New Cancer Grand Challenges global team MATCHMAKERS includes the MIT Jameel Clinic's Regina Barzilay


Community Jameel congratulates the MATCHMAKERS team, which includes Professor Regina Barzilay, faculty lead for artificial intelligence (AI) at the MIT Jameel Clinic, on being selected by the Cancer Grand Challenges to receive up to USD 25 million in funding over five years.

Led by Professor Michael Birnbaum and comprising researchers from 10 institutions around the world, the MATCHMAKERS team is harnessing advances in high-throughput approaches and computational prediction to understand and predict how T cells recognise tumours, paving the way for personalised immunotherapies.

One of five global teams selectedin 2024, MATCHMAKERS will receive its funding from Cancer Research UK, the National Cancer Institute in the United States and the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.

One of 12 researchers in the team, Regina is the School of Engineering Distinguished Professor of AI and Health at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as well as the faculty lead for AI at the MIT Jameel Clinic, the epicentre of AI and health at MIT. She develops machine learning methods for drug discovery and clinical AI, and has been recognised with a MacArthur Fellowship, an National Science Foundation Career Award and Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Award for AI for the Benefit of Humanity.

Professor Michael Birnbaum, lead of the MATCHMAKERS team, said: “T cell-based therapies for cancer are saving lives, but typically we don’t know what the T cells target in a tumour, and how it differs in those who respond to treatment versus those who don’t. This cancer grand challenge was a perfect opportunity to dream big and put together a team with the scope, expertise and talent needed to solve the question of T cell recognition.”

The Cancer Grand Challenges were founded by Cancer Research UK and the NCI and have announced new challenges in 2015, 2017, 2020 and 2023. After nine challenges were announced in March 2023, the Cancer Grand Challenges received 176 applications, before selecting five teams, across four challenges, in 2024. Each selected team will receive up to USD 25 million. To-date, the Cancer Grand Challenges have invested USD 400 million in selected teams.

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