Late Microsoft founder’s institute awards B.C. doctor US$1.5m for cancer research

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen passed away from cancer last month

Dr. Christian Steidl | Credit: UBC

Cancer research in B.C. is getting a boost from the late co-founder of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT).

Dr. Christian Steidl, research director of the Centre for Lymphoid Cancer at the B.C. Cancer Centre, is the first Canadian recipient of the Allen Distinguished Investigator Award.

The US$1.5 million grant comes from the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, which announced 10 awards totalling US$13.5 million on October 30.

Allen passed away October 15 after battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Steidl will receive the grant money over three years to further his research lymphoid cancer.

“You can really think about it as unique funding to bridge two fields that stand on their own,” Steidl told Business in Vancouver.

He aims to use the money to help merge cancer genome sequencing with cancer imaging.

“Now we have the opportunity to give it the boost that we need to really elevate it to the next level — and not only doing incremental research, but doing a quantum leap with what we are proposing,” Steidl said.

The Allen Distinguished Investigator program began in 2010 with the goal of funding research that is sometimes less likely to receive traditional funding.

Dr. Akil Merchant, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, is Steidl’s co-investigator.

“We always have that element in our research program that is higher risk and it’s very nice that some philanthropic institutions cater to that need that we have to spend our money sometimes in riskier ways but then have higher rewards,” Steidl said.

“If you have an added element to that that fronts your higher-risk projects, then you have the flexibility to push the boundaries in a completely different way. And in my case that would fund a research type that is very technology-driven, [using] cutting-edge technologies where we have to demonstrate a little bit of feasibility but the scientific upside is tremendous.”