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Press conference remarks for launch of the Ludwig Lausanne Branch

Jun 11, 2015

Sir David Lane, Scientific Director, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

Bonjour. Aujourd’hui est un grand jour pour la communauté de Ludwig et pour la recherche à propos du cancer. That officially ends the French portion of my remarks. I am David Lane, Scientific Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. It is with great pleasure and excitement that I join our partners here to announce our plan to expand and enhance our research presence with the launch of a Ludwig Branch in Lausanne.

This endeavor would not have been possible without the unwavering support of so many people. I will begin by thanking the Canton of Vaud and its representatives, particularly the president of the Conseil d’Etat, Yves-Pierre Maillard and the leadership of the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV), with special acknowledgement to Dominique Arlettaz, rector of the university, and Pierre Francois Leyvraz, director general of the hospital. Their initiative in crafting a bold vision and plan for making Lausanne a center for pioneering cancer research and care, and their effectiveness in marshalling the resources necessary to realize that vision are what bring us here today. And, of course, I would like to thank the Ludwig Cancer Research Board of Directors, who have seen in this initiative the spirit of global collaboration that our founder Daniel K. Ludwig believed would be essential to the conquest of cancer.

What is that vision? I will cast aside all caution and say it is simply this: to transform the treatment of cancer.

That is, admittedly, an ambitious aim. But then, we have on our side a powerful ally, one that has evolved over millions of years to battle a ceaseless assault from a dizzying array of biological adversaries. It’s called the immune system and, in most of us, it works day in and day out to keep cancer at bay—until, of course, the cancer escapes and takes over the body.

The reawakening and reenlistment of the immune system into the body’s battle against cancer is, in my opinion, likely to be among the greatest achievements of 21st century medicine. And it is a revolution now unfolding in laboratories and clinics across the globe.

At the Ludwig Lausanne Branch and the brand new facilities to be constructed here, we plan to harness that momentum to help hone and advance personalized immunotherapies. What does this mean?

For one thing, it means we will develop new ways to isolate and manipulate immune cells taken from individual cancer patients, and to unleash them on each patient’s unique cancer.

But we will not stop there. We plan here to learn how to deliver such customized therapies in a manner that is replicable, safe, reliable, efficient and—of course—effective; and to take the promise of personalized immunotherapies to as many cancer patients as possible.

To do that, we will have to develop systems, technologies and processes for the delivery of such therapies that can be broadly replicated at hospitals everywhere. Today, only a few academic hospitals, most of them in the US, are equipped to provide such therapies; and they can do so for only a few patients at a time. We want to play a big part in changing that, and to participate in a medical revolution that will, in relatively short order, transform how cancer is treated everywhere.

Toward that end, we are impressed by and excited to become involved in the new multi-institutional Swiss Cancer Center Lausanne or SCCL, whose strategic vision is to become an innovative and impactful new comprehensive cancer center, a major player on the international stage of cancer research and therapy. The SCCL builds upon the complementary expertise and capabilities of its partners: the CHUV, UNIL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne or EPFL and the ISREC Foundation. Notably, the ISREC Foundation is spearheading the funding and construction of the ‘Agora’ translational cancer research building on the CHUV campus, which will bring together physician scientists, bioengineers and cancer researchers from the Ludwig Branch and the partner institutions to expedite development of new cancer therapies, adding an exciting dimension to the opportunity that attracted us to Lausanne.

There are few places as capable of supporting such an ambitious effort. Your beautiful city is home to top-notch hospitals. It has a wealth of scientific, computational and engineering expertise in its academic institutions and offers a burgeoning biotech and business community. This high praise comes not just from me, but also from the eminent scientists of Ludwig’s independent Scientific Advisory Committee, who visited to see for themselves the rich opportunities presented here and to affirm that, together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of cancer patients.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to recognize two more individuals who have been critical to what we’re announcing today.

No one has pondered the research possibilities for Ludwig in Lausanne as vividly, or considered them more intensely, as George Coukos. George, who will be the director of this new Ludwig Lausanne Branch, is a globally recognized cancer immunologist and clinician who has already contributed mightily to our understanding of the tumor’s immune defenses and the development of immunotherapies for ovarian cancer. His high expectations for this Branch and his drive to realize them leave no doubt that this will be an exciting and vibrant environment for cancer research.

And then there’s Douglas Hanahan, my friend since we first worked on the same laboratory bench together in 1978 and—in the off chance that you don’t already know—a giant in the field of cancer research. Doug has been a tireless champion for Lausanne and a persuasive advocate of the promise it holds for Ludwig Cancer Research. We are deeply grateful to him for the effort and energy he expended in moving this project forward.

And thanks once again to all of the academic and government leaders here in Lausanne who have given their support to this new Ludwig Branch. We are partners in a truly exciting and worthy endeavor.

And with that, I yield the podium to Professor Pierre-Francois Leyvraz, Director General of the Lausanne University Hospital.