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John Wherry Co-directs $12 Million Grant to Study Hepatitus

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 ... More

Penn IGG Faculty Make Thomson Reuters Most Influential Scientific Minds List

Penn and NIH IGG faculty are some of the "world's most influential scientific minds" according to a Thomson Reuters's report. Based on analysis of citation data, the staff at Thomson Reuters have determined who published the highest impact work over an eleven-year period, 2002-2012.

The 2014 list included these IGG scientists:

David Artis (Penn)
Yasmine Belkaid (NIAID, NIH)
Jason Brenchley (NIAID, NIH)
Daniel Douek (NIAID, NIH)
Dmitry Gabrilovich (The Wistar Institute)
John O’Shea (NIAMS, NIH)
Nicholas Restifo (NCI, NIH)
Alan Sher (NIAID, NIH)
John Wherry (Penn)

Dr. Daniel J. Powell, Jr. Receives ASGCT Outstanding New Investigator Award

IFI investigator, Daniel J. Powell Jr., PhD 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 were held during the 17th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in May, and was attended by thousands of meeting participants.

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.

Ryan Moy Winner of Saul Winegrad Award for Outstanding Dissertation

Congratulations to Ryan Moy, IGG's winner of this year's Saul Winegrad Award for Outstanding Dissertation! Ryan completed his thesis, "An evolutionarily conserved role for autophagy in antiviral defense" in January 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Sara Cherry.

IGG Students Present at AAI

Several Immunology graduate group students presented at the American Association of Immunologists 2014 Annual Meeting:



New IGG Faculty

The IGG Executive Committee are pleased to welcome three new faculty members to the graduate group:

Shaun O’Brien Awarded AAI Public Policy Fellowship

Immunology PhD graduate Shaun O’Brien has been awarded a 2014-2015 American Association of Immunologists Public Policy Fellowship. The fellowship supports postdoctoral fellows and junior scientists participating in the public policy and legislative activities of AAI.

Shaun completed his thesis, “The Role of Ikaros in CD8+ in T Cell Biology”, in Fall 2013 in the lab of Dr. Andrew Wells and is now a cancer immunology post-doc in the lab of Dr. Steve Albelda. Shaun will be actively exploring the implications of his thesis work in the context of CAR therapy and cancer immunology. Shaun is also a co-founder of Penn’s Science Policy group, and has recruited Penn graduate students to participate in Hill Days and given tours of Penn science labs to our PA Congress members.

More information about the Public Policy Fellows Program is available on AAI’s website.

IGG Student Michael Cho Receives NIH Fellowship

IGG student Michael Cho is a recipient of the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship.

Michael is a third-year student working on his thesis with Dr. Aimee Payne. Michael’s thesis work aims to understand the developmental events that lead to autoimmunity, specifically within the context of pemphigus vulgaris, a potentially fatal autoimmune disease of the skin characterized by antibodies directed to the skin protein desmoglein 3.

The Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Individual Predoctoral Fellowship enables promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers.

IGG Student Caroline Bartman Receives Prestigious NSF Fellowship

IGG is delighted to congratulate first-year student Caroline Bartman who has received a 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Caroline has rotated in the labs of Drs. Yasmine Belkaid and John Wherry, and she is currently working with Dr. Sara Cherry. Caroline received her bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Chicago.

Special thanks goes to Dr. Sunny Shin for her work in guiding students through the fellowship application process.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in fields within NSF’s mission. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research.

Penn Immunology Program Ranks High in U.S. News List

The Immunology Graduate Group is #6 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of Best Graduate Schools. According to U.S. News, Penn is one of "the best science schools for immunology/infectious disease." See the U.S. News & World Report website for a list of programs.

Sean Spencer Examines an Immune Response to Malnutrition

Immunology graduate Sean Spencer discusses the adaptation of innate lymphoid cells to a micronutrient deficiency in the January 24, 2014 issue of Science. The article emerged from his thesis, "Regulation of Intestinal Innate Immunity by Dietary Vitamin A" which he completed with Dr. Yasmine Belkaid. Sean is currently finishing his dual MD/PhD and will graduate in 2015.



Birth of blood. Single Z slice through the umbilical artery of an E10.5 mouse. Hematopoietic cluster cells expressing CD31(blue), Runx1 (red), Ckit (grey) and CD45 (green) can be seen within the lumen of the artery. Amanda Phillips and Nancy Speck.