Venture Philanthropy

Investing in nascent research ideas may unlock future cures

Tom, Wilson, and Nancy Chewning stand in their house.

Investing in nascent research ideas may unlock future cures

Tom and Nancy Chewning have experienced cancer on a personal level, helping their daughter through a bout with breast cancer, as well as other family members and friends that have had the disease.

They were so impressed with their daughter’s care and treatment at UNC Lineberger that they created the Dr. Lisa Carey Fund for Breast Cancer Innovations so that others could benefit from the cutting-edge breast cancer research and treatment.

Now, the couple have set their sights on a new target for support – chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) immunotherapy.

The Chewnings attended a UNC Health Foundation GameChangers event that featured a talk with UNC Lineberger’s Jonathan Serody, MD, the Elizabeth Thomas Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and the director of the cellular therapy program.

At the event, Serody discussed using immunotherapy to attack solid tumors. CAR-T immunotherapy has proven effective with a number of blood cancers, and now research is underway to see if this approach can be successful in combating solid tumors, including breast cancer.

Optimism about the science surrounding immunotherapy and its potential in solid tumor cancers helped the Chewnings decide to establish a fund to support Serody’s work. The Jonathan Serody, MD, Immunology Innovations Fund will generate a one-to-one match from UNC Lineberger to accelerate the immunotherapy program.

Tom Chewning calls such donations “venture philanthropy” and hopes Serody’s research results with solid tumors will lead to significant grant funding for his work in the years ahead.

“Although early research funding has high risks, if successful, Dr. Serody’s findings could positively impact countless cancer patients around the world,” said Tom Chewing. “How wonderful would it be that one day most cancers would be treated through use of our own immune systems!”

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