The Lester and Bernice Smith Foundation Gift Helps The Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Launch New Challenge Grant

Press Release · February 5, 2016

The Lester and Bernice Smith Foundation Gift Helps The Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Launch New Challenge Grant

The Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer announced today that it will award a new $150,000 Challenge Grant in 2016. This two-year grant is focused on producing a new finding that could significantly improve our understanding of ovarian cancer. This will be the largest award currently offered by the Rivkin Center. The grant recipient will be announced in August 2016 and will be named the 2016–2017 Lester and Bernice Smith Fellow in recognition of the Lester and Bernice Smith Foundation’s underwriting gift.

This new Challenge Grant award is a modified version of the two-year $150,000 Challenge Grant award offered by the Rivkin Center from 2011–2014, which was also launched with a major gift from the Lester and Bernice Smith Foundation. The invitation for the initial Challenge Grant launched in 2011 was open to all scientific investigators and challenged the research community to apply for funding with a response to a specific research question defined by the Rivkin Center’s 9-person scientific advisory board that was focused on accelerating early detection research. “The initial Challenge Grant format proved that a two-year $150,000 grant is an attractive award for seasoned researchers,” said Mary L. ‘Nora’ Disis, MD, the Rivkin Center’s scientific and medical director. “We felt that we were limiting the potential of our award recipients by defining the research question on their behalf. Thanks to the Lester and Bernice Smith Foundation’s continued investment, this new category will allow us to invite a very prestigious group of researchers to define their own research question, which we hope will lead to a significant breakthrough,” said Dr. Disis.

The invitation to apply to become the 2016–2017 Lester and Bernice Smith Fellow has been extended to 26 past recipients of the Rivkin Center’s Pilot Study Award, a one-year $75,000 grant supporting investigator-initiated projects in all areas of ovarian cancer research, who are in good standing with the Rivkin Center and have published their Rivkin-funded work in a top scientific journal. These individuals represent some of the most prestigious institutions in the world, including Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General hospitals, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Up to five applicants will be invited by the Rivkin Center to submit full applications for consideration. The funded proposal will answer the most pivotal research question posed by this group, and will offer the best odds at developing a novel approach for understanding ovarian cancer with the ultimate goals of improving prevention, early detection, and/or treatment. The 2016–2017 Lester and Bernice Smith Fellow will be awarded in August 2016.

“We are eager to help fill a deficit in this fundamental area of research by funding this new Rivkin Center grant, says Alex Smith. “Our family is continually inspired by the work of the Rivkin Center and by the many individuals in our community that help make the Center’s mission possible.” ”

The 2016–2017 Lester and Bernice Smith Fellow is one of 17 grants totaling nearly $1.5 million that the Rivkin Center will award in 2016. In the 20 years since its inception in 1996, the Rivkin Center has invested more than $9 million in ovarian cancer research grants to scientific investigators, making it one of the oldest and largest private global funders of ovarian cancer research. Rivkin Center research grants are funded entirely with philanthropic support and are awarded by the organization’s 9-person scientific advisory board in conjunction with a 60-person scientific review committee, both of which are comprised of leading members of the ovarian cancer research community in the United States and abroad. The Rivkin Center is committed to funding the most promising research proposals, regardless of the researchers” institutional affiliation or nationality. A recent analysis of 80 Rivkin grant awards made from 2008 to 2013 showed that $4.7 million in donor-funded research grants to 73 investigators translated into over $33 million in new grants from other funding agencies – a 7.2 fold return on investment.

“This new, two-year grant award is creating an important new funding opportunity at a time when federal and private funding for ovarian cancer research is especially scarce,” said Rivkin Center Executive Director Joe White. “The Rivkin Center is very grateful to the Lester and Bernice Smith Foundation for their generosity and leadership in making this possible.”