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NYC Benefit Raises $1.4m for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, Honors Merck

NEW YORK, June 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A charity breakfast at New York's Rainbow Room on May 27th raised $1.4 million for innovative cancer research funded by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. The Foundation gives 100% of donations to exceptional early-career cancer researchers, who are funded through competitive and prestigious award programs, targeting all types of cancers.

The non-profit's Annual Breakfast featured remarks by Joe Kernen, co-anchor of CNBC's flagship morning program "Squawk Box," who spoke of his previous role as a cancer researcher at MIT. "The people that pushed me out of research and into reading a teleprompter are the people that win Damon Runyon awards," said Mr. Kernen.

Photos of the event can be found here.

Richard T. Clark, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Merck & Co., Inc., was honored at the May 27 event for his company's commitment to scientific discovery. In remarks at the breakfast, Mr. Clark said, "This is an amazing time to be involved in cancer research. But no one company, individual, or organization can do it alone. I applaud the Foundation and its scientists for their important work." Merck recently donated $450,000 towards the Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator program, which aims to accelerate the translation of research into new treatments and cures for cancer patients. Since 1995, the company has provided $2 million to support Damon Runyon Fellowships.

Mr. Clark was introduced by Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell International Inc. Mr. Bossidy recently retired from Merck's Board of Directors.

Damon Runyon scientists John L. Rinn, PhD, and Christine H. Chung, MD, described their current cancer research projects funded by the Foundation:

Dr. Rinn, previously an aspiring professional snowboarder and now an Assistant Professor at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, won a Damon Runyon Innovation Award for his work on a new class of molecules called lincRNAs, which have potentially groundbreaking possibilities for the treatment of all cancers.

"We do genomic origami. If we could learn to fold, say, a broken wing [of a genomic origami bird] up, we could turn a cancerous cell back to normal," said Dr. Rinn.

Dr. Chung's story brought her from a house in South Korea without indoor plumbing to her current role as a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator now focused on improving treatments for patients with head and neck cancers.

"I deeply appreciate Damon Runyon's support - it helped me achieve my American dream," said Dr. Chung, who is now Assistant Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"Breakthroughs happen when you let the most brilliant people test their ideas and follow their instincts," said Lorraine Egan, Executive Director of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Ms. Egan highlighted the recent work of Damon Runyon scientist Cassian Yee, MD, who successfully treated a patient with advanced melanoma with immunotherapy.

The Annual Breakfast was attended by 250 guests including leaders of science, academia and industry.

About the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation invests in the rising stars of science and the most innovative cancer research.

Eleven scientists supported by the Foundation have received the Nobel Prize, and others are heads of cancer centers and leaders of renowned research programs. The Foundation currently is funding more than 100 scientists at leading medical centers and research institutions. Since its founding in 1946, the Foundation has invested over $220 million and funded more than 3,200 young scientists. This year, it will invest approximately $9 million in brilliant young minds.

100% of all direct donations are used to support scientific research. Low administrative costs are paid through the Damon Runyon Broadway Tickets service and endowment.

SOURCE Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
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