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Disrupting cancer: Napster creator Sean Parker pours $250M into research

The entrepreneur's money will help search for breakthroughs in immunotherapy, which enables patients to use their own immune systems, rather than radiation or chemicals, to fight cancer.

This is Sean Parker's second multimillion-dollar donation in less than a year.
Ramin Talaie/Corbis

Sean Parker is best known as the founder of Napster or as the charming-yet-dodgy character that Justin Timberlake played in the 2010 film "Social Network." Now, the serial entrepreneur is apparently hoping to leave behind a different legacy -- as a philanthropist.

The Sean Parker Foundation announced Wednesday that it has donated $250 million to create the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

The institute will oversee 300 researchers working together in more than 40 laboratories across the US. with the goal of developing "breakthrough immune therapies capable of turning cancer into a curable disease," according to its statement.

Metastatic cancer, which spreads from one area of the body to another, still kills patients at the same rate it did 20 years ago, according to the foundation. The institute will seek to advance immunotherapy, a relatively untapped field, in hopes that it can succeed where other types of treatment have failed to make a significant difference.

Immunotherapy uses the body's own immune system to attack cancer cells.

"We are at an inflection point in cancer research and now is the time to maximize immunotherapy's unique potential to transform all cancers into manageable diseases, saving millions of lives," Parker said in a statement.

Parker, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $2.4 billion, has made donations to medical efforts over the years. They include $5 million to the Cancer Research Institute in 2012, $24 million to create the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research in 2014 and $4.5 million to the Malaria Elimination Initiative in 2015. Last year, he also donated $600 million to start the Sean Parker Foundation.

He has a thick resume as a tech entrepreneur. In the late 1990s, he co-founded Napster, the online service that disrupted the music industry before copyright issues led to its demise. He helped Facebook transition from college project into global phenomenon and was an early investor in music-streaming service Spotify.