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LUNGevity’s Scientific Advisory Board


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September 18th, 2013 - by Margery Jacobson

This is a tribute to the LUNGevity Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. As LUNGevity’s Research and Program Services Manager, I handle the day-to-day aspects of the research program. This includes attending the semi-annual research meetings—the Fall strategy meetings and the Spring study sections. I come away from each of these meetings exhilarated by what has been accomplished and the ultimate progress these accomplishments will represent to the lung cancer community, and the Scientific Advisory Board is the reason I feel this way. A little bit first about the SAB and what it does:

The SAB includes leaders in epidemiology, biostatistics, immunology, thoracic surgery, and other areas relevant to the research we support, and most of them focus on lung cancer in their own work. Currently, there are 18 regular members from 14 institutions nationwide. In addition, there are eight non-voting members, recipients of the LUNGevity Career Development Award who are members of the SAB during their award term.

At the Spring study section, SAB members, joined by a group of outside experts, discuss the best of the research proposals that have been received, using specific assessment criteria. These include the overall impact of the project on the field, the likelihood of the project increasing understanding of early detection or treatment, the merits of the research approach, the strength of the researcher/research team, and the merits of the research environment. Funding is limited, but the number of excellent proposals we receive is not, so these discussions are absolutely critical to making sure that we fund the best of the best.

At the Fall strategy meetings, SAB members discuss various research program issues relevant to the upcoming grant cycle, in order to ensure the program is having the biggest impact possible. In the context of how the science and funding around lung cancer is evolving overall, they might discuss: What research areas should be funded? What should be the value of the awards? Should we change the criteria for eligibility? Should we change the criteria for assessment? Should cross-institution research proposals be favored over single-institution research proposals? Should we offer continuation funding at the end of an award term in cases where the researcher’s progress would recommend it? Typically, an SAB member also presents an update on his/her own work or on a more general topic relating to lung cancer.

Once a year, current awardees also present their progress to the scientific advisors and take questions around their LUNGevity-funded projects. In addition to helping assess whether the work is on track or there are new, unexpected findings, these sessions also provide a forum for identifying opportunities for collaboration and problem-solving with researchers from other institutions. The researchers can also receive recommendation for how to improve the impact and productivity of their work.

These meetings are intense and lengthy. So why do I come away so excited? Three simple reasons: SAB members know, they care, and they collaborate. At these meetings, SAB members display a profound understanding of the field and what is required for there to be progress that will make the most difference in the lives of lung cancer patients; they care deeply that LUNGevity can fund the research that will do this; and they engage in a civil way that allows for honest discussion, including a readiness to consider and accept points of view that were not theirs originally, all toward realization of their shared goal to fund the best research.

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