A gift of $1 million from Institute Trustee Winnie W. Wong, PhD, and Arthur Cheng, ScD, will go towards advancing the careers of early career investigators through the Wong Family Awards in Translational Oncology. The couple first established the Wong Family Awards in 2011, and with this most recent gift, they have given a total of $5.5 million on behalf of their family to endow these awards at Dana-Farber.
As one of three cancer survivors in her family, Wong said that a top priority for her and her husband was fulfilling unmet needs for cancers that don’t yet have cures. “I insisted on these awards being for translational research—I think something that has clinical needs in mind, and an understanding of the disease mechanisms, gets us closer to discovery of new medicines,” said Wong. “That’s very important, because basic science is in one camp, and clinical research is in another camp, and there has to be a way to bridge those two.”
They also see these awards as a crucial way to invest in the next generation of oncology researchers. With her background in pharmaceutical research as well as immunology, Wong understands firsthand the obstacles that come with traditional government funding for research. “I view this as an opportunity to try out new ideas and give the young researchers a chance to think outside the box,” she said.
The awards are given on a yearly basis and include project salary support to encourage young investigators to pursue innovative projects in clinical and/or translational oncology, biotechnology development, precision medicine, or immunotherapy approaches. They are overseen by the Institute’s Chief Clinical Research Officer Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, FASCO, in consultation with Chief Scientific Officer Kevin Haigis, PhD.
“It is so important that we encourage our early career investigators to pursue novel ideas, and the Wong Family Awards provide a pathway to do just that,” said Meyerhardt, who is also the Douglas Gray Woodruff Chair in Colorectal Cancer Research at Dana-Farber. “It’s a very competitive process every year, and our recipients are excited to share their findings and progress with Winnie and Arthur and thank them for supporting their innovative ideas.”
“Over the past 10 years, the Wong Family Awards have helped jumpstart the careers of many investigators, who have gone on to make their mark in the field of cancer research,” said Haigis. “Winnie and Arthur’s visionary investment is helping transform the future of cancer research and care, while also training the next generation of oncologists to drive that future.”
Wong looks forward to meeting with the new recipients every year and hearing about the projects they are working on—she always learns something new about technical advances happening in the field and where the new frontiers of research are. Above all, she encourages the investigators to continue being creative and taking risks. “New ideas deserve a chance,” said Wong. “They don’t always succeed but they deserve a chance to get tested.”