The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy will include over 40 laboratories and more than 300 researchers from six key cancer centres: New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering, Stanford Medicine, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Francisco, Houston's University of Texas MD Anderson and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
The institute will focus on the emerging field of cancer immunotherapy, which harnesses the body's immune system to fight cancer cells.
"Very little progress has been made over the last several decades," Parker said, referring to cancer drug research.
3 key research areas
Parker said the current system of cancer drug development discouraged the kinds of risk-taking that could lead to a major breakthrough.
The new institute "is paradigm shifting," said Dr. Jedd Wolchok, chief of the melanoma and immunotherapeutics unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
"I have no doubt this will allow us to make progress, and to make it much more quickly," Wolchok said.
Parker said the aim was to maximize the return on investment by holding off on licensing deals until later in the research process, or even after a drug has been approved by regulators.
Any profits would be funneled back into the institute.
Patented discoveries made by the cancer center researchers will be shared 50-50 with the institute. A committee with members from each cancer center as well as representatives of the Parker Institute will review potential licensing deals.
Parker credited his late friend Laura Ziskin, a Hollywood producer known for such films as "Pretty Woman" and founder of Stand Up To Cancer, with raising his awareness of the need to overhaul cancer research. She died of the disease in 2011.