Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Wednesday, announced a huge philanthropic gift from Jackie Bezos (the parents of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos), to the Bezos family.
“This is a transformative gift,” said Dr. Thomas Lynch, Fred Hutch president and director, in an interview with GeekWire. “It is going to allow us to accelerate the pace and scale of research in both cancer and infectious disease.”
It is more than the $78 million pledged by Stuart Sloan and Molly Sloan this September, which was the largest gift in Seattle’s 47-year-old history.
Fred Hutch has already contributed $68 Million to Fred Bezos’s previous gifts. Most of that money was focused on cellular immune therapy.
This funding will help fund projects in Fred Hutch ranging from clinical research to basic science. It will fund several priority areas over the next ten year:
- 300 million to recruit 36 new laboratory leaders Lynch estimates that each leader will invite a minimum of 12 additional researchers into their laboratories to help them. Funding includes lab space and equipment, as well as technology that will support collaboration.
- Research facilities: $225 Million The funding will be used to construct the 390,000.00 square foot Stuart and Molly Sloan Precision Oncology Institute. This was announced last month.
- $149.5 million to support clinical research infrastructure. These efforts will follow the model of existing Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic.
- $36 million to expand research at Fred Hutch’s Immunotherapy Integrated Research Center.
Mike and Jackie Bezos were encouraged by a recent agreement to align cancer care at Fred Hutch and UW Medicine, the medical system affiliated with the University of Washington, and coordinate research more closely between them. They were also inspired by Seattle’s response to COVID-19, said Lynch, which was driven in part by leadership from Fred Hutch in vaccine testing, epidemiology and other areas.
“Science, particularly cancer and virus research, is at such a pivotal point right now,” said Mike Bezos in a statement. “We hope our investment in the Hutch leads to answers for the most pressing medical questions. We also hope this inspires others to join us now in pursuing scientific and medical breakthroughs.”
Jackie and Mike Bezos were early investors in Amazon. In 1995, they wrote their son a $245 573 check. Bloomberg estimates that their stake was worth nearly $30 billion by 2018.
The family’s previous gifts helped spur the research that led to Seattle’s burgeoning cellular therapy industry, which has origins in Juno Therapeutics, a company that spun out of Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s and Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2013.
Lynch anticipates that the new gift will similarly bolster Seattle’s entire life sciences ecosystem.
“This is a great thing for Seattle,” said Lynch. “We are really trying to create the world’s greatest cancer center. We’re very confident we’re going to get there.”
Lynch spent hours talking with Jackie Bezos about their Seattle-area home and what motivates them.
“They like ideas that spur collaboration: collaboration within the Hutch, collaboration between the Hutch and UW Medicine, and collaboration between what happens at the Hutch and what happens nationally,” said Lynch.
The boost in funding for immuno-oncology will dovetail with the Hutch’s growing focus on precision oncology, which aims to assess the biological makeup of cancer in each individual. “This future of bringing together these two worlds is something I think Seattle and the Hutch are going to be well known for,” said Lynch.
The gift, powered by the success of Amazon, also showcases the intersection between Seattle’s tech and life sciences sectors, said Matt McIlwain, managing director of Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group and a member of the Fred Hutch advisory board.
“It’s so amazing to see incredible science and translation work rewarded with a game-changing gift,” McIlwain told GeekWire. “It will advance the intersection of life sciences and data science here in Seattle and around the world, including basic science, prevention, translation and life changing cures.”
McIlwain served as Fred Hutch board chairman from 2016 to 2020. McIlwain also recognized UW Medicine’s leadership for leading a restructuring that improves collaboration. This agreement was also the basis for the Sloan donation.
Fred Hutch leadership believes that Bezos’ family gift will encourage other donors. Their renewed efforts in research will require them to raise $3 billion over the next ten year.
“We hope this announcement highlights the science happening at Fred Hutch as they pursue a future where cures exist for cancer and infectious diseases. It is also a call to action to support the science and be a part of the next breakthroughs,” said Jackie Bezos in a statement.
Jackie Bezos was a single mom to Jeff before she married Mike Bezos who adopted Jeff. Mike Bezos was 16 years old when he immigrated from Cuba to the United States. He later held managerial and engineering roles at Exxon Mobil.
“When we come together, we are bigger than the problems facing us. Let’s make the impossible, possible,” said Jackie Bezos.