A Big Round of Gifts to Identify Melanoma Risk Factors

Founded in 2007 by Broadway producer Debra Black and her husband Leon, CEO of Apollo Management, LP, the Melanoma Research Alliance made a meteoric rise to prominence. It's already given away $60 million since its inception, and shows no signs of slowing down. Perhaps that’s thanks to its unique funding structure, one powered by its incredibly well-connected progenitors. In addition to the Blacks’ generous support, which pays all of the MRA’s operating expenses, the foundation is a fundraising rockstar, throwing big galas serving bite-size ice cream sandwiches and canapés, enticing their network of Wall Street wheelers and dealers to leverage their financial clout to fight melanoma.

It’s a good cause, after all: melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, will kill nearly 10,000 Americans in 2014. And the MRA is going after the disease with as much smart science, and as many bucks behind it, as it can swing.

Recently, it announced another $13 million in grants, including a total of $7.5 million from MRA's research funds and $5.6 million obtained through the organization's collaborative funding program, that will support 42 scientists at 25 academic institutions in four countries. The projects receiving funding seek to advance the understanding of melanoma risk factors, identify new therapeutic approaches, and develop biomarkers that lead to the improvement of existing treatments.

MRA’s funding model includes a mechanism for collaborative funding through partnerships with companies, institutions, and foundations. In 2015, 10 awards are being funded collaboratively, the most ever in a single year. In addition, MRA is funding a number of special opportunity awards, including the Bristol-Myers Squibb-MRA Established Investigator and Team Science Awards in Immunotherapy, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer-MRA Pilot Award, the SkinCeuticals-MRA Dermatology Young Investigator Award and the Amgen-MRA Established Investigator Academic Industry Partnership Award.

Other partners include the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the King Family, Leveraged Finance Fights Melanoma, Merck (known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada), the Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, Sotheby’s, and the Tara Miller Foundation. 

"These grants represent a diverse cross section of science focused on advancing our understanding of melanoma," said Debra Black, co-founder and chair of MRA. "We are delighted to have support from partners across industries, including academic institutions and private donors, who have joined together in order to maximize impact in combating this often devastating disease."