ROCKVILLE, MD – The AIM-HI Accelerator Fund (AIM-HI) today announced the recipient of its inaugural Beacon Award for Women Leaders in Oncology as Anna D. Barker, Ph.D., Chief Strategy Officer at the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine. She is also a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Complex Adaptive Systems at Arizona State University. Dr. Barker is honored for her accomplishments in championing, designing, and implementing innovative, often unprecedented, scientific, and clinical programs that have enabled advances in the field of cancer research and provided critical support for the development of precision oncology. These programs have engaged numerous institutions, clinicians, researchers, and patients to catalyze new thinking and novel approaches to solve major problems in cancer.
In her role as Principal Deputy Director and Deputy Director for Strategic Scientific Initiatives at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Barker created novel programs to inform the development of precision oncology, such as programs in nanotechnology, proteomics, and convergence science and notably The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Co-founded in 2004 by Dr. Barker and Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and launched in 2005 as a collaboration between the NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), TCGA has proven to be transformative for cancer research. Impacting virtually every area of cancer research, the TCGA teams molecularly characterized 33 tumor types, including 10 rare cancers, and in doing so, provided an unprecedented data resource for what has become “multi-omics”- based precision oncology. Dr. Barker collaboratively coordinated the planning and design phases of the program with NCI, NHGRI, and extramural scientists and for several years led the NCI and NHGRI teams that managed the project through its pilot and scale up phases.
Another paradigm-shifting program in which Dr. Barker played a critical role was the creation of GBM AGILE, an unprecedented adaptive platform clinical trial for glioblastoma, the most lethal of adult brain tumors. Despite efforts to improve patient outcomes, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive type of brain tumor, kills 95 percent of patients within five years of diagnosis, with more than half dying within the first 15 months after diagnosis. To reduce the mortality rates by rapidly and safely bringing new drugs and therapies into the clinic, Dr. Barker convened and led the creation of a global coalition of 130 oncologists, statisticians, pathologists, neurosurgeons, imagers, patient advocates, and cancer researchers from different organizations and countries to design an innovative clinical trial program, the GBM AGILE (Adaptive, Global, Innovative, Learning Environment). Currently performed under a Food and Drug Administration-approved master protocol, GBM AGILE determines the efficacy of novel therapies through seamless stages that rapidly transitions successful agents to FDA registration. The ongoing progress of the GBM AGILE framework promises to rapidly and effectively change how GBM patients are treated.
The Beacon Award for Women Leaders in Oncology was established in 2022 by the AIM-HI Accelerator Fund, a translational research affiliate of the National Foundation for Cancer Research, to bridge the funding gap in translating innovations from the lab to the clinic and amplify women leaders and entrepreneurs. The Beacon Award recognizes outstanding women leaders in the health and life sciences industry who have made a significant impact on advancing cancer treatment, detection, and diagnosis for patients around the world.
“It is my honor to accept this inaugural award on behalf of the patients I serve in all my efforts. A special thanks to my many colleagues and scientists who did the work to achieve the goals of the programs cited by this award – all of whom contributed unselfishly to their success. I also applaud Dr. Ba, the NFCR, and AIM-HI Accelerator Fund for recognizing the critical role of forward-looking and complex large-scale science like TCGA and GBM AGILE in fundamentally understanding cancer by empowering individual scientists. teams and increasing the rate of progress toward a future where cancer will be detected early and successfully treated or prevented for all patients,” said Dr. Barker.
“Dr. Barker is a dynamic force in the cancer research community, and she has the unique capabilities of identifying critical problems in cancer research and care, bringing outstanding people together to develop transformative solutions to the unmet needs of patients,” said Sujuan Ba, Ph.D., CEO of NFCR, Co-Founder and CEO of the AIM-HI Accelerator Fund, and Chair of the Beacon Award Selection Committee. “Dr. Barker’s work has already changed cancer research and care and will forever have a significant impact on patients and society’s quest to cure cancer.”
“I am delighted Dr. Barker was selected as the inaugural laureate for this high honor. There can be no more deserving individual who has met and exceeded the values of the award. She has been a force of nature in the drive for the development of large scale, multidisciplinary collaboration sharply focused on the search for beneficial therapies for cancer patients. We all applaud her accomplishments,” said Webster K. Cavenee, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California San Diego and Co-chair of the Beacon Award Selection Committee.
Dr. Barker will be honored and awarded a gold medal at a luncheon award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on October 22, 2022. The award ceremony is part of the Global Summit and Award Ceremonies for Cancer Research & Entrepreneurship, which brings together world-renowned leaders in cancer research and drug development as well as business leaders and investors.
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About the AIM-HI Accelerator Fund
The AIM-HI Accelerator Fund (AIM-HI) is an independent 501(C)(3) non-profit organization established in 2019 by the National Foundation for Cancer Research to accelerate the translation of cancer drug discoveries by investing in seed-stage companies. AIM-HI Accelerator Fund is bridging the gap between innovative cancer discoveries and high-impact cancer treatments and technologies.
About the National Foundation for Cancer Research
The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides scientists in the lab the funding they need to make and apply game-changing discoveries in cancer treatments, detection, prevention, and, ultimately, a cure. NFCR has distinguished itself by emphasizing long-term, transformative research often overlooked by other major funding sources and/or deemed too risky. Since its establishment in 1973, NFCR has provided more than $400 million for cancer research and prevention education. For more information, visit http://www.nfcr.org.