One of the goals of MRA is to not only fund the best and brightest melanoma researchers but also bring new investigators into the field. We are meeting this goal: every year, at least two-thirds of awarded PIs have not received previous funding from MRA, equating to 20 to 30 new PIs per year. At least six new institutions are brought into the MRA program each year. MRA-supported Young Investigators (through Young Investigator Awards and Young Investigators on Team Science Awards) now number 73 strong, and we’re on track to fund at least 80 of these early career scientists by 2017.

Focus on Melanoma Treatment

In addition to growing human capital, this new round of awards also strengthens MRA’s emphasis on treatment science, bringing MRA’s investment to more than $60 million (or 89% of funding) to date to accelerate new tools and treatments to patients with metastatic melanoma. MRA’s research portfolio has supported studies of 48 unique therapeutic approaches, including research on all of the melanoma therapies approved since 2011. MRA’s portfolio includes 21 supported clinical trials that incorporate correlative studies of treatment response and mechanistic studies.

2015 continues the remarkable momentum in clinical advances with new drug approvals and additional agents in late-stage clinical development. Unfortunately, not all patients will benefit from these new treatment approaches and more research is needed to identify new drug targets and biomarkers. Many of our newest awards are focused on just this, and include research on new genetic and epigenetics drivers of melanoma, as well as novel approaches in immunotherapy.

In addition, improving upon currently available therapies through research on combinations of agents and biomarkers is needed to maximize the existing anti-melanoma arsenal.

One such study of combination approaches joins MRA in collaboration with the Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research and the Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation to support clinical and translational research on immune checkpoint blockade combined with radiation therapy through a Team Science Award led by Robert Vonderheide at the University of Pennsylvania.

Addressing Unmet Needs

The latest awards also address critical areas of unmet need, including developing new approaches to treat patients with metastases to the central nervous system (brain and meninges). For example, a Bristol-Myers Squibb-MRA Team Science Award led by Ryan Sullivan at Massachusetts General Hospital will conduct a clinical trial to study the activity of ipilimumab and nivolumab in patients with leptomeningeal metastases.

Through Established Investigator Awards, Timothy Bullock at the University of Virginia will determine if focused ultrasound technology will increase the effectiveness of immunotherapies, and Sheri Holmen at the University of Utah will study key proteins implicated in promoting brain metastases and determine targeted treatment approaches against them.

These are just a few examples of the cutting-edge research programs that comprise our most recently awarded programs, none of which would be possible without the support of our donors and partners, which include a growing list of institutions, foundations, and companies that share our common goal of defeating melanoma.

Planning for 2016 Grant Funding

As we wrap up the 2015 cycle, planning for our 2016 cycle is well underway. We hope to announce our next Request for Proposal in early September, and we anticipate another competitive pool of applicants who will continue to push forward in our quest to understand and eliminate death and suffering from melanoma.

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins Explains Why Redheads are at Risk for Melanoma

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA new blog entry by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins offers a great explanation of recent research findings that are starting to unravel the mystery of why redheads are more susceptible to melanoma.

According to Dr. Collins,  the research was supported by NIH funding.  The NIH’s budget was slashed by sequestration and could face more funding cuts during the 2014 appropriations process.  Unless the U.S. supports a fully-funded NIH, we may, sadly, see fewer and fewer medical research breakthroughs in the future.