IFI Members in the News
July 24, 2014
Ronald Collman and Elizabeth Grice are among Medicine faculty integrating microbiomics into their work to see how bacteria, viruses and fungi help keep people healthy.
Progress on HIV/AIDS
July 18, 2014
Ian Frank, MD, professor in the division of Infectious Diseases and director of Anti-Retroviral Clinical Research in the Penn Center for AIDS Research, was a guest on WHYY'ss "Radio Times" with Marty Moss-Coane for a show on the progress of HIV/AIDS treatment and research. Where do we stand in the battle against the epidemic? Frank was joined by AIDS activists for a roundtable discussion—everything from the Mississippi baby to the recent loss of the AIDS researchers on the downed Malaysian flight was tackled. “This is a huge tragedy for everyone that lost their lives and for their families and friends,” said Frank. “This is a huge blow to the HIV community,” he added.
July 13, 2014
A war on pancreas cancer is underway right here at the Abramson Cancer Center. A story in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer featured the work of Jeffrey Drebin, MD, chair of Surgery and the John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery, and Robert Vonderheide, MD, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research in the ACC. Drebin and Vonderheide—both co-leads on Stand up to Cancer Dream Teams—are investigating new targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and more, to better the understand and treat the disease, which is projected to become this country's second-leading cancer killer. "We absolutely need to figure it out," said Vonderheide. "It's a medical emergency." Ongoing studies at the ACC have shed light on tumor biology and shown success with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. "We're not declaring victory,” Drebin told the Inquirer. “We're declaring progress.”.
July 9, 2014
In continuing coverage, WHYY radio talked to David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, about the recent FDA "Breakthrough Therapy" designation awarded to Penn's immunotherapy to treat relapsed and refractory adult and pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The designation--a first for a personalized cellular therapy to treat cancer-- should help expedite the review and approval process. "It allows us to work more collaboratively with the FDA so that the trials can be done efficiently so there can be proper and early oversight," Porter said. "Hopefully, it will be on a more rapid path to approval in the future."
July 7, 2014
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration awarded the University of Pennsylvania’s personalized immunotherapy—known as CTL019—its Breakthrough Therapy Designation for the treatment of relapsed and refractory adult and pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), reports the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Such a designation expedites the development and review of new medicines that treat serious or life-threatening conditions. “Receiving the FDA’s Breakthrough Designation is an essential step in our work with Novartis to expand this therapy to patients across the world who desperately need new options to help them fight this disease,” said Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center. CTL019 is the first personalized cellular therapy for the treatment of cancer to receive this important classification. The announcement was also covered by Agence France-Presse, the Philadelphia Business Journal, and Fierce Biotech.
Laser and Drones: June at Penn Medicine, in Photos
June 30, 2014
The University of Pennsylvania campus largely falls silent in the summer
months, but Penn Medicine keeps on truckin'. In fact, the month of June
featured two of my favorite photography assignments thus far: lasers
First up, we have E. John Wherry, PhD, director of the Institute for Immunology, and his Becton Dickenson LSR II flow cytometer. If you have no idea what that means, you're not alone — so Wherry was kind enough to explain it:
"This instrument allows us to assess up to 20 parameters simultaneously at a single cell level with an amazing rate of up to 20,000 cells/second," he wrote in an e-mail. "As a result we can perform detailed profiling of the function of immune cells in different disease states."
Long story short, it enables researchers to determine which therapies are working and why a given therapy is effective or ineffective. This ultimately helps us develop better therapies and determine which patients will respond to a given treatment.
On top of that, it looks really cool. Wherry popped the hood on it and let me take a few shots. You can see them — and Wherry — in the slideshow at the bottom of this post.
Penn Immunologist to Co-direct $12 Million Grant to Study Hepatitis
June 30, 2014
John Wherry, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) are co-directing a $12 million grant to study immune responses in people who have been effectively cured of hepatitis C viral infection with new, high-potency antiviral drugs. This grant is part of the Cooperative Centers for Human Immunology program, administered by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
June 19, 2014
IFI investigator, Daniel J. Powell Jr. Ph.D., has been selected by the
Board of Directors from the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy
(ASGCT) for a 2014 Outstanding New Investigator Award. Dr. Powell was
selected from a competitive field of nominations based upon his
significant contributions to the field of gene and cell therapy. The
award ceremony and presentation session was held during the 17 th Annual
Meeting in Washington DC on May 23 rd , 2014, and was attended by thousands of meeting participants. Below is a summary from his award presentation:
The Powell Lab is developing innovative immunotherapy strategies built upon clinical observations and studies in basic T cell biology. Adoptive T cell therapy using naturally-occurring tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) or peripheral blood T cells genetically modified to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) can mediate comprehensive cancer elimination in patients, provided that highly avid, tumor antigen-specific T cells with the ability to proliferate and persist after infusion can be identified. We recently overcame one obstacle to widespread TIL therapy by showing that naturally-occurring tumor-reactive T cells in various cancers can be identified by their cell surface expression of the TNFR superfamily receptor, CD137, demonstrating a role for CD137 in the immunobiology of cancer. To instill T cells with enhanced ability to persist after infusion, we recently applied CAR technology as a tool to test the impact of various costimulatory signals on human CAR T cell survival following antigen encounter in vivo, and discovered a functional role for CD27 in human T cell memory formation. We also devised a novel dual CAR T cell approach where the TCR signal is dissociated from costimulatory signals in two independent CARs of distinct antigen specificity, thus delivering tumor-focused activity while comparatively sparing normal healthy tissues expressing a low level of single antigen. Lastly, to develop widespread T cell therapy, we pioneered a universal immune receptor approach that is adaptable in antigen specificity, allowing for highly personalized T cell generation based upon the repertoire of antigens expressed by each individual’s cancer cells. These strategies build on the early success of adoptive immunotherapy by addressing significant hurdles to otherwise safe and effective T cell therapy.
Recent IFI Faculty Awards and Honors
Kyong-Mi Chang, M.D.
Appointed Associate Dean for Research at the Philadelphia Veteran Affairs Medical Center (PVAMC)
Greg Sonnenberg, Ph.D.
Nominated to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Science and Healthcare
Edward Behrens, M.D.
Recipient of the Stewart J. McCracken Award from the Arthritis Foundation
Carl June, M.D.
Elected into the Institute of Medicine