Collaboration across disciplines, such as basic life sciences, medical oncology, and industry, has facilitated the recent explosion in the use of immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. However, scientists and clinicians train separately, and often emerge without a common language, hindering ease of collaboration. We propose the Mentoring for Early Translational Immuno-Oncology Researchers (METIOR) Incubator as a new educational paradigm.
The METIOR Incubator is a program that aims to attract young investigators across disciplines to collaborate on hypothesis-driven projects for which they will receive year-long mentorship from experts in the field. Each application cycle, a new problem in immuno-oncology will be chosen as the Incubator’s provocative theme. Applicants will submit hypotheses pertaining to the theme, and will answer questions that could serve as the basis of grant proposals. Selection will be based on relevance, novelty, and likelihood of contribution to other applicants’ successful proposals. Those selected will be assigned to teams comprised of individuals from different sectors who shared common questions in their applications. Mentor teams will be comprised of established professionals who are dynamic and eager to facilitate our mission of “cross-talk” between the many disciplines of immuno-oncology. The selected individuals and teams will receive year-long mentorship from medical oncologists, research scientists, business experts, and NIH/FDA grant officers with a goal of generating successful team projects and novel collaborative efforts that leverage the unique strengths of the participants.
The structure of our program has three phases. Our first annual meeting, the "Anti-Educational Summit" will invite the mentors to speak and participants to meet their teammates and share their questions/hypotheses while formulating plans for collaborative projects to develop throughout the year. The teams will work on these projects for several months with the guidance of their mentors until the second in-person "METIORic Progress" meeting, where participants will have the opportunity to further develop their projects. The incubator program will culminate with the presentation of collaborative research projects at SITC 2018. The grant proposals presented can then be used in applications for external funding. Our goal is to have the cohort of the first Incubator serve as mentors to the ensuing year’s Incubator cohort. This format will allow participants to develop longitudinal relationships with mentors in the field, and will create a network of young investigators across specialties, embedding more translational work into the fabric of their training. We plan for the incubator to have a long and sustainable life, which is why during the ensuing year we will research additional funding sources and potential university partners to support subsequent years of the METIOR program.