Welcome to the Gene Therapy and Vaccines program!

The Gene Therapy and Vaccines Program focuses on the use of animal and human gene transfer for therapeutic purposes and for vaccination. The mission of the graduate program is to produce exceptional investigators who will become outstanding researchers in the field.

Overview | Trainee Seminar | GTV Committees

GTV Overview

Students in the program acquire a broad background in molecular biology, cell biology, physiology, immunology and virology. Program faculty conduct research in basic cell biology, molecular biology, developmental biology, molecular physiology, virology and immunology. While the goals of the research are disease-based with the objective of developing prophylactic and therapeutic applications, student training focuses on a basic understanding of disease pathobiology and achieving efficient and effective gene transfer in humans. Students contribute to research of cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, lysosomal storage disease, inherited blindness, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and immunologic and infectious diseases. Study of vaccines for prophylactic, as well as therapeutic applications are emphasized. Specific focus is provided through a survey course in gene therapy and vaccines and through advanced seminars in specific areas of gene therapy and/or vaccine research.

Overview | Trainee Seminar | GTV Committees

Trainee Seminar

The program runs a bi-weekly trainee seminar where graduate students in the dissertation phase present their research. The 2019-20 speaker schedule and their topics are listed below. There is also a CCMT monthly seminar series featuring faculty members from Penn and other universities. Please see the Seminar Series page for more information.


Leon Morales - Stedman/Bennett Labs
“De-risking the use of a Utrophin-based Gene Therapy Approach for DMD”

Jesse Rodriguez - June Lab
Re-directing cytomegalovirus specific chimeric antigen receptor T cells for glioblastoma multiforme cancer immunotherapy.


Bryan Simpson - Davidson Lab
CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing Strategies of ATXN2 for the Treatment of Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 2

Jonathan Lang - Davidson Lab
The basic biology and processing of AAV vectors in the nucleus of transduced cells and how that processing impacts transgene expression


Ryan Roark - Shaw Lab
Ontogeny of HIV-1 V2 apex broadly neutralizing antibodies in SHIV-infected rhesus macaques

Kevin  Alicea-Torres - Gabrilovich Lab
Role of IFNAR1 in the immune suppression by PMN-MDSCs in cancer 


Katherine Quiroz-Figueroa - Rader Lab
Mechanism by which Trib1 regulates plasma lipids

Colby Maldini - Riley Lab


Alex Martino - Wilson Lab
Understanding the Mechanisms of PHP.B Transport Across the Murine Blood-Brain Barrier

Lucas Van Gorder - Bennett Lab
Harnessing PRPF31 as a Gene Therapy Target Utilizing an IPSC Model


Sangya Agarwal - June Lab
To determine whether knocking out both PD-1 and CTLA-4 in CARTs will increase their anti-tumor function and will lead to epigenetic programming and allow them to form durable memory. 

Erin Reagan - Bar/Weissman Labs
Patient-derived HCV-like particle expressed by a lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated nucleoside-modified mRNA vaccine for HCV prophylaxis via bNAb elicitation


Max Chappell - Rivella Lab
Lentiviral Vectors as Therapeutic Options for the Treatment of Alpha-Thalassemia

McKensie Collins - Melenhorst Lab
Understanding the Relative Failure of CAR T cell therapy in CLL: An Epigenetic Perspective


Suying Liu - Henao-Mejia Lab
The role of a gut microbiota-induced lncRNA in regulating intestinal epithelial cells

Edward Song - Milone Lab
Combining IAP Inhibitors with CAR-T Cell Therapy to Treat Glioblastoma


Kelly Fagan - Davidson Lab

Kimberly Veliz - Gill Lab


Chris Choe - Musunuru Lab

Sylvia Stankov - Rader Lab
Functional Analysis of Triglyceride Regulator ApoA-V Using Naturally-Occurring Human Genetic Variants

Overview | Trainee Seminar | GTV Committees


GTV Committees

Dr. Katie Bar (Chair)
Dr. Henry Daniell
Dr. Saar Gill
Dr. Jos Melenhorst
Dr. Ed Moon


To help first and second year students navigate the program, the following faculty are available to advise.

For inquiries about Gene Transfer: Beverly Davidson, Stefano Rivella, Denise Sabatino
For inquireies about CART: Marco Ruella
For inquiries about Immunology-Harnessing the immune system: Michael Milone
For inquiries about Immunology-Vaccines: Norbert Pardi, David Weiner
For inquiries about Cell Therapies: Frederick (Chris) Bennett

GTV Peer Mentoring Program

This program is led by GTV student Laura Ohl, and currently consists of:

  • Monthly group peer mentoring lunches
  • 1:1 mentor - mentee matching
  • Off campus peer mentoring meet-ups to facilitate the peer-mentee relationship
  • GTV wide events to encourage upper level graduate students to interact with incoming graduate students

If you have any recommendations, requests, or suggestions to improve the peer mentoring program, please contact Laura Ohl directly.


Dr. Stefano Rivella,  Program Chair
Dr. Denise Sabatino,  Vice Program Chair
Erin Reagan,  GTV Student Representative to CAMB Curriculum Committee


Dr. Stefano Rivella, Program Chair
Dr. Denise Sabatino, Vice Program Chair
Dr. Katie Bar
Dr. Beverly Davidson
Dr. Saar Gill
Dr. David Weiner