Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center will receive more than $700 million from the Bezos family over the next decade to help speed up cancer and infectious disease research, the organization announced Wednesday.
Fred Hutch plans to use the donation to fund several clinical trials, new research capabilities and recruitment, the South Lake Union-based medical research center said in a statement. The donation is the latest contribution toward Fred Hutch’s long-term goal of accelerating its cancer research efforts, which the organization drew attention to during its April merger with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
“As long-time Fred Hutch supporters, we were encouraged to see the recent merger expand its capacity to aggressively investigate and treat cancer and infectious diseases,” said Mike Bezos, vice president and co-founder of the Bezos Family Foundation and father of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. “We hope our investment in the Hutch leads to answers for the most pressing medical questions,” he said in a statement.
He continued, “We also hope this inspires others to join us now in pursuing scientific and medical breakthroughs.”
Over the next 10 years, Fred Hutch leaders hope to raise about $3 billion for promoting collaboration and working toward medical breakthroughs, the statement said.
In September, the center, which also serves as UW Medicine’s cancer program, received $78 million from Stuart and Molly Sloan.
“I am extremely grateful to the Bezos family for the support they’ve shown us,” Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, Fred Hutch president and director, said in an interview. “They’ve been involved with us for nearly two decades and they’ve been critical to us along the way in establishing the Bezos Immunotherapy Center and helping us in our response to COVID.”
The research center plans to spend $300 million of the Bezos donation on hiring about 36 new researchers and scientists, as well as on lab space, equipment and technology.
Each of the 36 new faculty members will be able to have up to 10 people in their labs, Lynch added.
About $225 million of the funding will go toward the construction of a new research building, which will also house the recently announced Stuart and Molly Sloan Precision Oncology Institute and “bring together data scientists and bench scientists,” he said.
The rest of the donation will be distributed among clinical research infrastructure and immunotherapy research, according to the statement.
The $710.5 million donation is “a transformative gift,” Lynch said.
“A big part of this gift is enabling innovation in clinical trials,” he said. “Right now, in the United States, it takes an average of about six months to get a clinical trial open, and that’s not acceptable. Patients are waiting for that when they’ve got cancer.”
The Bezos family has previously contributed to Fred Hutch’s CAR T-cell therapy research, its immunotherapy-focused research center, the creation of two data science and cancer research centers, and early and ongoing COVID-19 research, which Lynch said Wednesday remains a top priority.
“One thing I really hope that happens some day, is that I hope Fred Hutch becomes a virus center, meaning we cure cancer and focus on infectious diseases,” Lynch said. “That is something that is not insane as a goal. That could happen.”
Jackie Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation, said in the Wednesday statement she hopes the announcement highlights some of the work Fred Hutch scientists are focusing on.
“It is also a call to action to support the science and be a part of the next breakthroughs,” she said. “When we come together, we are bigger than the problems facing us.”