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Providing the Push: Two Vital Research Funds

Fund for Discovery and Director's Leadership Fund

U-M investigators are among the most successful in the country when it comes to competing for national grants to fund their work. But even the most brilliant ideas need "incubation" before they can garner national attention and dollars. That's where private donors play a critical role, providing the seed money needed to push novel concepts forward. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how two vital Cancer Center funds are getting ideas off the ground and helping our researchers keep pace with the rapidly-changing cancer landscape.

Only aggressive research efforts will unlock the mysteries of cancer, and productive research is only possible with initial and ongoing financial support. But the largest sources of funding, organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Cancer Institute (NCI), typically reserve their support for ideas that have already undergone initial testing to establish their "proof of concept," demonstrating that they have merit for further study. Where do researchers turn to fund the initial testing needed to reach that point?

Fund for Discovery

U-M Cancer Center leadership answered that question in 1991, establishing the Fund for Discovery to help support research at its earliest stages. Available only to U-M Cancer Center researchers whose concepts are deemed promising through a U-M Cancer Research Committee review, Fund for Discovery grants allow our investigators to develop their ideas to a point where they can contend for national research dollars. Since its inception, the Fund has more than met that objective. To date, each dollar of seed money in the Fund has generated nearly $20 in subsequent federal funding!

The Fund for Discovery is making a difference across the full spectrum of cancer research at Michigan. Faculty members whose projects have recently received support through the Fund for Discovery include:


Kathleen Cho, M.D., Associate Professor, Pathology, "Modeling Ovarian High Grade Serous Carcinoma in Mice."

Jeffrey Platt, M.D., Professor, Surgery and Microbiology and Immunology, "Cell Fusion in the Development of Inflammation - Associated Colorectal Cancer."


Maria Papaleontiou, M.D., Lecturer, Internal Medicine, "Impact of age and comorbidity on thyroid cancer decision making."

Nouri Neamati, Ph.D.
Nouri Neamati, Ph.D.
Christopher Friese, Ph.D., R.N., A.O.C.N., F.A.A.N., Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, "Understanding Supportive Care Quality in Ambulatory Oncology Settings.

Michael Imeriale, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology, "High Throughput siRNA Screen for Cellular Genes that Modulate BK Polyomarvirus Infection."

Nouri Neamati, Ph.D., Professor, College of Pharmacy, "Development of novel SHMT2 inhibitors for lung cancer treatment."

Director's Leadership Fund

Like the Fund for Discovery, the Director's Leadership Fund makes it possible to speed the progress of innovative cancer research at Michigan. Allocated at the discretion of the Cancer Center's director, Max Wicha, M.D., this fund provides unrestricted dollars to react immediately when promising discoveries are made in our labs, moving them forward more rapidly. From the purchase of new equipment, to the establishment of new laboratories, to the dissemination of the most up-to-date cancer information to our doctors, nurses and scientists, the Director's Leadership Fund has the flexibility to act quickly to keep the Cancer Center moving forward.

Two notable Cancer Center initiatives are among those recently accelerated thanks to the Director's Leadership Fund:

Jennifer Griggs, M.D, M.P.H.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H.

Shaomeng Wang, Ph.D., Professor of Internal Medicine, Pharmacy and Medicinal Chemistry, has made significant progress in understanding the potential role the receptor genes CXCR1 and CXCR2 play in fortifying virulent cancer stem cells. To continue his work, he requires CXCR1 and CXCR2 cell lines for study. Rather than incurring considerable cost and delays to procure these lines from external commercial sources, support from the Director's Leadership Fund will make it possible to establish these cell lines in Wang's lab at a significant savings in both time and cost.

Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H., has received support from the Director's Leadership Fund to establish the U-M Breast Cancer Survivorship Program, a multidisciplinary research and treatment model to assist patients with the many physical and emotional challenges they face as they transition from active treatment to long-term survivorship.

To learn more about any of these projects, or to support the Fund for Discovery or the Director's Leadership Fund, contact the Office of Development at, or 734-998-6893.

To read about all the latest research at the Cancer Center, please visit our Newsroom.

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