Dr. Sujuan Ba currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), co-founded in 1973 by Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi and the lawyer/entrepreneur Franklin Salisbury, Sr. NFCR provides scientists in the labs the funding they need to make game-changing discoveries in cancer treatments, detection, prevention, and ultimately, a cure for all types of cancer in the US and internationally. NFCR is one of few charities willing to take risks and fund the most innovative ideas in cancer research before anybody shows any interest. These new ideas often open critical new fields in cancer research. Since its inception, NFCR has distinguished itself in the cancer research community by funding high-risk, high-impact, long-term, and transformative research programs with the help of more than 5.3 million individual donors.
At NFCR, Dr. Ba oversees the strategic direction and implementation of NFCR’s scientific funding, global strategic partnership & alliances, public fundraising, and financial planning. Under Dr. Ba’s leadership, NFCR has established a robust network of cancer researchers in the United States, Europe, and Asia allowing NFCR-funded scientists to work collaboratively across disciplinary, institutional, and geographic boundaries on a wide array of innovative basic and translational cancer research. Significant and impactful international collaborative programs have emerged from this cross-institution collaborative approach.
Under the leadership of Dr. Ba, NFCR has established the annual Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research, an international prize in recognition of outstanding scientific achievement in the war against cancer. She has served continuously as co-chair of the Prize Selection Committee, consisting of key opinion leaders of cancer research from academic and biotech/pharmaceutical communities. The prize has now grown into one of the premier cancer research awards in the world.
Another one of the earlier highest-profile and significant research programs to emerge from the international collaborative network was the creation of the ScreenSaver-LifeSaver Project. Dr. Ba established a partnership between NFCR, United Devices, Inc., Intel Corporation, and Oxford University in the United Kingdom to launch a distributed computing technology-based application, which sped up the drug screening process by linking together more than 3 million PC users around the world to create the world’s largest supercomputer. This program enabled scientists to perform virtual screenings of 3.5 billion small molecules against some twelve target proteins to identify new anti-cancer drug candidates. The project cut the lengthy drug discovery process for many potential cancer therapies. InhibOx, a spin-off company out of the University of Oxford (now the company name changed to Oxford Drug Design Ltd), was established in 2002 out of this initiative to commercialize the technology and drug screening platform. This program was written up as one of the innovations by Shira P. White in her book, New Ideas about New Ideas, Insights on Creativity from the World’s Leading Innovations in 2002. The program was also featured in the book Entrepreneurship: a case study from two viewpoints by Graham Richards and Tony Marchington.
In 2019 Dr. Ba co-founded AIM-HI Accelerator Fund (AIM-HI) and has served as its President and CEO. Spun out of NFCR, AIM-HI Accelerator Fund is shifting the paradigm for both charitable giving and impact investing. It funds start-up oncology companies, supporting innovative laboratory breakthroughs that have the potential to save the lives of cancer patients.
This new funding paradigm is uniquely designed to supercharge the groundbreaking translational research programs and the transformative early-stage oncology start-ups to bring new therapies and diagnostic tools to patients while potentially generating sustainable revenues for future cancer research. Since AIM-HI’s inception, almost two dozen oncology start-ups have received the critically needed seed investments.
Dr. Ba has also led the establishment of AIM-HI Women’s Venture Competiton in 2020, a first-of-its-kind program that provides investment, coaching, and networking opportunities to women-led oncology start-ups. More than 150 women-led oncology start-ups have gone through the rigorous review and judging process of the Women’s Venture Competition platform.
In 2017 Dr. Ba co-founded the Global Coalition for Adaptive Research (GCAR) and several world-renowned leaders in brain cancer research. GCAR’s charter is to lead the approval and global implementation of the master protocol trial of GBM AGILE (Glioblastoma Adaptive Global Innovative Learning Environment), a paradigm-changing global-scale cancer research platform with a patient-centered, adaptive platform trial.
Dr. Ba is instrumental in funding and launching GBM-AGILE from its inception as an innovative idea in 2014 to today; Dr. Ba has worked with a creative coalition of more than 150 collaborators from academic investigators, patient organizations, and industry worldwide. GBM AGILE can test multiple therapies simultaneously for patients with newly-diagnosed and recurrent GBM – the deadliest form of brain cancer in adults. The goal of GBM AGILE is to revolutionize future clinical trials to speed up the critical path for new curative therapies.
GBM AGILE has screened over 1100 patients as of January 2022, with enrollment rates 3 to 4 times greater than traditional GBM studies. GBM AGILE is now open in the US, Europe, and Canada. It will soon open trial sites in Australia and China later this year. Additional regions are being assessed globally. We believe that GBM AGILE will provide vital information to expedite the evaluation of new treatments and identify new and improved options for brain cancer patients. GBM AGILE will serve as a more efficient, cost-effective, and accelerated drug development model. The learning of the GBM AGILE platform and the master protocol is being expanded to ovarian cancer and other diseases.
Dr. Ba also founded the Asian Fund for Cancer Research (AFCR) in 2006. AFCR is a non-profit organization headquartered in Hong Kong committed to investigating the distinct causes of cancer in Asian populations and developing more effective therapies for cancers prevalent in Asia. Dr. Ba provides strategic vision and guidance for AFCR’s collaborative research initiatives and public prevention programs in Hong Kong, Greater China, and Asia. Under Dr. Ba’s leadership, AFCR has now launched the BRACE Award (Bridging Research from Academia to Cancer Entrepreneurship Award) to identify and catalyze the translational process from early-stage cancer discovery.
Dr. Ba has served on the Women in Science Committee of CRS (Control Release Society) since 2017. She is also a Member of Springboard’s Life Science Council, a group of experts worldwide in biotech, pharma, medical devices, and health IT who invest their “human capital” in Springboard’s pipeline of high-growth, women-led companies. She is the former President of the Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association (2010-2011) and a lifetime member of BayHelix, an invitation-only organization of leaders of Chinese origin involved globally in life sciences and health.
Dr. Ba was awarded one of the “20 Most Inspiring Women Leaders 2022” by The Women Leaders Magazine. Dr. Ba received NBC4 WORKING 4 THE COMMUNITY Award in 2019, recognizing her outstanding achievements as a scientist, leader, and role model in the STEM fields. Dr. Ba also received the inaugural Outstanding Achievement Award from Society for Neuro-Oncology of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association for our outstanding contribution to international cooperation in 2017. She was named one of the “Top 300 Women Leaders in Global Health” in 2015 by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies’ Global Health Programme. She was also awarded the Public Service Award in 2014 from the Chinese Biopharmaceutical Association–USA for her long-term devotion and distinguished service to the global biopharmaceutical community. She was selected to receive the CRS WOMEN IN SCIENCES Award in 2011.
Before joining NFCR, Dr. Ba was the Director of Chiral Chemistry and Fine Chemical Consulting Services at Technology Catalysts International (TCI). She conducted market research, business evaluation, and competitive intelligence for an international clientele of major chemical and pharmaceutical companies. From 1991 to 1997, she was a Principal Research Chemist and then Project Manager of Technology Development and Research Planning at Arco Chemical Company (ARCO).
Dr. Ba received her BS in radiochemistry from Peking University and her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.