Researchers at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and the Dana-​​Farber Cancer Insti­tute have long rec­og­nized and taken advan­tage of the com­ple­men­tary strengths of the two institutions.

Our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dana-​​Farber has been rich over the years,” said Stephen Zoloth, Northeastern’s dean of aca­d­emic affairs for external pro­grams and vice provost for health research. “But it has gen­er­ally been ini­ti­ated by indi­vidual collaborators.”

North­eastern and Dana-​​Farber recently for­mal­ized their col­lab­o­ra­tive poten­tial by cre­ating a Joint Pro­gram in Cancer Drug Dis­covery. Each insti­tu­tion will con­tribute $100,000 per year over the next two years to fund four research projects with obvious future potential.

This is yet another example of the depth of com­ple­men­tary tal­ents in Boston that allows us to tackle crit­ical health prob­lems by deploying a broad range of needed dis­ci­plines,” said Mel Bern­stein, Northeastern’s senior vice provost for research and grad­uate education.

The win­ning projects, which were announced last month, cover a variety of research areas in cancer drug dis­covery and devel­op­ment, from chem­ical analysis of novel drugs to improved delivery methods of known drugs. Each con­sists of at least one researcher from North­eastern and Dana-​​Farber and focuses on a sci­en­tific ques­tion that can be easily trans­lated to the clinic.

North­eastern chem­istry pro­fessor John Engen and Nathanael Gray, a Dana-​​Farber asso­ciate pro­fessor of bio­log­ical chem­istry and mol­e­c­ular phar­ma­cology, for example, are teaming up to char­ac­terize the effec­tive­ness of a variety of poten­tial cancer drugs, which inhibit a mutated gene common among 20 to 30 per­cent of all human cancers.

Man­soor Amiji, dis­tin­guished pro­fessor and chair of Northeastern’s phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ences depart­ment, will join forces with Michael Gold­berg, a Dana-​​Farber assis­tant pro­fessor of micro­bi­ology and immuno­bi­ology, to eval­uate novel ther­a­peutic com­bi­na­tions for treating ovarian cancer, lever­aging Amiji’s exper­tise in tar­geted delivery and Goldberg’s exper­tise in cancer biology.

A team of three North­eastern researchers, including chem­istry and chem­ical biology chair Graham Jones, the­o­ret­ical chem­ical biology pro­fessor Mary Ondrechen and biology pro­fessor Michail Sitkovsky, will team up with Dana-​​Farber asso­ciate pro­fessor of med­i­cine Glenn Dra­noff with the goal of devel­oping a new gen­er­a­tion of cancer drugs that can be used in con­cert with cancer vac­ci­na­tion strategies.

Finally, David Frank, a Dana-​​Farber asso­ciate pro­fessor of med­i­cine, and Alexander Ivanov, a North­eastern research asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry, will explore the var­ious pro­teomic alter­ations caused by a single genetic factor and impli­cated in a variety of cancer types.

The joint pro­gram is expected to elim­i­nate many of the tra­di­tional hur­dles faced by oth­er­wise promising inter-​​institutional col­lab­o­ra­tions, the very nature of which can delay their for­ward momentum.

This is a won­derful oppor­tu­nity for two out­standing neigh­boring insti­tu­tions to leverage each other’s con­sid­er­able strengths,” said Bar­rett Rollins, Dana-Farber’s chief sci­en­tific officer. “By com­bining the cancer focus of Dana-​​Farber, the drug-​​development exper­tise of North­eastern and the chem­ical skills of both, we can make an impact on the lives of patients with cancer.”