In TD grant, big win for CSHL, Tuveson and society

Color coded: Organoids grown from pancreatic tissue in CSHL's Tuveson Lab, including normal cells (red) and pancreatic tumor samples (green).

A cutting-edge Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory cancer-detection science will get cutting-edgier, thanks to a stocking stuffer from TD Bank.

New Jersey-based TD announced Tuesday more than $3 million in fresh grants, comprising the second funding round of its TD Ready Challenge, an application-based national competition designed to balance social scales while innovating early disease detection and intervention.

Among them: a $750,000 award for CSHL aimed at advancing organoid-based clinical tests – potentially, a cancer-detection breakthrough for all, including traditionally underserved populations.

All told, four organizations – the Massachusetts-based Baystate Health Foundation, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Fund for Public Health in New York City and CSHL – earned grants this round, bumping 2019 TD Ready Challenge totals to 10 U.S. and Canadian healthcare organizations and $7.5 million in awards.

Gregory Braca: Healthcare innovation for all.

The TD Ready Challenge received roughly 380 submissions from U.S. and Canadian organizations, according to The Toronto-Dominion Bank, parent of TD Bank. Fifteen semifinalists pitched directly to Toronto-Dominion executives in November in Toronto, with six Canadian and four U.S. companies ultimately earning grants.

All of the winners meet the challenge’s specific mandate of not only innovating healthcare, but providing services to low-income communities – TD’s attempt to improve society’s overall health by leveling the socioeconomic playing field, according to TD Bank CEO Gregory Braca.

“While advances in healthcare enable many to lead healthier lives, the unfortunate reality is that not all communities have equal access to quality healthcare,” Braca noted.

Hence the TD Ready Challenge, which targets innovation where it’s needed most. The Baystate Health Foundation, for instance, will use its grant money to launch the TD Bank-Baystate Health Bus, a “mobile preventive-health clinic” designed to provide life-saving health screenings, critical referrals and other early-detection services to low-income and other at-risk populations.

The CHOP will use its $750,000 stipend to bolster its Growing Resilience in Teens project, which looks to prevent future emotional illness by proactively addressing trauma in high-risk adolescents, while the Fund for Public Health in New York City will attempt to replicate its successful Quickie Lab – a no-questions-asked facility for rapid chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, currently available at one site in Chelsea – at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Sexual Health Clinic.

At CSHL, the money will directly benefit the work of David Tuveson, director of the laboratory’s Cancer Center and a pioneer in the use of organoids in pancreatic cancer research.

Organoids are three-dimensional cell culture systems that reproduce actual patient tumors in petri dishes, giving scientists an easy target to test chemotherapies and other anti-cancer drugs.

David Tuveson: Well organoids.

Tuveson and his team will put the $750,000 toward a new organoid facility, built specifically to develop affordable and effective organoid-based clinical tests – and to ship them out ASAP to clinicians and researchers across the land.

Tuveson, who succeeded CSHL President and CEO Bruce Stillman as director of CSHL’s Cancer Center in 2016, has attracted plenty of attention with his next-gen research. In 2017, he helped CSHL land a contract to head up development of an international Cancer Model Development Center.

In 2018, he was elected to the American Association of Cancer Research Board of Directors and named chief scientist of the Woodbury-based Lustgarten Foundation, America’s largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research.

Now add the TD Ready Challenge award to his list of accomplishments – a fitting victory, according to TD honcho Branca, who trumpeted efforts to “improve the lives of our customers, colleagues and communities.”

“We believe that when people feel better about their health, they feel better about their future,” the CEO added. “Which is why we’re focused on supporting research, solutions and technologies that make healthcare more accessible for everyone.”