Faculty in the News

The Search for Longer-lasting COVID-19 Vaccines

The Search for Longer-lasting COVID-19 Vaccines

There are still many questions left to answer about COVID-19 vaccines and immunology, said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. Those questions include: How long do memory B cells and memory T cells last? Why do different people respond differently to these vaccines? “These and many more questions still need answers if we are going to use this platform most effectively,” Wherry noted.

CNN

Pfizer’s Grip on Paxlovid Thwarts Research on COVID-19 Treatment

Pfizer’s Grip on Paxlovid Thwarts Research on COVID-19 Treatment

Pfizer Inc. is resisting requests for study supplies of its COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, disappointing researchers. They have not started any new combination trials in patients and researchers are saying they can’t get the drug for human studies that could maintain or improve its effectiveness and expand use. “Unfortunately what is going to happen is the combinations will start as soon as we start seeing resistance,” predicts Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, who’s studying COVID-19 drug cocktails in her lab.

Bloomberg

What Does ‘Protection’ Against COVID-19 Really Mean?

What Does ‘Protection’ Against COVID-19 Really Mean?

Last month, E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, along with researchers, physicians, and biotech representatives sent a letter to the FDA urging the agency to monitor T cells — alongside antibody levels — to better assess immunity to determine the effectiveness of new vaccines undergoing review by regulators. Wherry spoke with Scientific American about T cell measurement and why it is important for vaccine studies.

Scientific American

Rapid Manufacturing Process Allows CAR T Cells to be Produced in Less Than a Day

Rapid Manufacturing Process Allows CAR T Cells to be Produced in Less Than a Day

In a Penn Medicine study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers were able to shorten the time it takes to manufacture CAR-T cells in the lab, from nearly two weeks down to one day. According to lead author Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, “A major goal was to determine whether we really need to activate T cells prior to infusion. The result is a more potent therapy manufactured from the patient’s fresh blood cells through a more efficient process.”

Cell Therapy Next

Should Parents Wait to Get the COVID-19 Booster for Their Children?

Should Parents Wait to Get the COVID-19 Booster for Their Children?

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, answered questions after the FDA authorized COVID-19 boosters for kids ages 5-11. “This is great news,” Wherry said. “About 1,000 kids have died from COVID-19 over the pandemic, so kids are really at risk.” He also discussed the amount of disinformation out there on vaccines, which has contributed to vaccine hesitancy.

FOX29 • 6ABC

The U.S. Is About to Make a Big Gamble on Our Next COVID-19 Winter

The U.S. Is About to Make a Big Gamble on Our Next COVID-19 Winter

Experts are expected to choose a vaccine recipe for the fall, when omicron may or may not still be the globe’s dominant variant. Commenting on a potential omicron-only vaccine, E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was one of several scientists who said it would be safer to keep something with the original variant.

The Atlantic

A Silver Lining for Those Who Have Been Infected by Omicron

A Silver Lining for Those Who Have Been Infected by Omicron

People who are vaccinated and then get infected with omicron may be primed to overcome a broad range of coronavirus variants, judging from early research. “We should think about breakthrough infections as essentially equivalent to another dose of vaccine,” explained E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

Bloomberg • Bloomberg (2)

Notable Health Studies & Research: Penn Medicine’s Bladder Cancer Research

Notable Health Studies & Research: Penn Medicine’s Bladder Cancer Research

The first bladder cancer drug targeting a cancer-driving gene mutation has been used relatively little despite its clear efficacy, according to a new study from Penn Medicine. The study was led by Vivek Nimgaonkar, a PSOM student and graduate associate with the Penn Center for Precision Medicine, and co-authors Ronac Mamtani, MD, and Erica Carpenter, MBA, PhD, both assistant professors of Hematology-Oncology. Carpenter is also director of the Liquid Biopsy Laboratory.

Penn Medicine News Release • StudyFinds

These Nanobots Can Swim Around a Wound and Kill Bacteria

These Nanobots Can Swim Around a Wound and Kill Bacteria

Researchers created autonomous particles covered with patches of protein “motors,” with a hope that these bots could tote lifesaving drugs through bodily fluids in the future. In a recent study, they loaded silica nanobots with experimental antibiotics to treat infected wounds on mice. “The machines can actually travel around the wound and clear the infection as they go,” explained ‪César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, and co-lead on the project.

Wired

“Keto” Molecule May Be Useful in Preventing and Treating Colorectal Cancer

“Keto” Molecule May Be Useful in Preventing and Treating Colorectal Cancer

We are all familiar with the keto diet — a low carb, high fat diet which makes your body enter ketosis, or a metabolic state during which your body burns fat for energy instead of carbs. According to a recent study led by Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, both assistant professors of Microbiology, and Oxana Dmitrieva-Posocco, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Levy’s lab, the liver reacts to ketosis by producing a molecule called beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB.

Woman’s World


May 2022

What’s NEX-T for CAR T, Plus its Strategy for Next-Gen Cancer Cell Therapy?

Rapid Manufacturing Process Allows CAR T Cells to be Produced in Less Than a Day

Cell therapy as a field is moving to find new ways to improve the way autologous therapies are manufactured. Some of that innovation is coming from Penn, where the first approved CAR T treatment, Kymriah, was initially developed. Penn recently unveiled a shortened manufacturing process that yields functional CAR T cells in 24 hours. That research was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering and led by Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Saba Ghassemi, PhD, a research assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

MedCityNews

It Feels Like Everyone Is Non-COVID Sick Right Now. What Gives?

It Feels Like Everyone Is Non-COVID Sick Right Now. What Gives?

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted discussing how the immune system works and how babies’ immune systems differ from adult ones. “Your immune system has layers to it,” Wherry said. “Think about it a bit like LEGO blocks.”

Scary Mommy

U.S. May Default to Annual COVID-19 Boosters Without Sufficient Data

U.S. May Default to Annual COVID-19 Boosters Without Sufficient Data

Last week experts signed a letter urging the FDA to put more emphasis on assessing additional parts of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccines, arguing that measuring T cells is critical to understanding long-lasting vaccine protection. “I think there are a lot of forces here that have had us almost myopically assessing antibodies as the guiding force in what immune measurements are most important,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, one of the letter writers. “The antibody trajectories don’t explain the fact that nobody’s ending up in the hospital.”

STAT News

The Quest for a Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

The Quest for a Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

As vaccine makers rush to stamp out new COVID-19 variants, some scientists have set their sights higher, aiming for a universal coronavirus vaccine that could tackle any future strains and possibly even stave off another pandemic. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, who was a pioneer of the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines, is leading one such project. “We may have a universal vaccine in two or three years, but we’re going to have to keep working on it and changing it over time to keep ahead of the virus,” Weissman said.

International Business Times

Scientists Urge FDA to Assess T-Cell Levels In COVID-19 Vaccine Analysis

Scientists Urge FDA to Assess T-Cell Levels In COVID-19 Vaccine Analysis

More than 60 scientists from across the United States have signed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to include T cells as a measurement of effectiveness for COVID-19 vaccines, instead of just looking at antibodies. While antibodies protect against initial infection, T-cells protect against hospitalization, explained E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, one of the letter writers.

Inside Health Policy • Boston Globe • Biospace

COVID-19 Vaccine’s mRNA Technology Also Works for an HIV Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine’s mRNA Technology Also Works for an HIV Vaccine

 

WHYY highlighted research from Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, which found that the mRNA vaccine platform can work to prevent HIV. Because the virus mutates quickly, it can be difficult to create a vaccine for it. Weissman and colleagues determined how to stabilize the rapidly changing envelope of the virus and then make antibodies.

Should You Get Another COVID-19 Booster, if Eligible?

Should You Get Another COVID-19 Booster, if Eligible?

The FDA has authorized additional COVID-19 shots for older Americans and those with certain immune deficiencies. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, spoke about the news to a wide variety of media outlets, including the Associated PressCBS News, and The Atlantic, among others. “I’m a firm believer in vaccines. I like the idea of physicians and immunocompromised and high-risk patients having options,” Wherry told the New York TimesWHYY also highlighted findings from a recent Cell study by Wherry and colleagues that demonstrated the utility of boosters, especially against the omicron variant.

Untangling the Origins of a Human Malaria Parasite

Untangling the Origins of a Human Malaria Parasite

It has been known for about a century that chimpanzees are infected by parasites that appeared indistinguishable from Plasmodium malariae, one of six parasites that spread malaria in humans. The parasite that infected chimpanzees was named Plasmodium rodhaini but, for decades, experts debated whether the two parasites represented one or two species, and what, if any, evolutionary links existed between the two. Now, Penn researchers including Beatrice Hahn, MD, a professor of Medicine and Microbiology, and colleagues with the University of Edinburgh reveal that Plasmodium malariae originated in African apes before evolving to colonize humans.

Read the paper in Nature Communications

Researchers Cut CAR T Manufacturing Time Down to 24 Hours

Researchers Cut CAR T Manufacturing Time Down to 24 Hours

Penn Medicine researchers have found a way to reduce the time it takes to alter patients’ immune cells for infusion back into the body to find and attack cancer. Preclinical research demonstrates that the cell manufacturing process for CAR T immunotherapy, which typically takes nine to 14 days, can be decreased to just 24 hours. The study was led by Center for Cellular Immunotherapies researchers Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Saba Ghassemi, PhD, a research assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. These results demonstrate the potential for a vast reduction in the time, materials, and labor required to generate CAR T cells, which could be especially beneficial in patients with rapidly progressive disease and in resource-poor health care environments.

Read the News Release

Bimekizumab Treatment Shows Promise in Moderate to Severe Plaque Psoriasis

Bimekizumab Treatment Shows Promise in Moderate to Severe Plaque Psoriasis

At the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) annual meeting, new data were presented on bimekizumab for the treatment of adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, which has not yet recieved FDA approval. Joel Gelfand, MD, a professor in Dermatology, joined a panel to discuss this information and what the potential is for the treatment.

MedPage Today

CAR-T Cell Therapy Documentary Set to Premiere at Tribeca Festival

CAR-T Cell Therapy Documentary Set to Premiere at Tribeca Festival

A documentary about the development of CAR-T cell therapy will premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Titled “Of Medicine and Miracles,” the film follows the story of Emily Whitehead, a young leukemia patient, as she enters a long-shot trial designed by a collaborative clinical team at Penn Medicine and CHOP. Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Bruce Levine, PhD, the Barbara and Edward Netter Professor in Cancer Gene Therapy, and David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence, are featured in the film.

Variety

When the Science Is Messy: How SciCheck Handles Scientific Disputes

When the Science Is Messy: How SciCheck Handles Scientific Disputes

Many experts agree that we don’t know what the future will hold when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a piece explaining scientific fact-checking, E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned through this pandemic, it’s to be humble about the virus. And to be very, very careful about making predictions.”

FactCheck.org

COVID-19 Prevention Must Extend Beyond Vaccines for Patients Receiving Cell Therapies

COVID-19 Prevention Must Extend Beyond Vaccines for Patients Receiving Cell Therapies

COVID-19 infection mitigation is essential for patients with hematologic malignancies because they are at increased risk for severe infection, hospitalization, and mortality if they contract the virus. David L. Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center, discussed vaccine efficacy, COVID-19 treatment options, and other ways that cell therapy recipients can take precautions during the pandemic. “Moving forward, as the incidence of COVID-19 goes down and our preventive and treatment strategies get better, patients will be freer to resume a more normal life,” he said.

Healio

$10 Million Gift from the Abramson Family Foundation Supports Abramson Cancer Center Research Efforts

$10 Million Gift from the Abramson Family Foundation Supports Abramson Cancer Center Research Efforts

A generous $10 million gift from the Abramson Family Foundation will help ensure Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center remains on the leading edge of cancer research and care. In recognition of the gift, the lobby of the new Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania will be named in memory of the late Emeritus Trustee Madlyn K. Abramson, ED’57, GED’60, who passed away in 2020. The Abramson family has a long legacy of championing cancer care and research at Penn Medicine. Over the past several decades, they have given more than $163 million to the Abramson Cancer Center, moved by a vision to support the bold ideas and patient-centered approaches that have propelled the center to its global reputation as a leader in cancer care and research. J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine, and Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of Abramson Cancer Center, were quoted.

Penn Medicine News Release • Philadelphia Business Journal

Six COVID-19 Mysteries Experts Hope to Unravel

Six COVID-19 Mysteries Experts Hope to Unravel

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted discussing hybrid immunity and those who have not had COVID-19 yet. He noted that omicron as a first infection might not give people the immunity weapons that would be helpful later. “Omicron infection in previously unvaccinated, previously uninfected individuals seems to do quite poorly in inducing antibodies that can efficiently cross-neutralize other variants.”

STAT

A Decade of CAR T Cell Therapy

A Decade of CAR T Cell Therapy

Research and development of CAR T cell therapy, which was pioneered at Penn Medicine, has exploded, with hundreds of clinical trials underway across a variety of specialties, including blood and solid cancers, HIV, autoimmune diseases, and even heart attacks. In this feature on the history and future of CAR T, various faculty were highlighted, including Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Aimee Payne, MD, PhD, a professor of Dermatology; Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research; and Jonathan Epstein, MD, chief scientific officer for Penn Medicine and the William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research.

Chemistry World

Do You Need a Second COVID-19 Booster? ‘It Depends,’ Penn Medicine Experts Say

Do You Need a Second COVID-19 Booster? ‘It Depends,’ Penn Medicine Experts Say

In a study published earlier this month, Penn Medicine researchers found that two doses of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine generate significant antibodies. Though they wane over time, the researchers found that memory B cells are long lasting. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, and one of the study’s authors, explained what this means for people eligible for another booster and the implications for others.

WHYY

Penn Medicine Appoints Robert Vonderheide to Second Five-Year Term as Director of the Abramson Cancer Center

Penn Medicine Appoints Robert Vonderheide to Second Five-Year Term as Director of the Abramson Cancer Center

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, has been appointed to a second five-year term as director of the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) at the University of Pennsylvania, following a highly successful tenure.

Read More: Penn Medicine News Release

Q&A on Second COVID-19 Boosters for Older People

Q&A on Second COVID-19 Boosters for Older People

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, answered questions about the FDA’s approval for a second COVID-19 booster for older people. “I think having more options on the table for people is good. It gives physicians a little more choice and ease of recommending a fourth shot if they think it’s necessary,” Wherry said. But, he said, there is little to suggest that second boosters are needed for some of the eligible population.

FactCheck.org

Could a Single Vaccine Fend Off All Versions of COVID-19? Here’s Where the Science Stands

Could a Single Vaccine Fend Off All Versions of COVID-19? Here’s Where the Science Stands

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, is working to develop a pancoronavirus vaccine, a vaccine that would offer protection from all types of coronaviruses like COVID-19, SARS, and others. “We’ve had three coronavirus epidemics in the last 20 years,” he said. “That tells us we’re going to have more...We can wait for the next one to appear and rush to make a new vaccine and shut the world down for a year and a half. Or we can make one now so it’s ready to go.”

San Francisco Chronicle • Business Insider

New Liquid Biopsy Method Infers RNA Expression From DNA Fragmentation Analysis

New Liquid Biopsy Method Infers RNA Expression From DNA Fragmentation Analysis

A study published in Nature Biotechnology profiling circulating tumor DNA in the bloodstream shows promise for noninvasive cancer detection. Newly emerging mutations in cancer genes could allow oncologists to adjust precision medicine treatments to fit the evolving tumor progression without having to re-biopsy tissue. Golnaz Vahedi, PhD, an associate professor of Genetics, who was not involved with the study, said she is looking forward to this approach being used in other disease areas including autoimmune, and thinks the technique could have far-ranging applications.

Genome Web

40 Under 40: Meet the 2022 Honorees

40 Under 40: Meet the 2022 Honorees

Each year, the Philadelphia Business Journalrecognizes 40 remarkable individuals under the age of 40 who are making their mark on the region. This year, the honorees include David Fajgenbaum, MD, co-founder and executive director of the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network and an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics, and Christina Furia, senior associate director of External Manufacturing at the Gene Therapy Program.

Philadelphia Business Journal • Philadelphia Business Journal (2)

Next-Gen Vaccines Poised to Intercept Cancers

Next-Gen Vaccines Poised to Intercept Cancers

A new generation of cancer-preventing vaccines could stop tumors before they start. Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, and his team are testing a DNA-based vaccine targeting hTERT, an antigen that marks many tumors in patients in remission from cancers who have inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The goal? To mobilize T cells to recognize and kill tumor cells, and find a way to judge efficacy of these new vaccines, such as through biomarkers that could detect, for instance, a change in blood-borne immune cells. “This is formidable,” Vonderheide says. “But we’re inspired because the impact will be massive.”

Science

CAR T-Cell Development Time Undergoes Significant Reduction

CAR T-Cell Development Time Undergoes Significant Reduction

Penn investigators may have unlocked a method of developing CAR T-cell therapy while significantly reducing the production time, according to results of a preclinical study recently published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. Typically, manufacturing cells for this type of immunotherapy requires between 9 to 14 days. The study, led by Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, had researchers develop infusion-ready cells with antitumor potency to decrease the manufacturing to less than 24 hours.

Oncology Nursing News

Apremilast’s Effect on CVD Risk Markers Evaluated in Study

Apremilast’s Effect on CVD Risk Markers Evaluated in Study

New research from Joel Gelfand, MD, director of the Psoriasis and Phototherapy Treatment Center, showed that while the psoriasis drug apremilast did not decrease vascular inflammation, it cut body fat without affecting weight.

Medscape

Study Reveals How COVID-19 Infections Can Set Off Massive Inflammation in the Body

Study Reveals How COVID-19 Infections Can Set Off Massive Inflammation in the Body

A new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature revealed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect certain kinds of immune cells called monocytes and macrophages. “I think what was interesting about this is it could provide a clue and perhaps even some druggable targets for why some of the inflammation that we see in severe COVID-19 patients might get kick started the wrong way or proceed out of control,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, who was not involved in the study.

CNN

Karikó and Weissman Receive Gairdner Award for Foundational Research

Karikó and Weissman Receive Gairdner Award for Foundational Research

Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, were awarded the Gairdner Award for their mRNA research that gave way to Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s respective mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Canadian researcher Peter Cullis also received the award for his COVID-vaccine work.

Toronto Star

Innovation In CAR T Cell Therapy Manufacturing

Innovation In CAR T Cell Therapy Manufacturing

Data published in Nature Biomedical Engineeringshows how Penn researchers in the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, led by Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Saba Ghassemi, PhD, a research assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, have been able to generate non-activated CAR-T cells in less than 24 hours in animal studies. According to Ghassemi, “this innovative approach shifts the CAR T manufacturing paradigm by simplifying, expediting, and making CAR T cell therapy more affordable.”

Cell and Gene

Research Still Needed on CAR T Cells in Solid Tumors

Research Still Needed on CAR T Cells in Solid Tumors

Steven M. Albelda, MD, the William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine, discussed the successes and downfalls of chimeric antigen receptor T cells in solid tumor research. The FDA has approved various CAR T-cell agents to treat hematologic malignancies over the past few years and more continue to be developed and evaluated in clinical trials. However, the solid tumor field has not had any CAR T-cell agents receive regulatory approval.

Targeted Oncology

A Team at Penn Says It Has Slashed CAR-T Cell Therapy Manufacturing Timeframe to Just 24 Hours

A Team at Penn Says It Has Slashed CAR-T Cell Therapy Manufacturing Timeframe to Just 24 Hours

Penn researchers have found a way to reduce the time it takes to alter immune cells for infusion back into the body to find and attack cancer. Pre-clinical research published in Nature Biomedical Engineeringdemonstrates that CAR T cell therapy, which typically takes nine to 14 days to manufacture, has been decreased to just 24 hours, which could be especially beneficial in patients with rapidly progressive disease and in resource-poor healthcare environments. The research was led by Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Saba Ghassemi, PhD, a research assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

EndPointsNews • European Pharmaceutical Review • MedPage Today

Psoriasis Therapy Has Mixed Effects on Cardiovascular Risk Factors

Apremilast’s Effect on CVD Risk Markers Evaluated in Study

Joel Gelfand, MD, director of the Psoriasis and Phototherapy Treatment Center, presented research results at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting. Gelfand and colleagues found that the psoriasis drug apremilast did not curb vascular inflammation but did decrease body fat without affecting weight. Gelfand said more research is needed to validate their results.

MedPage Today • Healio

Research on Mice That ‘Sweat Out’ Fat Wins STAT Madness

Research on Mice That ‘Sweat Out’ Fat Wins STAT Madness

A team of Penn Medicine researchers under the leadership of Taku Kambayashi, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and medical student Ruth Choa, PhD, have won the 2022 STAT Madness competition. The bracket-style tournament hosted by STAT aims to find the best innovations in science and medicine. Penn garnered 71 percent of the vote in the final round, and were a crowd favorite of the audience at the STAT Breakthrough Science Summit last week.

STAT News • STAT News (2) • Philadelphia Inquirer


April 2022

A Second COVID-19 Booster Can’t Hurt — But It May Not Help Much, Either

A Second COVID-19 Booster Can’t Hurt — But It May Not Help Much, Either

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with The Atlantic about the FDA’s recent decision for Americans older than 50 to get a second booster shot. Wherry explained considerations to keep in mind.

The Atlantic

The FDA Approves a Second Booster Shot for Adults 50 and Older

The FDA Approves a Second Booster Shot for Adults 50 and Older

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined “Good Day Philadelphia” to discuss the newly authorized second booster COVID-19 vaccine and the new omicron subvariant BA.2.

FOX29

Researchers Manufacture Functional CAR T Cells in 24 Hours

Researchers Manufacture Functional CAR T Cells in 24 Hours

A new approach from Penn researchers could cut the time it takes to alter patients’ immune cells for infusion back into the body to find and attack cancer. According to pre-clinical research in Nature Biomedical Engineering, CAR T cell therapy, which was pioneered at Penn and typically takes nine to 14 days, has been reduced to just 24 hours. Research was led by Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Saba Ghassemi, PhD, a research assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Technology Networks

Penn’s Latest CAR-T Work Taps Llamas to Home in on Gastrointestinal Tumors

Penn’s Latest CAR-T Work Taps Llamas to Home in on Gastrointestinal Tumors

The lack of a tumor-specific biomarker poses one major challenge for the development of CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumors. However, new research from the Abramson Cancer Center led by Xianxin Hua, MD, PhD, a professor of Cancer Biology, Zijie Feng, a research scientist in Cancer Biology, and Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, identified a cell surface protein that could be used for CAR-T therapy against hard-to-treat solid tumors, including gastrointestinal cancers and neuroendocrine tumors, with help from llama-derived nanobodies.

FierceBiotech • Drug Target Review

Should You Get Another COVID-19 Booster?

Should You Get Another COVID-19 Booster?

The FDA has authorized additional COVID-19 shots for older Americans and those with certain immune deficiencies. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke about the news, and who needs the dose and when. “I’m a firm believer in vaccines. I like the idea of physicians and immunocompromised and high-risk patients having options,” Wherry said.

New York Times • Bloomberg • CBS3 • Associated Press • CBS News • KYW Newsradio • Boston Herald

Efforts Underway to Develop Vaccines to Protect Against All Coronaviruses

Efforts Underway to Develop Vaccines to Protect Against All Coronaviruses

Insider wrote about how slowly vaccines are developed under normal circumstances and compared that to the speed that the COVID-19 vaccines were developed. In order to be ready for future coronavirus threats, Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, is developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine that would protect against all coronaviruses. He hopes to move into human trials next year, he said.

Business Insider

What to Know About Omicron Subvariant BA.2

What to Know About Omicron Subvariant BA.2

Omicron subvariant BA.2 has now gained a foothold across the United States, accounting for one-third of new cases nationwide, and more than half of cases in New England as of Saturday, the CDC said. Frederic D. Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens, said that BA.2 might cause less disease here than it did in Europe, as the United States saw many more infections in the first wave of omicron.

Philadelphia Inquirer

The FDA Approves a Second Booster Shot for Adults 50 and Older

The FDA Approves a Second Booster Shot for Adults 50 and Older

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined “Good Day Philadelphia” to discuss the newly authorized second booster COVID-19 vaccine and the new omicron subvariant BA.2.

FOX29

Scientists Test Common Bacteria as a Weapon to Target Pancreatic Tumors

Scientists Test Common Bacteria as a Weapon to Target Pancreatic Tumors

According to a new study, Listeria bacteria was used to develop an immunotherapy to make pancreatic tumors vulnerable to immune attacks, and showed a 40 percent improvement in patient survival. Pancreatic cancer cells have few unique markers that help the immune system distinguish it from normal, healthy cells. Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, who was not involved with the study, said, “Pancreas cancer is invisible to the immune system and using Listeria to implant a tetanus protein on cancer cells is a unique strategy.”

STAT News

Pfizer CEO Pushes Yearly Shots for COVID-19. Not So Fast, Experts Say.

Pfizer CEO Pushes Yearly Shots for COVID-19. Not So Fast, Experts Say.

On March 15, Pfizer shared it was seeking authorization of a second booster for people 65 and older, and Moderna on March 17 filed for a second booster shot for all adults — creating pressure for politicians and their scientific advisers to act. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted.

Kaiser Health News

The Incredible Story of Emily Whitehead & CAR T-Cell Therapy

The Incredible Story of Emily Whitehead & CAR T-Cell Therapy

Ten years ago, then 6-year-old patient Emily Whitehead was treated for cancer by a collaborative medical team at Penn and CHOP with Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, becoming the first child to get the personalized cell therapy. Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, said, “We now have trials using different cell types, like natural killer cells, monocytes, and stem cells. An entirely new field has opened because of our initial success. This is going to continue for a long time, making more potent cells that cover all kinds of cancer.”

Oncology Times

CAR T-Cell Therapy Shows ‘Limited Success’ in Solid Tumors, But ‘Incremental Changes’ Still Being Made

CAR T-Cell Therapy Shows ‘Limited Success’ in Solid Tumors, But ‘Incremental Changes’ Still Being Made

Steven M. Albelda, MD, the William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine, discussed the introduction of chimeric antigen receptor T cells in solid tumor research and how it differs from what has been observed in hematologic malignancies.

Targeted Oncology

Omicron Subvariant Could Become Dominant Strain in US

Omicron Subvariant Could Become Dominant Strain in US

Health officials are keeping a close eye on the omicron subvariant that is behind a COVID-19 surge in parts of Europe and Asia. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, is quoted.

KYW Newsradio

COVID-19’s ‘Silver Lining’: Research Breakthroughs for Chronic Disease, Cancer, and the Common Flu

COVID-19’s ‘Silver Lining’: Research Breakthroughs for Chronic Disease, Cancer, and the Common Flu

The billions of dollars invested in COVID-19 vaccines and research so far are expected to yield medical and scientific dividends for decades, helping doctors battle influenza, cancer, cystic fibrosis, and far more diseases. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted, discussing research from the pandemic which represented a paradigm shift in immunology.

Kaiser Health News

Our Antibodies Can Tell Us About Future COVID-19 Surges

Our Antibodies Can Tell Us About Future COVID-19 Surges

While the coronavirus is tracked to see how it changes over time, experts discuss monitoring immunity too. Monitoring the status of our anti-disease protection would amount to a kind of immune surveillance that could tell us “when immunity wanes, and when it needs to be augmented,” explained E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

The Atlantic

Pfizer and BioNTech Seek Authorization of a Second Booster Shot for Older Americans

Pfizer and BioNTech Seek Authorization of a Second Booster Shot for Older Americans

New research from Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, published in Cell Reports, found that the mRNA vaccine platform can work to prevent HIV. Because the virus mutates quickly, it can be difficult to create a vaccine for it. Weissman and colleagues determined how to stabilize the rapidly changing envelope of the virus and then make antibodies.

WHYY

The Long-Term Effects of CAR-T Cell Therapy

The Long-Term Effects of CAR-T Cell Therapy

There are patients who remain in remission beyond 10 years after first receiving CAR-T cell therapy, according to a study published in NatureDavid Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation, said, “We were able to collect T-cells from their blood 10 years after their first treatment to understand their characteristics and activity. The hope is that if we understand what kind of cells survive and continue to function, we will better understand how this therapy works, and then will be able to design even better, more effective therapies for future use.”

RegMedNet

Remembering the COVID-19 Shutdown in Philadelphia Two Years Later

Remembering the COVID-19 Shutdown in Philadelphia Two Years Later

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined “Good Day Philadelphia” to discuss the pandemic since COVID-19 shut down Philadelphia two years ago and the latest with omicron’s subvariant.

FOX29

COVID-19 Vaccine’s mRNA Technology Also Works for HIV Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine’s mRNA Technology Also Works for HIV Vaccine

New research from Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, published in Cell Reports, found that the mRNA vaccine platform can work to prevent HIV. Because the virus mutates quickly, it can be difficult to create a vaccine for it. Weissman and colleagues determined how to stabilize the rapidly changing envelope of the virus and then make antibodies.

WHYY

How Do We Get to the Pandemic’s ‘Next Normal’?

How Do We Get to the Pandemic’s ‘Next Normal’?

Fifty-three of the world’s top epidemiologists, pharmacologists, virologists, immunologists, and policy experts came together to map out strategies for living with COVID-19, under the leadership of Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, vice provost for Global Initiatives. “It’s really about getting to what we’re calling the next normal,” explained one of the roadmap’s experts E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

WHYY • Philly Voice

Genome Refolding Contributes to Cancer Therapy Resistance

Genome Refolding Contributes to Cancer Therapy Resistance

In T-cell leukemia, an epigenetic adaptation could be a key factor in disease relapse. While gene mutations can lead to drug resistance, Penn researchers have identified an important, non-genetic adaptation that could also drive resistance to targeted therapy in T cell leukemia, a type of blood cell cancer. Their findings were published in Molecular Cell. “Genome folding controls where the genes are in the space of the cell and is important for proper control of gene activity,” said R. Babak Faryabi, PhD, an assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He led the study with Yeqiao Zhou, a Genetics and Epigenetics graduate student.

Technology.org

How Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó Developed the mRNA Technology Inside COVID Vaccines

How Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó Developed the mRNA Technology Inside COVID Vaccines

Bostonia, Boston University’s alumni magazine, profiled their alumnus Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, and his long-time collaborator, Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery. Both researchers’ decades of research into mRNA gave way to an effective mRNA vaccine platform that was used in Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s respective vaccines. “It (the vaccine platform) really is exciting. It’s limitless.”

Bostonia

The Coronavirus’s Next Move

The Coronavirus’s Next Move

Even if COVID-19 remakes itself many times, its offense will still knock up against some multilayered defenses. Slipping out of the grasp of antibodies isn’t that hard, but “just statistically speaking, I don’t think it’s possible to escape T-cell immunity,” explained E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, a contributor to a recent report that modeled various scenarios for the future with COVID-19.

The Atlantic

The Future of mRNA Vaccines

The Future of mRNA Vaccines

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, discussed the many ways mRNA vaccines are being studied by him and colleagues and the conditions scientists think may be prevented in the future thanks to this unique vaccine platform. “There are hundreds and hundreds of diseases for which mRNA could be useful,” said Weissman.

U.S. News and World Report

Experts Present Roadmap for the Next Phase of Living with COVID-19

Experts Present Roadmap for the Next Phase of Living with COVID-19

A new report released Monday charts a path for the transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that outlines both how the country can deal with the challenge of endemic COVID disease and how to prepare for future biosecurity threats. The roadmap was authored with input from Penn Medicine experts, including Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, vice provost for global initiatives, and E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

Politico • KYW

Experts Create a Roadmap to Get from the COVID-19 Pandemic to the ‘Next Normal’

Experts Create a Roadmap to Get from the COVID-19 Pandemic to the ‘Next Normal’

A new report released Monday charts a path for the transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that outlines both how the country can deal with the challenge of endemic COVID-19 disease and how to prepare for future biosecurity threats. The roadmap was authored with input from Penn Medicine experts, including Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, vice provost for Global Initiatives, and E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

STAT News • Washington Post

Messenger RNA Therapies Are Finally Fulfilling Their Promise

Messenger RNA Therapies Are Finally Fulfilling Their Promise

“mRNA therapeutics could revolutionize treatment of many infectious diseases in developing countries, greatly improving health-care equity,” wrote Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research. He described the value of mRNA technology, what the vaccine landscape may look like in the coming years, and all the conditions and diseases that may be prevented thanks to the novel vaccine platform.

Scientific American


March 2022

Group of Physicians Combats Misinformation as Unproven COVID-19 Treatments Continue to be Prescribed

Group of Physicians Combats Misinformation as Unproven COVID-19 Treatments Continue to be Prescribed

David C. Fajgenbaum, MD, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics and director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory, said that the positive outcomes cited by proponents of ivermectin can’t be credited to ivermectin. “In a disease like COVID-19, where the large majority of people — whether they receive a treatment or not — will improve, just giving someone a drug and then improving doesn’t mean that the drug made them improve,” he said.

ABC News

Limited Success of CAR T Cells in Solid Tumors

Limited Success of CAR T Cells in Solid Tumors

Steven M. Albelda, MD, the William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine, discussed CAR T-cell therapy in the solid tumor space, which he presented on during the 26th Annual International Congress on Hematologic Malignancies. He said, “CAR T cells will suffer from tumor heterogeneity, where some tumor cells expressed the targeted antigen and some don’t.” It’s less of an issue with B-cell leukemias and lymphomas, but “it’s a much bigger problem with solid tumors because there’s much more heterogeneity that there’s hardly ever a tumor where 100 percent of the cells would express the target antigen.“

Targeted Oncology

The 2022 Power 100: Meet the Business Leaders Shaping Greater Philadelphia

The 2022 Power 100: Meet the Business Leaders Shaping Greater Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Business Journal released its annual "Power 100" list, and some of Penn Medicine’s foremost innovators are included. UPHS CEO Kevin MahoneyCarl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, and Jim Wilson, MD, PhD, the Rose H. Weiss Professor and Director, Orphan Disease Center and the director of the Gene Therapy Program, are featured among other prominent Philadelphians.

Philadelphia Business Journal

First Patients to Receive Immunotherapy Treatment Are Still Cancer-Free a Decade Later

First Patients to Receive Immunotherapy Treatment Are Still Cancer-Free a Decade Later

Doug Olson bravely joined a revolutionary clinical trial more than 10 years ago that would put him into remission from CLL. Thanks to Penn pioneering technology called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, he not only celebrates turning 75, but also the victory of science and innovation led by J. Joseph Melenhorst, PhD, a research professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies; and David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center.

WebMD • Gene Therapy Live • OncLive

Penn Study Uncovers How Pancreatic Cells Reprogram Themselves to Limit the Immune Response in Patients at Risk for Type 1 Diabetes

Penn Study Uncovers How Pancreatic Cells Reprogram Themselves to Limit the Immune Response in Patients at Risk for Type 1 Diabetes

“The first events that occur in a patient heading towards Type 1 Diabetes, the events that trigger autoimmunity, have been difficult for researchers to pin down because of our inability to biopsy the pancreas, and the fact that clinical diagnosis is only made once massive beta cell destruction has occurred,” said senior author Golnaz Vahedi, PhD, an associate professor of Genetics and member of the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Read More

mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Scientist Weissman Working on Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Scientist Weissman Working on Universal Coronavirus Vaccine

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, is developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine which would protect against all known coronaviruses, like COVID-19. “The variants are going to keep coming as long as there is widespread infection,” said Weissman. “We have only vaccinated 15 percent of Africa, and immunized low levels of many countries in the world. Until the world is fully vaccinated, the variants are going to keep coming.”

Business Standard

Programming Algorithms Against Bacteria

Programming Algorithms Against Bacteria

Infectious bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. But César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, is driving innovative research using artificial intelligence to find new antibiotics. These new computer-generated antibiotics are based on entirely new molecules and may be more effective at fighting resistant bacteria.

rtve

Oldest Human DNA From Africa Reveals Complex Migrations

Oldest Human DNA From Africa Reveals Complex Migrations

A new analysis of ancient DNA from six individuals from southeastern Africa offers a glimpse of the lives of people who occupied the continent between 18,000 and 5,000 years ago, leading to new theories on how populations comingled. Sarah Tishkoff, PhD, the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology, said while the genomes are a welcome addition to the sparse record of ancient DNA on the continent, she’s not swayed by the team’s ideas about what happened before 20,000 years ago. “There’s a lot of assumptions in that analysis,” she said, and it’s not clear to her that the authors considered alternative explanations.

Science

Got a COVID-19 Booster? You Probably Won’t Need Another for a Long Time

Should Parents Wait to Get the COVID-19 Booster for Their Children?

A flurry of new studies suggest that several parts of the immune system can mount a sustained, potent response to coronavirus variants. Three doses of a vaccine — or even just two — are enough to protect most people from serious illness and death for a long time, the studies suggest. “We’re starting to see now diminishing returns on the number of additional doses,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. Although people over 65 or at high risk of illness may benefit from a fourth vaccine dose, it may be unnecessary for most people, he added.

New York Times • Kaiser Health News

Verismo Enters Research Agreement With Penn

Verismo Enters Research Agreement With Penn

Verismo, the Philadelphia cell therapy company that spun out of Penn two years ago, signed a translational research services agreement with Penn that includes a manufacturing partnership with Penn’s Center for Advanced Retinal & Ocular Therapeutics. The company was co-founded by Michael C. Milone, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Donald Siegel, MD, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; and Verismo CEO Bryan Kim. The agreement will support the clinical development of Verismo’s first new drug candidate, SynKIR-100, a cell therapy under development to treat late-stage ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Philadelphia Business Journal

Penn Medicine Doctors Say Treatment Appears to Have Cured Patients’ Blood Cancer

Penn Medicine Doctors Say Treatment Appears to Have Cured Patients’ Blood Cancer

David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center, discussed Penn’s revolutionary clinical trial on CAR T cell therapy, showing that the CAR T cells remained detectable at least a decade after infusion to treat cancer. Doug Olson, one of the first two patients treated in the trial for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, said he considers himself to be cured. Porter is looking to advance the study and provide the treatment sooner to more patients.

NBC10

How Can We Tweak the Vaccines?

How Can We Tweak the Vaccines?

The vaccine boosters made by Pfizer and Moderna provide strong protection against serious illness from COVID-19 and hospitalization. But their protection does wane over time, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published earlier this month. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke about the study and its implications.

WHYY

COVID-19: New Combination of Antivirals May be an Effective Treatment

COVID-19: New Combination of Antivirals May be an Effective Treatment

Penn Medicine researchers have identified a combination of antiviral drugs they believe to be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus: The combination includes the experimental drug brequinar with either the approved drug remdesivir or the approved drug molnupiravir. “Synergy is difficult to find, and our discovery may lead to the use of these combinations in treatments,” said the study’s lead author Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Medical News Today

Wharton Moneyball with E. John Wherry

Wharton Moneyball with E. John Wherry

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined the “Wharton Moneyball” podcast show to discuss the latest around COVID-19, vaccines, and decision making.

Wharton Moneyball

The Cells That Can Give You Super-immunity

The Cells That Can Give You Super-immunity

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted discussing the growing understanding of B cells, which through lessons from COVID-19 could also yield benefits in the realm of cancer immunotherapy.

BBC

Study of Penn Patients with Decade-Long Leukemia Remissions Reveals New Details About Persistence of CAR T Cells

Study of Penn Patients with Decade-Long Leukemia Remissions Reveals New Details About Persistence of CAR T Cells

A new analysis of the first two patients treated in a clinical trial at the Abramson Cancer Center with CAR T cell therapy explains the longest persistence of CAR T cells recorded to date against chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and shows that the CAR T cells remained detectable at least a decade after infusion, with sustained remission in both patients. The study was led by J. Joseph Melenhorst, PhD, a research professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies; and David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation.

Read More

Antiviral Combination Highly Effective Against SARS-CoV-2

Antiviral Combination Highly Effective Against SARS-CoV-2

Combining the drug brequniar with remdesivir or molnupiravir—both approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use—inhibited the SARS-CoV-2 virus in human respiratory cells and in mice, according to a new study led by Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “Identifying combinations of antivirals is really important, not only because doing so may increase the drugs’ potency against the coronavirus, but combining drugs also reduces the risk of resistance,” Cherry said.

Read More

Developing an Approach to Predict Which COVID Strains Appear in Breakthrough Infections

Developing an Approach to Predict Which COVID Strains Appear in Breakthrough Infections

Frederic D. Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology and co-director of the Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens, and his team have been sequencing viral variance in positive COVID samples across the Delaware Valley, including variants that have infected people who are vaccinated. His team sequenced and analyzed complete viral genomes from 2,621 surveillance samples from March 2020 to September 2021 and compared them to genome sequences from 159 samples from vaccinated people with breakthrough infections. Using this data, the researchers devised a model to determine which variants showed up more in breakthrough infections. This revealed that three lineages of the delta variant showed three-fold enrichment in vaccine breakthrough cases. The statistical approach they developed can be used in the future to predict breakthrough-prone variants.

Read More

Omicron and the Vaccines: Your Questions Answered

Omicron and the Vaccines: Your Questions Answered

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with AAMC News about what happens when someone who is vaccinated gets COVID-19. “No vaccines prevent any and all infection,” Wherry said. The good news is that vaccinated people who become infected and recover may have the best immunity against future infection.

AAMC News

Cancer Patients Treated With Gene Therapy in Remission for 10 Years

Cancer Patients Treated With Gene Therapy in Remission for 10 Years

Science Friday” interviewed Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, on data published in Nature on the first two patients with CLL treated in a clinical trial with CAR T cell therapy. He said that saying the word “cure” does not come easily, but in this case, researchers really mean it. This research, using a patient’s own killer T cells, reengineered in the lab, and then put back in the patient, just one time, shows promise for patients with liquid tumors including leukemia and lymphoma benefitting from this immunotherapy approach.

Science Friday

Two May be Better than One Drug to Treat COVID-19, University of Pennsylvania and University of Maryland Study Finds

Two May be Better than One Drug to Treat COVID-19, University of Pennsylvania and University of Maryland Study Finds

Drug combinations, rather than any single antiviral medication, may be the key to effective treatment of COVID-19, new research led by Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, suggests. The study found that when an experimental drug called brequinar was given with either of two medications that already had federal authorization — remdesivir or molnupiravir — it inhibited the growth of the virus in human lung cells and in mice.

Baltimore Sun

Vaccine Scientists Have Been Chasing Variants. Now, They’re Seeking a Universal COVID-19 Vaccine.

Vaccine Scientists Have Been Chasing Variants. Now, They’re Seeking a Universal COVID-19 Vaccine.

Scientists are seeking to develop pan-coronavirus vaccines — vaccines that would offer protection from all coronaviruses including COVID-19, SARS, MERS, and more. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, and colleagues at Penn are currently working to develop this vaccine, which would be the first of its kind.

Washington Post • 6ABC

Penn Medicine Performs Five Liver Transplants in Less Than 24 Hours

Penn Medicine Performs Five Liver Transplants in Less Than 24 Hours

With donor organs in short supply, it’s a blessing to have transplant teams that can rally to transplant the organs when they’re available — even when they are available all at once. Recently, Penn Medicine completed five liver transplants in an epic 24 hours, performing four at HUP and one at CHOP. “There is always a time limitation with transplant, but we were able to juggle it. It was really rewarding. It brought our teams together to work at their peak capacity,” said Peter Abt, MD, a professor of Surgery and the surgical director of Liver Transplant.

CBS3

COVID-19 Booster Enhances Protection, Contrary to ‘Immune Fatigue’ Claims

COVID-19 Booster Enhances Protection, Contrary to ‘Immune Fatigue’ Claims

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with FactCheck.org about the benefits of booster shots, after comedian Bill Maher incorrectly said COVID-19 boosters were “useless” and could cause “immune system fatigue.” Data show that people who have received booster shots are less likely to be infected with the coronavirus, even against the now-pervasive omicron variant. And there is no evidence that COVID-19 boosting can exhaust the immune system.

FactCheck.org

Does Exposure to Omicron Help Our Immunity, Even If We Don’t Get Sick?

Does Exposure to Omicron Help Our Immunity, Even If We Don’t Get Sick?

If you’ve been dodging COVID-19, you might think your immune system is superhuman or you’re even immune to getting the coronavirus. But that’s not the case. If you’ve been wearing masks or social distancing, that’s providing protection, explained E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. Even if you live with someone who is infected, your precautions might mean you aren’t exposed to a large enough dose of virus to cause an infection.

Wall Street Journal

Repairing Cardiac Fibrosis with RNA is the Future

Repairing Cardiac Fibrosis with RNA is the Future

Researchers at Penn published a new study in the journal Science showing that a new type of mRNA injection can spur the body to make CAR T cells, which may be able to repair heart damage and that have already been used to treat cancer. Jonathan Epstein, MD, chief scientific officer for Penn Medicine and the William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research in the Perelman School of Medicine, led the research together with Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research, and colleagues.

Heidi News

WHYY “Radio Times” Speaks with CAR T Cell Therapy Pioneer

WHYY “Radio Times” Speaks with CAR T Cell Therapy Pioneer

Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, spoke about data published in Nature on the first two patients treated in a clinical trial with CAR T cell therapy. He explained how it was the longest persistence of CAR T cells recorded to date against chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and that the CAR T cells remained detectable at least a decade after infusion, with sustained remission in both patients. June also touched on the Cancer Moonshot program re-launched this month by President Biden with a goal to cut the cancer death rate in half in 25 years.

WHYY

Genetic Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer

Genetic Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer

Heredity may play a role in a testicular cancer diagnosis, which impacts 1 in 150 men. Katherine Nathanson, MD, the Pearl Basser Professor for BRCA-Related Research at the Abramson Cancer Center, explained that “it’s been well established that there is a very high relative/genetic risk for men who have had a sibling or father with testicular cancer,” she said. “The relative risk for testicular cancer is higher than any other cancer type.”

Giddy

Can the Technology Behind COVID-19 Vaccines Cure Other Diseases?

Can the Technology Behind COVID-19 Vaccines Cure Other Diseases?

In an article about the potential of mRNA vaccines, Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, said vaccine potential is “limitless.” “We’re making vaccines against viruses, bacteria, pathogens, parasites, cancer, allergic diseases, autoimmune diseases. The list goes on and on,” he said.

Wall Street Journal

First Patients to Receive Immunotherapy Treatment Are Still Cancer-Free a Decade Later

First Patients to Receive Immunotherapy Treatment Are Still Cancer-Free a Decade Later

Doug Olson bravely joined a revolutionary clinical trial more than 10 years ago that would put him into remission from CLL. Thanks to Penn pioneering technology called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, he not only celebrates turning 75, but also the victory of science and innovation led by J. Joseph Melenhorst, PhD, a research professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies; and David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center.

WebMD • Gene Therapy Live • OncLive

‘Genome Valley Excellence Award 2022’ Goes to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Scientist Drew Weissman

‘Genome Valley Excellence Award 2022’ Goes to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Scientist Drew Weissman

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, was awarded the 2022 Genome Valley Excellence Award which comes from the Indian government and the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations.

The Hindu

What the Omicron Wave Is Revealing About Human Immunity

What the Omicron Wave Is Revealing About Human Immunity

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, and Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, were quoted in a Nature article discussing the wealth of insights yielded by recent research into SARS-CoV-2. “We are just at the beginning of a wave of discovery,” Wherry said.

Nature

False Claim Spreads About Japanese Ivermectin Study, Despite Correction

False Claim Spreads About Japanese Ivermectin Study, Despite Correction

Social media users are sharing false information about a Japanese company’s research into using ivermectin to treat COVID-19, after a news agency published an erroneous headline that it soon corrected. David C. Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics and director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory, directs a database tracking research into treatments for COVID-19, and said that there have been 25 randomized controlled trials — a gold-standard for research — studying ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. The trials have collectively involved more than 2,000 patients, he said, and the results have been mixed.

Associated Press

Should We Go All In on Omicron Vaccines?

Should We Go All In on Omicron Vaccines?

While omicron-specific vaccines are in the works, experts have warned against trashing the original-recipe shots too soon, as we don’t know what the next major variant will look like. However, there is reason enough to avoid boosting in perpetuity with the original recipe. For the next round of COVID-19 shots, whenever they might be necessary, we may be better off using something else — an “insurance policy,” explained Rishi Goel, a PSOM student and research fellow at the lab of E. John Wherry, PhD, to help the body broaden its coronavirus scope.

The Atlantic

Omicron Subvariant of COVID-19 Emerges in U.S.

Omicron Subvariant of COVID-19 Emerges in U.S.

Ominously nicknamed the “stealth variant,” the latest COVID-19 viral version arrives in the United States with the usual uncertainty that accompanies every iteration of the virus. Frederic D. Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens, thinks the subvariant won’t be very disruptive. “I think from what I’ve been seeing there’s not much reason to think there will be a big change,” he said. “Again, it’s early days and I could change my tune tomorrow.”

Philadelphia Inquirer

Biden Relaunches His ‘Moonshot’ Initiative to End Cancer

Biden Relaunches His ‘Moonshot’ Initiative to End Cancer

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, discussed the progress the field of oncology has made in Philadelphia and around the country with emphasis on the cancer “moonshot” program, which began at Penn six years ago. This week President Biden relaunched the program with the goal to cut the cancer death rate in half in 25 years. Vonderheide said, “The most palpable impact to date has been the explosion of new therapies using cell and gene therapy.”

NBC10

Pair of Decade-Long CAR-T Remissions Spark Talk of ‘Cure’

Pair of Decade-Long CAR-T Remissions Spark Talk of ‘Cure’

In new research published this week in Nature, “We can now conclude that CAR T cells can actually cure patients,” said Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies. Treatment with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy resulted in remissions of more than 10 years in two chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients — responses that the investigators said exceeded their “wildest expectations.”

CNN • Daily Mail • Axios • U.S. News & World Report • HealthDay • ScienceNews • The Hill • Kaiser Health News • MedPage Today • Sinc.com

Is an Omicron Infection as Good as a Booster? What the Science Says About ‘Hybrid’ Immunity.

Is an Omicron Infection as Good as a Booster? What the Science Says About ‘Hybrid’ Immunity.

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with the Philadelphia Inquirer about those who had omicron and what they should do about booster shots. Wherry discussed why people should never get infected on purpose, the immune system’s response to the vaccine, and how long to wait before getting a booster.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Two Patients Declared 'Cured' of Leukemia, a Decade After Innovative Treatment That Has Transformed Blood Cancer Care

Two Patients Declared 'Cured' of Leukemia, a Decade After Innovative Treatment That Has Transformed Blood Cancer Care

A new analysis of the first two patients treated in a clinical trial with CAR T cell therapy explains the longest persistence of CAR T cells recorded to date against chronic lymphocytic leukemia and shows that the CAR T cells remained detectable at least a decade after infusion, with sustained remission in both patients. The study, published in Nature, was led by J. Joseph Melenhorst, PhD, a research professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies; and David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center. The faculty joined patient Doug Olson in a Nature media briefing this week to outline their findings.

Penn Medicine News Release • New York Times • Philadelphia Inquirer • Associated Press• USA Today • The Guardian • Nature • STAT News • New Scientist • Daily Beast • Endpoints News

As Omicron Wanes in NJ, Here’s Where Experts Think the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Headed Next

As Omicron Wanes in NJ, Here’s Where Experts Think the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Headed Next

The general consensus emerging from health experts is that COVID-19 will not be eradicated any time soon because it has infected so many people around the world, which increases its chances of mutating into powerful new variants. It will have to be managed similarly to influenza. Frederic D. Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens, told USA Today Network New Jersey that he expects a lull in COVID-19 activity soon that may well carry the region into the fall. But he is also concerned about a “continual progression” of new COVID-19 variants. “It’s hard to see how you could erase the virus at this point,” said Bushman. “With so much of it in the world, it’s inevitable that there will be the creation and spread of more transmissible mutations.”

New Jersey Record (subscription required)


Feb 2022

Fact Check: Omicron Variant Isn’t More Likely to Infect Vaccinated

Fact Check: Omicron Variant Isn’t More Likely to Infect Vaccinated

After a newsletter claimed the COVID-19 vaccine caused more COVID-19 infections, USA Today talked to medical experts who debunked the claim. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, said that research “shows protection from omicron both for mild and severe disease.”

USA Today

Omicron Is Fading. What Does the Future of COVID-19 Look Like?

Omicron Is Fading. What Does the Future of COVID-19 Look Like?

In this article about this wave of the omicron variant, Susan Weiss, PhD, a professor of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens, explained how the enzymes that replicate viruses are not perfect, so when it makes reproductions, mutations occur. When a mutation gives the new version of the virus an advantage over earlier variants, natural selection makes it more likely it will become the dominant variant.

Tampa Bay Times

UK Report Did Not Find COVID-19 Vaccines Damage Immune Response

UK Report Did Not Find COVID-19 Vaccines Damage Immune Response

A video clip from a panel discussion on COVID-19 Monday is spreading on social media, misrepresenting what a report by U.K. health officials found. Multiple experts including E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, disputed the claim in the video that vaccines were doing damage. “It actually shows the vaccines are working to limit infection,” Wherry explained.

Associated Press

Two Studies Show Omicron’s Immune-Evasive Power, Role of Boosters

Two Studies Show Omicron’s Immune-Evasive Power, Role of Boosters

Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, commented on two new studies further demonstrating the ability of the omicron variant to evade vaccine- or infection-induced immunity. “These papers suggest that one correlate of protection, neutralizing antibodies, are low upon the standard vaccination schemes, but that a booster can significantly increase the levels of neutralizing antibodies to omicron,” she said.

Medscape

Vaccines Provide Best Protection From COVID-19

Vaccines Provide Best Protection From COVID-19

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, discussed the latest on COVID-19, the omicron variant, and new research which concludes getting the vaccine is still the safest way to prevent COVID-19. “The bottom line message is that from symptomatic COVID-19 infection you do generate some immunity. But it’s still much safer to get your immunity from vaccination than from infection,” Wherry said.

Associated Press • FOX29 • Los Angeles Times

Will Omicron Leave Most of Us Immune?

Will Omicron Leave Most of Us Immune?

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with The Atlantic about collective immunity, which is key to ending a pandemic. But its building blocks start with each individual. Allowing for shades of gray, a person’s current immune status hinges on “the number of exposures [to the spike protein], and time since last exposure,” Wherry said.

The Atlantic

After Omicron, We Could Use a Break. We May Just Get It

After Omicron, We Could Use a Break. We May Just Get It

Some experts think we may get a bit of a break from the COVID-19 roller coaster after omicron. Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, believes omicron is the final wave of the pandemic. “None of us think the virus is going to go away, but the virus will have less opportunity to change because there will be fewer hosts that it can replicate in,” said Hensley. “And in an immune population, due to immunity, disease severity will be less.”

STAT

Yes, You Can Catch the Flu and COVID-19. No, ‘Flurona’ Isn’t Real.

Yes, You Can Catch the Flu and COVID-19. No, ‘Flurona’ Isn’t Real.

Susan Weiss, PhD, a professor of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronavirus and Other Emerging Pathogens, commented on the potential in developing therapeutics that use defective versions of viruses to prompt innate immune responses in relation to treating COVID-19. “I’m not sure what practical application this would have as an antiviral,” she said.

NBC News

Why Scientists Are Racing to Develop More COVID-19 Antivirals

Why Scientists Are Racing to Develop More COVID-19 Antivirals

The approval of two oral antiviral treatments — molnupiravir and Paxlovid — show promise to reduce the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, according to Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. As these pills slowly make their way into pharmacies worldwide, researchers are already looking ahead to the drugs that could supersede them. Cherry and her research team are currently screening 20,000 compounds to test their efficacy against the coronavirus.

Nature

What Happens After Omicron? Four Key Questions About Where the Pandemic Goes Next

What Happens After Omicron? Four Key Questions About Where the Pandemic Goes Next

The omicron variant’s worldwide surge has upended early hopes for returns to normalcy and points to a more uncertain future for the pandemic, some experts say. “We are going to have a tremendous number of deaths among the unvaccinated,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. “And we’re going to have — even if we manage to eke our way through this — the scar tissue in the health system, which is going to last for a long time and is not going to be something that recovers when infection rates go down.”

Buzzfeed News

The Importance of Diversity in Immunology

The Importance of Diversity in Immunology

The January 15, 2022, special issue of The Journal of Immunology showcases a collection of Brief Reviews, including a broad spectrum of immunology topics as well as author autobiographies, and it celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion. De’Broski R. Herbert, Ph.D. (AAI ’00), and Irene Salinas, Ph.D. (AAI ’17), took on the roles of guest editors for this unique project.

Editorial

This Year’s Flu Shot Effectiveness in Question

This Year’s Flu Shot Effectiveness in Question

Some health experts are saying that this year’s flu shot is poorly matched to the strain that is circulating. For the flu shot, though it may contain one mismatched strain, it may still do its job. “Influenza vaccination is the best protection against severe disease and illness,” said Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, to NBC in a quote used by The Hill. “Even in these years of mismatch, we see high effectiveness against hospitalizations and severe disease.”

The Hill

How Should We Be Using At-home Rapid Tests for Omicron?

How Should We Be Using At-home Rapid Tests for Omicron?

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with WHYY about rapid antigen tests and how they can used as a means of reducing omicron’s spread. “None of our measures of protecting ourselves or prevention are perfect,” said Wherry. “Vaccines aren’t perfect. Masks aren’t perfect. Tests aren’t perfect. But when used in combinations and in layers, we can dramatically reduce risk.”

WHYY

mRNA Technology: Vaccine Biotech Has Helped Repair Broken Hearts in Mice

mRNA Technology: Vaccine Biotech Has Helped Repair Broken Hearts in Mice

Researchers at Penn published a new study, featured on the cover of the journal Science, showing that a new type of mRNA injection can spur the body to make CAR-T cells — cells that may be able to repair heart damage and that have already been used to treat cancer. The research was led by Jonathan Epstein, MD, the chief scientific officer for Penn Medicine and executive vice dean and the William Wikoff Smith Professor of Cardiovascular Research in the Perelman School of Medicine, as well as Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research.

NewScientist

‘Flurona’ — COVID-19 and Flu at the Same Time — Cases Are Rising. Here’s What You Need To Know

‘Flurona’ — COVID-19 and Flu at the Same Time — Cases Are Rising. Here’s What You Need To Know

A less effective flu vaccine and the surging omicron COVID-19 variant have led to a nasty combination of viruses this season. “From our lab-based studies it looks like a major mismatch,” said Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, of this year’s flu shot, in an interview with CNN last month, quoted by CNET.

CNET

‘Flurona’ Is Real, But Don’t Panic — it’s Common to Get Two Viruses at Once

‘Flurona’ Is Real, But Don’t Panic — it’s Common to Get Two Viruses at Once

The phenomenon of “coinfection” with influenza and the coronavirus is real and, to those in the medical community, not the least bit surprising. Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, was interviewed about the coinfection, how common it is, and what will happen if you get sick. If the person is lucky, the immune response to the first invader could help protect against the second, Cherry said.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Gut Microbiota Tuning Data Presented at ASH 2021

Gut Microbiota Tuning Data Presented at ASH 2021

Marco Ruella, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, interviewed with Oncology Tube on data presented at ASH 2021 on gut microbiota tuning and how it promotes tumor-associated antigen cross presentation and enhances CAR T antitumor effects. He also spoke on research about intestinal microbiota and how it correlates with response and toxicity after CAR T-cell therapy in patients with B-Cell malignancies.

Oncology Tube

Will ‘Forever Boosting’ Beat the Coronavirus?

Will ‘Forever Boosting’ Beat the Coronavirus?

Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, provided expert opinion for a New York Timesarticle discussing what is feasible regarding booster shots with no end in sight for the pandemic. If the coronavirus settles into a flulike seasonal pattern, as it seems possible, “you can imagine a scenario where we simply give boosters before the winter each year,” Hensley said.

New York Times

Penn Awarded $14M NIH Grant for Organ Transplantation With CAR T-Cell Therapy

Penn Awarded $14M NIH Grant for Organ Transplantation With CAR T-Cell Therapy

The NIH awarded Penn a $14 million grant to study organ transplantation with CAR T-cells in patients with end-stage renal disease who are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant. The grant will support the launch of a clinical trial by Penn researchers including Vijay Bhoj, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Ali Naji, MD, PhD, a professor of Surgical Research, and the principal investigator of the study. Naji said, “We’re committed to discovering an approach to help these currently transplant-ineligible end-stage renal disease patients find a path forward to an organ match."

Philadelphia Business Journal • Healio • Trial Site News • Pharmabiz • One News Page

Philly Siblings Emphasize the Benefits of Living-donor Kidney Transplants

Philly Siblings Emphasize the Benefits of Living-donor Kidney Transplants

Two Philadelphia siblings celebrated Christmas together after sharing a special gift this year — a kidney that Alli Maurer donated to her brother, Chris. Robert R. Redfield III, MD, surgical director of the Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program, and Matthew Levine, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Transplant Surgery, performed the surgeries. “If there are multiple potential donors, then the next step is to see who is the best blood type and antigen match,” Levine said. “If a recipient has strong antibodies against a donor’s human leukocyte antigens, the risk of rejection is high and a donor would be declined for that recipient.”

Philly Voice

Expert Discusses Best Time to Use a COVID-19 Home Test Kit

Expert Discusses Best Time to Use a COVID-19 Home Test Kit

Over the holidays, Americans flocked to stores to try to find at home COVID-19 tests kits. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, recommended that if you’re using the home test as a precaution ahead of a gathering, test 6-12 hours before the event. “That’s going to make sure that when you’re with other people you’re at a low risk for transmitting.”

6ABC

Is a Second Vaccine Booster in Our Future?

Is a Second Vaccine Booster in Our Future?

WHYY interviewed Frederic D. Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens, for a story that answered a number of questions regarding booster shots. “Again, with the new variants, sometimes it is still possible to get infected even if you’re vaccinated, but the consequences are much, much, much less bad,” Bushman said. “Your chances of death are greatly, greatly reduced, so you’re much better off getting vaccinated and boosted. So do so as early as you can.”

WHYY

COVID-19 Cases Surge Once Again

COVID-19 Cases Surge Once Again

Philadelphia is dealing with an upsurge of COVID-19 cases due to recent holiday-related gatherings and the omicron variant. NBC10 discussed how COVID-19 is currently affecting the city with insight from Frederic D. Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens.

NBC10

How Drew Weissman’s Life’s Work Led to COVID-19 Vaccines

How Drew Weissman’s Life’s Work Led to COVID-19 Vaccines

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research who developed foundational mRNA vaccine technology used in the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, spoke to KYW Newsradio about the unique vaccine and his research focus now. Weissman and colleagues are developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine that would prevent all types of coronaviruses and are collaborating with researchers and clinicians around the world to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are accessible to everyone.

KYW Newsradio

Groundbreaking mRNA Scientist: COVID-19 Antiviral Pills Are ‘Game Changers’

Groundbreaking mRNA Scientist: COVID-19 Antiviral Pills Are ‘Game Changers’

The best strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and COVID-19 variants is through the creation of a pan-coronavirus vaccine that could prevent any and all coronaviruses, said Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor of Vaccine Research and an mRNA research leader. While some vaccine manufacturers are working on updates to current COVID-19 vaccines to protect specific variants, Weissman said this strategy would require ongoing and perpetual updates whereas an all-encompassing coronavirus vaccine could cover all COVID-19 variants and may prevent future coronavirus epidemics and pandemics.

CNN


Jan 2022

Studies Suggest Why Omicron Is Less Severe: It Spares the Lungs

Studies Suggest Why Omicron Is Less Severe: It Spares the Lungs

The New York Times reports on research that suggests omicron is easier on lungs than other versions of COVID-19, which may be why the variant causes a “milder” form of the disease. Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, explained that although the research addresses the severity of symptoms, it does not give any indication on the transmissibility of the variant. “It could be as simple as, this is a lot more virus in people’s saliva and nasal passages,” she said.

New York Times

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