$3M gift funds director of cancer research at CAMI

artist's rendering of the Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies

The Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies in Phoenix will include space for academic and research activities, as well as collaboration spaces to serve academic, research and community needs.

CO Architects

The University of Arizona Health Sciences Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies – a national biomedical research hub that will develop novel strategies for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases – has received a $3 million gift from Bruce and Patricia Bartlett.

Established in 2022, CAMI previously received private support from the Steele Foundation, as well as $150 million in funding from the state.

The Bartletts' gift creates the George A. Vanderheiden Endowed Chair in Cancer Immunological Research at CAMI. The chair is named in honor of Bruce Bartlett's cousin, who died Oct. 13, 2022, of pancreatic cancer at age 76. The person who holds the chair will lead the center's cancer division.

George A. Vanderheiden

The George A. Vanderheiden Endowed Chair in Cancer Immunological Research at CAMI is named for Bruce Bartlett’s cousin, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2022.

"Pat and I are very excited about the wonderful research center that the University of Arizona and Dr. Michael Dake are undertaking with the CAMI project in Phoenix. CAMI research will improve and extend the quality of life for the benefit of people, their families and their friends," Bruce Bartlett said. "We are honored and proud to support the Endowed George Ambrose Vanderheiden Distinguished Endowed Chair for Excellence in Cancer Immunological Research. My cousin George Vanderheiden enriched so many lives."

Vanderheiden was a philanthropist and was a fund manager at Fidelity Mutual Funds for 10 years. He also was passionate about his family and playing pickleball.

"It is fitting to honor George's life in this important way. We lost George to pancreatic cancer last fall and will dearly miss him," Bruce added.

Cancer is one of four areas of focus for CAMI, which also will advance research into molecular therapies and immunotherapies for infectious diseases and autoimmune conditions.

"In 1970, advisers to the U.S. Senate predicted the long-term battle against cancer would lie with immunologists and geneticists. Their farsighted predictions are being borne out today. There is not a field with more explosive growth than immunotherapy, and precision medicine is increasingly being used by researchers and physician-scientists to prevent and treat disease," said Dr. Michael D. Dake, senior vice president for the University of Arizona Health Sciences. "The generous support of Bruce and Patricia Bartlett will allow us to focus our efforts on accelerating the development and delivery of these revolutionary treatments for the management of cancers."

Immunotherapy is one of the most promising approaches to cancer treatment, as it has the potential to sidestep the effects of therapies that can compromise patients' long-term health and wellness.

Classic immunotherapies such as vaccines are being tested for some types of cancers. Other examples of potential research at CAMI include identifying biomarkers for response to immunotherapy that may help determine the precise drugs to fight specific cancers in individual patients.

"Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. and unfortunately it is a disease that has impacted almost everyone in some way," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "The Bartletts are longstanding supporters of the University of Arizona, and we are all incredibly grateful to them for expanding their transformative partnership in this area. I look forward to seeing how the George Ambrose Vanderheiden Distinguished Endowed Chair for Excellence in Cancer will advance cancer research."

The Bartletts are longtime champions of the University of Arizona Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center, known as the SALT Center, where students with learning and attention challenges receive support. Most recently, they made a $10 million lead gift to help launch the Student Success District on campus. The Bartlett Academic Success Center is named in their honor and includes a satellite office for the SALT Center. The gift is one of many the Bartletts have made over the years to initiatives supporting students and health sciences. Their son, Ben, is an alumnus.

"Pat and Bruce have been champions of some of the University of Arizona's top priorities for years – from support of Wildcat students to health sciences," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "I am grateful that they have chosen to honor George's legacy through a gift that will help recruit a leader for the cancer division of CAMI. I know they will share my pride in the treatments and discoveries that come out of CAMI in the years to come."

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