eNews March 29, 2021

Decades of Generosity: A Profile of Robert Alvine

 Bob Alvine standing at a podium
JAX supporter Robert Alvine

Longtime Jackson Laboratory (JAX) supporter Robert Alvine, chair emeritus of the JAX Board of Trustees, has supported a wide range of research areas and initiatives at the Laboratory over the years. He was a crucial early supporter of the Laboratory’s patient-derived xenograft (PDX) mouse models, and now, with a $100,000 gift, he is determined to help JAX tackle triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the U.S. population, and is second only to lung cancer as the most deadly. There are several subcategories of breast cancer, each driven by different genetic factors, and specific therapies are now available to target several of these types. TNBC remains elusive, however. Accounting for about 10 to 15 percent of all breast cancers, TNBC also tends to grow and spread faster, and is more common among women who are under age 40, who are African-American, or who carry a BRCA1 mutation.

“Over my decades of involvement with JAX, I have seen real progress in cancer research—advances in our understanding of how cancer operates as well as in how to treat it effectively,” said Alvine. “As JAX’s president and CEO, Ed Liu has raised the Laboratory’s cancer research program to new heights, and it is a pleasure to honor him by supporting the significant innovative work he is doing in his own lab that will improve predictive options and outcomes for breast cancer patients.”

Improving clinical care

Alvine’s gift will support the  The Liu LabResearching the fundamental genomics of breast cancer.Liu lab ’s research into TNBC, with the goal of improving clinical care. Led by JAX CEO and president  Edison Liu, M.D.Conducts research focused on the functional genomics of breast cancer through an exploration of the entire genomic space.Edison T. Liu, M.D. , the Liu lab investigates how specific gene mutations induce different classes of genomic rearrangements in cancer cells, which can be identified and help guide treatment strategies. The ultimate goal is to construct clinical diagnostic tests that can predict patient responses to therapy.

“Bob Alvine is among JAX’s dearest friends and most dedicated champions,” said Liu. “Bob’s past leadership on our Board and his continued involvement as a donor have helped shape JAX’s growth for decades, and his support for my own lab’s research is profoundly meaningful.”

Liu's own scientific research has focused on the genomics of human cancers, particularly breast cancer, uncovering new oncogenes (genes that drive cancer development and progress), and understanding the mechanisms of gene regulation that affect cancer cell biology.

A history of scientific support

An executive, investor and philanthropist, Alvine currently serves as the chairman and CEO of i-TEN Management Corporation and i-TEN Capital Corporation, private equity and venture capital firms.

Alvine is passionate about science, and was instrumental in founding one of the nation’s first forensic science programs at the University of New Haven (UNH), where he established the top-ranked Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science. 

“Science is the key to shaping a better future, and I firmly believe that all of us who want the best patient solutions can do our part to support life-changing research,” he said. “I can think of no better philanthropic investment than supporting innovative research and brilliant scientists like Ed Liu and his colleagues at JAX.”

Alvine has been an ardent supporter of PDX mouse model development at JAX. These models are developed by taking tumor tissue from human patients and engrafting it in immunocompromised mice. If the engraftment is successful, the tumor can be grown, divided and passaged through mice multiple times. PDX models therefore provide researchers with the ability to work with tumors directly from patients within a living (in vivo) system, making them a preeminent platform for preclinical cancer research.

“Bob’s early confidence in the value of PDX models for cancer research demonstrates his commitment to the JAX mission,” said Liu. “His support has been instrumental to our work in this area, allowing us to innovate and grow as the science around PDX evolves. Looking ahead, I’m thrilled that we can once more partner with Bob to uncover the mysteries of cancer. ”

Alvine’s gift builds on the philanthropic momentum that JAX experienced in 2020, which was a record-breaking year for fundraising with more than $21 million raised in support of the Laboratory’s mission. JAX donors made transformational gifts towards  Diana Davis Spencer Foundation pledges $4M to JAX for vision researchFunding will support scientific research and training activities in the field of neurodegenerative diseases of the eye, including graduate and postdoctoral fellowship training and research projects in glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and ocular signs of Alzheimer’s disease. vision research , the  Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative expands; offers clinical trials and new technologyThe Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative (MCGI), a collaboration aimed at making the latest personalized medicine available to cancer patients throughout Maine, will now bring new precision oncology clinical trials to the state, support access to targeted therapies for patients not eligible for trials, and develop novel technology to enhance genomic education and genetic services through online platforms. Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative ,  JAX donors contribute $100,000 to new COVID-19 modelsA generous gift from Jackson Laboratory (JAX) donors will support the development of new humanized mouse models for beating COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 7 million worldwide, killing over 400,000 people. COVID-19 research ,  Anonymous gift will help teach the genome generationA budding genomics education program will expand to teachers nationwide through the creation of an online course in personal genomics for high school STEM educators. STEM education and more.