$2M gift to drive Weill Cornell advances in immunotherapy

Gary and Ellen Davis
Gary and Ellen Davis

To advance a powerful cancer treatment strategy that uses immune cells to fight the disease, Ellen and Gary Davis ’76 have made a $2 million gift to Weill Cornell Medicine to drive ongoing research in immunotherapy, the institution announced today.

This foundational gift will launch the Ellen and Gary Davis Immune Monitoring Core, a critical research infrastructure that will serve as a repository for patient tumor samples, genomic sequencing and bioinformatics. The core will analyze and provide centralized, sensitive and quantitative patient data that investigators can use to advance their research into immunotherapy. The gift lays the cornerstone for further expansion in immunotherapy research and strengthens Weill Cornell Medicine’s position as a leader in the development of powerful new weapons in the fight against cancer. A portion of the gift will fund research collaborations between investigators at Weill Cornell Medicine, Cornell University and Cornell Tech, strengthening the bridges between New York and Ithaca.

“We are extremely grateful to Ellen and Gary, whose strategic gift establishes an important foundation for immunotherapy research that is befitting of the treatment’s promise,” said Jessica M. Bibliowicz, chairman of the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Overseers. “Ellen and Gary’s generous support will augment our growing immunotherapy program, bolster our rich research communities at Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell University, and bring us closer to eliminating cancer.”

The Davises have a legacy of philanthropy at Cornell University, having endowed the Gary S. Davis Professorship of Government and the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and established a joint fellowship at the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering and Weill Cornell Medicine to advance research into epilepsy.

“All of us at Cornell are profoundly grateful to the Davises for their immense generosity and vision, which will accelerate the pace of scientific discovery and ensure that more patients benefit from immunotherapy,” said Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III. “With this outstanding new gift, Ellen and Gary are strengthening the bonds between our faculty in Ithaca and New York City; their collaboration will inspire new investigative avenues that will truly make a difference.”

“Immunotherapy represents one of the most exciting avenues of investigation for fighting cancer,” said Weill Cornell Medicine overseer Ellen Davis and Cornell University trustee and alumnus Gary Davis. “We are proud to be able to make this important investment, empowering Weill Cornell Medicine and its unparalleled oncology program, led by Dr. Lewis Cantley, as well as the distinguished investigators at Cornell in Ithaca and engineers at Cornell Tech, to realize the promise of immunotherapy.”

“Cancer is a devastating disease, and it is our responsibility to find new, more effective and more tolerable treatments that will allow patients to get back to their everyday lives,” said Dr. Augustine MK Choi, interim dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and interim provost for medical affairs at Cornell. “Ellen and Gary Davis’ transformative gift helps us to do just that, providing valuable resources and fostering research collaborations so that we can perfect immunotherapy.”

Immunotherapy has become a promising new therapy for many types of cancers, hailed as the “fifth pillar” alongside surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and precision-targeted therapeutics. While the latter four attempt to remove or attack cancer cells directly, immunotherapy uses a patient’s own immune system to strike the disease from within. Scientists have made important advances in this therapeutic area that have improved patients’ lives and the outcomes of their diseases. However, most patients do not respond to immunotherapy alone, and it is not yet possible to predict who may need secondary, complementary treatments – or who may have developed treatment resistance. The Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine is committed to overcoming those obstacles.

Underscoring the special synergy between Cornell University, Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech, the Davises have dedicated $400,000 of their gift to fund research collaborations between investigators in New York and Ithaca. The research support, offered through competitive grants, will enable investigators to drive new innovations in immunotherapy that will benefit patients in New York and beyond.

Ellen Davis is an active principal, investor and adviser for early-stage businesses. Gary Davis is CEO of DKR Capital Partners, an investment advisory firm engaged primarily in the hedge fund and private equity markets.

Read more about the gift at the Weill Cornell Medicine website.

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Sarah Smith