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Jeff Bezos at the Museum of Flights 2016 Pathfinder Awards. (Photo by GeekWire/Kevin Lisota)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his family have donated $30 million towards immunotherapy research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and have lended their name to the center’s new immunotherapy clinic. Photo: Kevin Lisota, GeekWire.

Back in 2009, immunotherapy was considered a long shot. The process involves reprogramming a patient’s T cells, important elements of the immune system, so that they attack cancerous cells. But since then, immunotherapy has had incredible success in clinical trials, indicating it might hold the cure to cancer, and Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center today announced a first-of-its-kind immunotherapy clinic.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center president Dr. Gary Gilliland  speaks at the Life Science Innovation Northwest conference in Seattle.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center president Dr. Gary Gilliland. (GeekWire File Photo)

It’s called the Bezos Family Immunotherapy Research Clinic, and it’s designed to let Fred Hutch conduct clinical trials that test a wide variety of immunotherapy treatments.

Announcing the new clinic this morning, Fred Hutch president and director Dr. Gary Gilliland explained that the success the Hutch has faced in immunotherapy wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his family. They took a risk on a treatment that was by no means assured to succeed, Gilliland said.

“Back in 2009, when immunotherapy was hardly a household word, the Bezoses believed in investigators at the Hutch who thought that they could develop these reengineered T cells,” Gilliland said. “At the time that was thought to be nearly impossible.”

“But they believed in us, and as you know the family is not averse to risk, they’re not averse to failure. And through their support we’ve enjoyed extraordinary success in bringing these new treatments forward to patients with certain kinds of blood-borne cancers,”  he said.

Since 2009, the family has donated $30 million towards immunotherapy research at the Hutch.

Gilliland added that the clinic would not have been possible without this support, and made clear that the family is wholly invested in seeing this science succeed.

“They don’t provide resources to name something. They are actually providing resources donate to shine a light on the science, the patients, the investigators, and we’re delighted to get to continue working with them to develop curative approaches to cancer,” Gilliland said.

Bezos is also an investor in Seattle-based biotechnology company Juno Therapeutics, which has licensed many of the Hutch’s immunotherapy techniques and is working to commercialize them.

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