News Release

Moffitt researcher first in Florida to receive Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

The award provides grant funding for innovative research projects that impact cancer prevention and care

Grant and Award Announcement

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

Alex Jaeger, Ph.D.


Alex Jager, Ph.D., Molecular Oncology Department, Moffitt Cancer Center

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Credit: Moffitt Cancer Center

TAMPA, Fla. – Alex Jaeger, Ph.D., assistant member of the Molecular Oncology Department at Moffitt Cancer Center, has received a Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. He is the first researcher in Florida and at Moffitt to earn this prestigious grant.

“We are very proud of Dr. Jaeger for being awarded a Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award. This highly selective award is a testament to the innovativeness, creativity and promise of his research program. We look forward to the exciting results his work will undoubtedly yield,” said Joseph Kissil, Ph.D., chair of the Molecular Oncology Department at Moffitt.

Jaeger was selected for the William Raveis Charitable Fund Innovator Award for his project “Engineering approaches to exploit MHC-II antigen presentation in cancer.” He will receive $400,000 in grant funding over the next two years.

Recent breakthroughs in genomic and proteomic technologies have sparked a new era in antigen-specific immunotherapies, particularly in cancer vaccines. These therapies rely on the immune system’s ability to recognize and process antigens, either entire proteins or fragments, presented on the cancer cell’s surface. However, our comprehension of the underlying principles governing antigen presentation across various cell types within the tumor microenvironment landscape remains incomplete.

Jaeger’s research employs sophisticated mouse models to examine antigen presentation and processing in healthy lung tissue and the lung cancer tumor microenvironment. His goal is to show how distinct patterns of antigen presentation trigger specific T-cell pathways, thus laying the groundwork for developing advanced immunotherapeutic strategies.

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation established the Innovation Award program to support high-risk, high-reward ideas with the potential to impact cancer prevention, diagnosis or treatment significantly. Awardees are selected through a competitive and rigorous process by a scientific committee of leading cancer researchers with their own history of innovative work. Previous recipients have pioneered the development of CAR T-cell therapies, revolutionized the biomedical sciences with CRISPR gene editing tools and single-cell sequencing methods, and developed computational methods for analyzing large datasets that continue to yield lifesaving discoveries. 

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 56 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s scientific excellence, multidisciplinary research, and robust training and education. Moffitt’s expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 9,000 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.4 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube


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