Established in 1985 by George and Jennifer Forbeck, from its inception the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation has addressed its mission through a unique approach: by focusing on driving communications and collaborations between scientists and clinicians. Building these connections is a vital factor of advancing oncology research.
The Foundation will organize meetings that foster research and encourage cooperation among the most brilliant minds in cancer research to break down the existing barriers of time, space, and organizational myopia. The Foundation will directly support research and other activities it deems necessary to help achieve its Mission.
The programs of the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation (WGFRF) are as follows, and are overseen by the Scientific Advisory Board, a distinguished panel of physicians and scientists.
The cornerstone program of WGFRF, this is an intimate three-day “think tank” held each November in Lake Geneva, WI for a handful of leading international cancer researchers. Since its inception in 1985, the Forum has been a venue to discuss cancer “hot topics” such as genomics, stem cells and vaccines. Today, over 35 years later, the Forum is established as an important cancer think tank at the highest level. The Forum’s format – facilitating great thinking in a beautiful setting – has been adopted by many other organizations.
WGFRF is committed to cultivating the ‘next generation’ of cancer investigators. The Forbeck Scholar Award annually recognizes four early-career oncology investigators with great future promise. Scholars attend the Foundation’s Scholar Retreat in Lake Geneva, WI, for a term of four years, and also attend the Annual Forum. Like the Forum, the Scholar Retreat is an intimate three-day meeting with four or five senior scientific mentors, offering an educational, career development and networking opportunity for the Scholars.
At the heart of WGFRF is an enduring commitment to neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer with a bleak prognosis. WGFRF was established by George and Jennifer Forbeck in honor of their son, Billy Guy Forbeck, who succumbed to neuroblastoma at age 11. Since1985, WGFRF has supported the formation and growth of the International Neuroblastoma Staging System and International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INSS/INRG). This is a consortium of over 60 international neuroblastoma researchers and clinicians that has developed the first universal classification criteria for neuroblastoma diagnosis and clinical management.
Centered at the University of Chicago under the guidance of Dr. Susan Cohn, the INRG database has accrued clinical data on over 18,000 neuroblastoma patients, contributed by member sites of the international INRG community. In 2011, WGFRF commenced a co-funding effort with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to support the development of an interactive, online version of the INRG Database. This will accelerate clinical research by connecting the INRG database electronically with tissue repositories and other clinical resources around the world.
In 2015, the Foundation tripled its programming with the Collaborative Research Program. Available only to past and current Forbeck Scholars, this program promotes collaboration between scientists at different institutions. The funding is for two years with the possibility of a third year pending review. Like the Annual Forum and Scholar Retreat, the Foundation is continuing to support new methods of promoting collaboration and communication.
In 2020 the world came to a standstill trying to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a huge challenge to figure out how the Forbeck Foundation fit into a landscape where people are no longer able to convene. In 2020, we were scheduled to host ten meetings per year with an annual program budget over $300k. Unfortunately, we were only able to host one meeting in 2020.
The COVID Recovery Grant was dedicated to Forbeck Scholars who had research destroyed or lost due to the pandemic. The grant was able to cover existing projects that could not continue without this assistance. Requests covered very specific needs including the recovery of lab materials (such as medications or materials that expired), the loss of investigational animals, materials that are harder to get or more expensive due to shortages, and employees such as a lab technician that would otherwise not be able to be kept on and are needed to finish an experiment.
An unfortunate side effect of the global pandemic has been that cancer research has been put on the back burner, even though in 2020 it will kill over 600k loved ones. This funding will help resuscitate crucial research.