Earlier this year, Sean Parker—Napster founder, Facebook funder and serial disruptor—launched his latest and most ambitious project to change the world. With his own $250 million gift, he created the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, to well, hack cancer.
That may sound like a worthy, if ridiculously naive, aim from a tech billionaire. But this wasn’t just a well-minted philanthropist throwing money at a cause. This was a project in which Parker himself was fully and deeply engaged. For years, he steeped himself in the science of immunology—renowned cancer researcher Jim Allison compares Parker to “an advanced post-doc." He made friends with the field’s leading scientists, like Allison. And he studied and identified the flaws of the drug development system. Perhaps, most spectacularly, he got six of the nation’s most revered cancer hospitals—from Memorial Sloan-Kettering to Stanford—to sign an agreement to pool and share their collective intellectual property, a promising and unprecedented level of collaboration in a field that has long been hindered by its competitive, non-cooperative approach.