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NYGC Researchers Part of Global Cancer Grand Challenges Team, Aim to Address Cancer Inequities in the African Diaspora

New York, NY  ·  March 6, 2024
Team Sanbai poster

Team SAMBAI, an interdisciplinary, global team, was selected to receive up to $25M over five years to address cancer inequities

The New York Genome Center (NYGC) proudly announces that a world-class research team led by Melissa B. Davis, PhD, the Director of the Institute of Translational Genomic Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine, and NYGC Associate Faculty and Polyethnic-1000 (P-1000) Cancer Ethnicity Scholar, was selected as one of five international research teams to receive up to $25M in funding from Cancer Grand Challenges. SAMBAI (Societal, Ancestry, Molecular, and Biological Analyses of Inequalities) will be the only research team to address the issue of inequities in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment.

Cancer Grand Challenges is a global funding platform, co-founded by Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), that supports a community of diverse, global teams in their effort to innovatively tackle cancer’s biggest challenges. The teams are funded by Cancer Research UK and the NCI, and this $125M investment marks Cancer Grand Challenges’ largest funding round to date.

With these funds, SAMBAI will build an unprecedented resource comprised of comprehensive measurements of social, environmental, genetic, and biological factors used to help define the causes of disparate outcomes in the selected populations. The team will focus on prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancers in diverse cohorts of African descent from regions within Africa, the UK, and the US.

“Together, we’ve built a foundation strong enough to embark on this ambitious journey, largely through our Polyethnic-1000 project efforts at the New York Genome Center,” said Dr. Melissa Davis. “With this monumental award, we will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in cancer research, inspired by the collaborative philosophies of my NYGC colleagues that have brought us this far.”

The team unites clinicians, advocates, and scientists across fifteen institutions and four countries with proficiency in epidemiology, exposomics, genomics, immunology, and computational biology. Dr. Nicolas Robine, Director of Computational Biology at NYGC, and Dr. Marcin Imieliński, Core Faculty Member at NYGC and Director of Cancer Genomics at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, are working alongside other genomics collaborators to process and contextualize large and complex data using novel algorithms, cloud computing and graph representations of reference sequences, which are well-suited to analyze genomic data of participants from diverse ancestries.

“About 5 years ago, under the leadership of the Genome Center Cancer Group, chaired by Harold Varmus and Charles Sawyers, NYGC launched the Polyethnic-1000 project, to diversify the cancer genomics data and study the effect of ancestry on eight different cancer types, using tumor-normal whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing,” said Dr. Robine. “While this project is still ongoing, I am extremely excited to participate in the extension of P-1000, with more participants, more data modalities, more disciplines involved, and many incredible new collaborators. SAMBAI will benefit from these important multidisciplinary collaborations and from the world-class expertise in cancer genomics we have developed at the New York Genome Center.”

To learn more about Team SAMBAI, click here.


About the New York Genome Center: The New York Genome Center (NYGC) is an independent, nonprofit academic research institution that serves as a multi-institutional hub for collaborative genomic research. Leveraging our strengths in technology development, computational biology, and whole genome sequencing, our mission is to advance genomic science and its application to novel biomedical discoveries. NYGC’s areas of focus include the development of computational and experimental genomic methods and disease-focused research to advance the understanding of the genetic basis of cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and neuropsychiatric disease. We are committed to prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is fundamental to promoting greater collaboration, innovation, and discovery.

NYGC Media Contact: Madisen Grimaldi,

About Morehouse School of Medicine: Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation’s leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation’s number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission — the creation and advancement of health equity. MSM faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master’s degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit or call 404-752-1500.

MSM Media Contact: Jamille Bradfield,, 404-756-8951

About Cancer Grand Challenges: Co-founded in 2020 by two of the largest funders of cancer research in the world: Cancer Research UK and the National Cancer Institute, Cancer Grand Challenges supports a global community of diverse, world-class research teams to come together, think differently and take on some of cancer’s toughest challenges. These are the obstacles that continue to impede progress and no one scientist, institution or country will be able to solve them alone. With awards of up to $25M, Cancer Grand Challenges teams are empowered to rise above the traditional boundaries of geography and discipline to make the progress against cancer we urgently need.

U.S. CGC Media Contact: CGC,

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