Faculty in the News


December 2020

The New Coronavirus Vaccine Is Changing the Future of Medicine

The New Coronavirus Vaccine Is Changing the Future of Medicine

While the vaccines for COVID-19 seem to have been created in record time, the technology making them possible has been decades in development. mRNA platforms crafted and studied by Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, set the stage for the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which are now seeking emergency-use authorization. Forbes

What the COVID-19 Vaccine’s Side Effects Feel Like

What the COVID-19 Vaccine’s Side Effects Feel Like

In a story about the minimal potential side effects of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, The Atlantic discussed the future of the mRNA-vaccine platform and other mRNA technology. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases and an inventor of the mRNA vaccine platform that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are using, said it’s possible that an mRNA vaccine may one day be administered to prevent cancer. 6ABCalso covered the backstory of this vaccine platform and Weissman’s work at Penn, along with Katalin Kariko, PhD, an adjunct associate professor. The Atlantic • PLOS Blog • 6ABC

Penn Scientists Discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Science and Policy

Penn Scientists Discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Science and Policy

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, who played an integral role in the development of synthetic mRNA technology that is a critical component of the Pfizer/bioNTech and Moderna vaccines, E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, and Jonathan Epstein, MD, executive vice dean and chief scientific officer of the Perelman School of Medicine, set out Monday to reassure the public that the vaccines are safe, effective, and rely on more than a decade of laboratory research on synthetic mRNA. They highlighted the science behind the vaccines during a virtual discussion. Steven Joffe, MD, MPH, interim chair of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, Holly Fernandez Lynch, JD, MBE, an assistant professor of Medical Ethics & Health Policy, and Susan Ellenberg, PhD, interim chair of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Informatics, joined the discussion to talk about COVID-19 vaccine regulations and EUA policy. PhillyVoice • Vox

Breakthrough Cancer Therapies Offer Hope for Patients

Breakthrough Cancer Therapies Offer Hope for Patients

Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, spoke with U.S. News & World Report as part of its Healthcare of Tomorrow virtual event series about the ongoing clinical trials with CAR T cells for several types of cancer, as well as innovative combination therapies being investigated for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. U.S. News & World Report

Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Looks Highly Effective, New Data Indicate

Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Looks Highly Effective, New Data Indicate

Briefing documents published Tuesday by the FDA show that the remarkably high level of protection from the Pfizer/bioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is true even for those at highest risk of severe COVID-19 because of their age, weight, race, or chronic medical conditions. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, said that puts the Pfizer vaccine in the top tier of potency among all vaccines. Other vaccines that are 90 percent or more effective include measles, diphtheria, tetanus, and polio, he said. Philadelphia Inquirer

COVID Vaccines: Is the Wait Really Over?

COVID Vaccines: Is the Wait Really Over?

As the FDA considers granting emergency use authorization for two promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, many want to understand how this vaccine differs from other platforms used to prevent infectious diseases, how this research has happened seemingly so quickly, and what this authorization could mean for the COVID-19 pandemic around the world. Coverage highlights the work of Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, who developed the mRNA platform used for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, with colleague Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct associate professor. A Washington Post editorial called the approach an “extraordinary advance in technology, never before used on such a scale, with great promise for the future.” Washington Post • WHYY Radio Times • Forbes

How Will Pa. Distribute a COVID-19 Vaccine? Answers and Challenges Emerge

How Will Pa. Distribute a COVID-19 Vaccine? Answers and Challenges Emerge

Tried and true distribution methods may be insufficient for COVID-19 vaccines during a pandemic. “We haven’t seen any efforts that are this broad since probably a polio vaccination in the 1950s,” said Frederic Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology and co-director of the Penn Center for Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens. “Also, the people who are most likely to benefit from vaccination are people who may have difficulty connecting to health care.”  York Daily Record

Most Important People to Know in the Coronavirus Vaccine Race

Most Important People to Know in the Coronavirus Vaccine Race

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, pioneered the use of mRNA for vaccines in 2005 at Penn with longtime research collaborator Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct associate professor. Their discovery paved the way for the first two COVID-19 vaccines, from Pfizer/bioNTech and Moderna. Business Insider • The Telegraph

Should People Who Recovered From COVID Get Vaccinated?

Should People Who Recovered From COVID Get Vaccinated?

Public health officials hope to include those who have already recovered from COVID-19 in vaccination efforts, and more data are needed about how the vaccine works in people who had symptoms and were sick with COVID-19. “A big unknown is how COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ may respond,” said Michael Betts, PhD, an immunologist and a professor of Microbiology. NBC News

CRISPR-edited CAR T Cells Enhance Fight Against Blood Cancers

CRISPR-edited CAR T Cells Enhance Fight Against Blood Cancers

Knocking out a protein known to stifle T cell activation on CAR T cells using the CRISPR/Cas9 technology enhanced the engineered T cells’ ability to eliminate blood cancers, according to new data presented by Marco Ruella, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting & Exposition. Penn Medicine News Release • WebMD News Brief • FierceBiotech


November 2020

Penn Scientist Behind mRNA Vaccine Innovation Hails Pfizer Results

Penn Scientist Behind mRNA Vaccine Innovation Hails Pfizer Results

Drew Weissman, MD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, developed the mRNA vaccine technology at Penn that is a foundation of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the Moderna vaccine and others being developed globally. Yesterday, Pfizer announced that early results from its coronavirus vaccine trials show that it is 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19. CBS3 • Agence France-Presse (AFP)

A Decade of Success: CAR T Pioneers Reflect on Past, Look Toward Future

A Decade of Success: CAR T Pioneers Reflect on Past, Look Toward Future

David Porter, MD, director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation, was quoted in a story that revisited the first published CAR T cell therapy study from 2010 and the transformation of the field. “In this field, when using therapies in patients for the first time, you can learn tremendous amounts from even a single patient,” he said. “It really led us and many others to believe this approach really could work.” Cell Therapy Next

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Studies Showing Waning Coronavirus Antibodies

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Studies Showing Waning Coronavirus Antibodies

In response to a recent study showing declining coronavirus antibodies in recovered individuals, experts said it is normal for levels of antibodies to drop after clearing an infection. Scott Hensley, PhD,an assistant professor of Microbiology, told the New York Times, “That is the sign of a normal healthy immune response. It doesn’t mean that those people no longer have antibodies. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have protection.” NY Times

COVID in Philadelphia: CHOP Nurse Becomes Vaccine Volunteer at Penn

COVID in Philadelphia: CHOP Nurse Becomes Vaccine Volunteer at Penn

Enelida Gomez, a participant in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial and a nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, spoke to CBS3 about what it was like to trial a vaccine aimed at curbing the spread of the pandemic. The principal investigator of the Penn site is Ian Frank, MD, a professor of Infectious Diseases. CBS3

The Promise of mRNA Vaccines

The Promise of mRNA Vaccines

Long before Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots, scientists considered using genetically encoded vaccines in the fight against infectious diseases, cancer, and more. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases who has studied mRNA vaccines for decades, developed the mRNA platform used by the pharmaceutical companies. “I think pretty much everyone acknowledges this as the big breakthrough [for mRNA vaccines],” said Margaret Liu, the chairman of the board of the International Society for Vaccines. The Scientist

Reinventing Vaccines, Starting with COVID-19

Reinventing Vaccines, Starting with COVID-19

Pfizer and Moderna have separately released preliminary data that suggest their vaccines are both more than 90 percent effective, far more than many scientists expected. The two vaccines are based on a new gene-based technology that could help fight a range of diseases, developed by Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases. Weissman started working on mRNA vaccine technology more than 20 years ago in his lab at Penn Medicine.

The Atlantic • The Wall Street Journal • CBS3 • Science • The Jewish Star • Physician’s Weekly

Philadelphia Is Home to Research That Helped Create COVID-19 Vaccine Frontrunners

Philadelphia Is Home to Research That Helped Create COVID-19 Vaccine Frontrunners

The research of Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, set the stage for COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that are now seeking emergency-use authorization. The vaccines are built on mRNA platforms that Weissman helped to craft and study for over two decades. FOX29

Diagnostic Imaging Could Raise Risk of Testicular Cancer, Penn Researchers Find

Diagnostic Imaging Could Raise Risk of Testicular Cancer, Penn Researchers Find

Early and repeated exposures to diagnostic imaging may increase the risk of testicular cancer, according to a recent PLOS ONE study led by Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, deputy director of the Abramson Cancer Center and the Pearl Basser Professor of BRCA-Related Research. PhillyVoice • HealthDay News

What Is mRNA? How Pfizer and Moderna Tapped New Tech to Make Coronavirus Vaccines

What Is mRNA? How Pfizer and Moderna Tapped New Tech to Make Coronavirus Vaccines

Both Pfizer and Moderna are testing vaccine candidates that use messenger RNA, or mRNA, to trigger the immune system to produce protective antibodies without using actual bits of the virus. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, pioneered the development of mRNA vaccine research and is now collaborating with BioNTech, a German biotechnology company that has partnered with Pfizer. NBC News • Kaiser Health News • Scientific American • The Jerusalem Post

Testicular Cancer Link to Below-the-Waist Scans, X-Rays?

Testicular Cancer Link to Below-the-Waist Scans, X-Rays?

Early and repeated exposures to diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays and CT scans, may increase the risk of testicular cancer, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE and led by Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, deputy director of the Abramson Cancer Center and the Pearl Basser Professor of BRCA-Related Research. Medscape • CBS (Indianapolis) • CBS (Birmingham)

Research Behind COVID-19 Vaccine Development Began at Penn Lab Decades Ago

Research Behind COVID-19 Vaccine Development Began at Penn Lab Decades Ago

Following Pfizer’s announcement of positive early results for their COVID-19 vaccine last week, Moderna Inc. announced today dramatic early results as well, saying the drug appeared to reduce the chance of illness by 94.5 percent. The news was made possible in part by the mRNA technology developed at Penn by Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases. Weissman has spent more than 20 years figuring out messenger RNA — how to modify it to make it safe, how to deliver it so that it stays intact in the body, and, along with the companies the technology is licensed to, testing it in the lab on flu, Zika, and other viruses. Philadelphia Inquirer • KYW Newsradio

Cell and Gene Therapy Pioneers on Industry’s Past, Future

Cell and Gene Therapy Pioneers on Industry’s Past, Future

Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, appeared on the Philadelphia Business Journal’s “It”s in Our Genes” virtual event to talk about his role in developing one of the first cellular therapies, his ongoing work with the gene-editing tool CRISPR, and how “Cellicon Valley” continues to grow. Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, a professor of Ophthalmology, and her gene therapy research in retinal diseases were also mentioned during the event. Philadelphia Business Journal

This Philly Scientist’s Technology Helped Make the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Possible

This Philly Scientist’s Technology Helped Make the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Possible

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, explained his role in inventing the foundational technology that has allowed mRNA vaccines to be potential gamechangers in the fight against COVID-19 spread. Moderna and Pfizer both built their mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in part on Weissman’s work. Philadelphia magazine

How Epigenetics Could Turn Things Around for Alzheimer’s Disease

How Epigenetics Could Turn Things Around for Alzheimer’s Disease

Despite hundreds of clinical trials conducted, no new Alzheimer’s drugs have been approved in almost two decades. Shelley Berger, PhD, a professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Genetics and director of the Penn Epigenetics Institute, and other researchers on her team are studying epigenetics to try to find a way to stop the disease. Forbes

The Story of mRNA: From a Loose Idea to a Tool That May Help Curb COVID-19, Powered by a Penn Researcher

The Story of mRNA: From a Loose Idea to a Tool That May Help Curb COVID-19, Powered by a Penn Researcher

There are about a dozen COVID-19 vaccines in late-stage clinical trials globally, but the ones being tested by Pfizer and Moderna rely on messenger RNA (mRNA). Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, discovered a way to turn mRNA vaccine technology from a longshot to a reality. Derek Rossi, a founder of Moderna, said, “If anyone asks me whom to vote for a Nobel Prize some day down the line, I would put [Weissman and his co-author Katalin Karikó] front and center. That fundamental discovery is going to go into medicines that help the world.” Philadelphia Inquirer STAT News6ABC
 


October 2020

A potential cause of CAR T side effects, and a path forward

A potential cause of CAR T side effects, and a path forward

CAR T-cell immunotherapy has saved lives but does come with side effects, including neurotoxicity in certain cases. Research from a team led by Avery Posey of the Perelman School of Medicine provides evidence that this side effect may be due to a molecule in the brain that scientists previously didn’t know was there. The discovery could inform new treatment strategies to more finely target cancer.

Penn Medicine Gets $5.4 Million Grant to Study Genetic Causes of Testicular Cancer

Penn Medicine Gets $5.4 Million Grant to Study Genetic Causes of Testicular Cancer

A team of researchers led by Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, deputy director of the Abramson Cancer Center and the Pearl Basser Professor for BRCA-Related Research, was recently awarded $5.4 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health to continue the long-standing genomics work of the TEsticular CAncer Consortium (TECAC). Penn Medicine News Release • PhillyVoice

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Studies Showing Waning Coronavirus Antibodies

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Studies Showing Waning Coronavirus Antibodies

In response to a recent study showing declining coronavirus antibodies in recovered individuals, experts said it is normal for levels of antibodies to drop after clearing an infection. Scott Hensley, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology, said, “That is the sign of a normal healthy immune response. It doesn’t mean that those people no longer have antibodies. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have protection.” New York Times

The 76 Most Influential People in Philadelphia

The 76 Most Influential People in Philadelphia

Kevin Mahoney, CEO of UPHS, Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD, vice provost for global initiatives, Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, and Virginia Man-Yee Lee, PhD, a professor of Alzheimer’s Research in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, were named among the 76 most influential people in the region by Philadelphia magazine. Philadelphia Magazine

Drug Used in Organ Transplants Can Reduce Deaths Drom Severe COVID-19

Drug Used in Organ Transplants Can Reduce Deaths Drom Severe COVID-19

Carl H. June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, was featured in a story on results from a trial that found the immune-suppressing drug cyclosporine may help reduce the risk of death in COVID-19 patients. Penn is running a similar trial. Philadelphia Inquirer

IL-6 Antagonists May Have a Role in Fighting COVID-19 After All

IL-6 Antagonists May Have a Role in Fighting COVID-19 After All

Carl H. June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, was quoted in a story about how drugs that at one point were believed to be ineffective — IL-6 antagonists — may now be a promising route to treat some COVID-19 patients. Cancer Letter

Expert Explains the Differences Between Common COVID-19 Tests

Expert Explains the Differences Between Common COVID-19 Tests

As more Pennsylvanians seek COVID-19 tests, it’s important to understand the differences between them and what their results mean for patients. Christoph Thaiss, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology, explained the differences between the COVID-19 molecular, antigen, and antibody tests.

PBS39

Moderna Vows to Not Enforce COVID-19 Vaccine Patents During Pandemic

Moderna Vows to Not Enforce COVID-19 Vaccine Patents During Pandemic

The Wall Street Journal reported that Moderna, a pharmaceutical company who manufactured a COVID-19 vaccine in phase 3 trials, promised it will not enforce patents related to the vaccine during the pandemic. Moderna built their vaccine on research done at Penn by Drew Weissman, MD, a professor of Infectious Diseases. Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump’s COVID-19 Treatment: He Got Typical Drugs — Only Faster

Donald Trump’s COVID-19 Treatment: He Got Typical Drugs — Only Faster

President Trump’s therapies have been similar to those available to most other hospitalized COVID-19 patients — with two major exceptions. Regeneron has only been tried in about 2,000 people as part of a research trial, and the president has received everything far sooner than would a typical patient; most Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 are treated with Remdesivir. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, was quoted. USA Today

Novel Dual CAR T cell immunotherapy promising for targeting the HIV reservoir

Novel Dual CAR T cell immunotherapy promising for targeting the HIV reservoir

A novel Dual CAR T-cell immunotherapy could serve as a way to fight HIV. “This study highlights how relatively straightforward alterations to the way T-cells are engineered can lead to dramatic changes in their potency and durability,” says James Riley of the Perelman School of Medicine. Read More

Heart Drugs May Influence Gut Microbiome in Obese People

Heart Drugs May Influence Gut Microbiome in Obese People

Christoph Thaiss, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, working with a team of researchers, has found that a particular combination of bacteria in the gut microbiome known to be associated with inflammation is more prevalent in obese people. The study, published in Nature, also found that this was not the case for obese people taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol, pointing toward future research to discover whether these drugs could potentially be used to modulate the gut microbiome. Forbes

Neanderthal Genes Linked to Severe COVID-19; Mosquitoes Cannot Transmit the Coronavirus

Neanderthal Genes Linked to Severe COVID-19; Mosquitoes Cannot Transmit the Coronavirus

A new study led by E. John Wherry, PhD,chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, may shed light on why some children develop the rare and dangerous multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) after recovering from COVID-19, while most do not. Reuters


September 2020

The Reinfection Question

The Reinfection Question

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, joined NBC News to discuss recent coronavirus reinfection cases, the new Abbott rapid test, and more. NBC News

Vaccine Nationalism During the Pandemic

Moderna Vows to Not Enforce COVID-19 Vaccine Patents During Pandemic

The BBC World Service reported on the importance of bringing an eventual COVID-19 vaccine to all parts of the world. Drew Weissman, MD, a professor of Medicine, who developed mRNA vaccine technology used by Moderna and Pfizer, is working with Thailand and surrounding nations to assist them in creating their own COVID-19 vaccine. BBC World Service

Reopening Colleges Likely Fueled COVID-19 Significantly, Study Finds

Reopening Colleges Likely Fueled COVID-19 Significantly, Study Finds

The Wall Street Journal covered a study that looked at the spread of COVID-19 in some areas following the return of college students to campuses. Jason Christie, MD, MS, chief of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, who was not involved in the research, explained that “unrelated underlying trends could account for some of the county-by-county differences in case numbers, and the relatively short time span these researchers focused on might miss such factors.” The Wall Street Journal

Report Resurrects Baseless Claim that Coronavirus Was Bioengineered

Report Resurrects Baseless Claim that Coronavirus Was Bioengineered

A long-circulating, unsubstantiated claim about the origins of the novel coronavirus resurfaced in recent days after a paper published online purported that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a lab. Susan Weiss, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, said that “makes no sense in terms of what we know about” coronaviruses. Factcheck.org

Gen Xers Could Be Perpetually Susceptible to H3N2 Flu Strain

Gen Xers Could Be Perpetually Susceptible to H3N2 Flu Strain

Flu season is almost upon us. Now, to add an even greater level of complexity, research led by Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, has found that middle-aged individuals — those born in the late 1960s and the 1970s — may be in a perpetual state of H3N2 influenza virus susceptibility because their antibodies bind to H3N2 viruses but fail to prevent infections. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Researchers Discover Potential Cause of Immunotherapy-related Neurotoxicity

Researchers Discover Potential Cause of Immunotherapy-related Neurotoxicity

New research led by Avery Posey, PhD, an assistant professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and a member of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, has uncovered the previously unknown presence of CD19 — a B cell molecule targeted by CAR T cell immunotherapy to treat leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma — in brain cells that protect the blood brain barrier. This discovery may potentially be the cause for neurotoxicity in patients undergoing CD19 directed CAR T cell immunotherapy. Penn Medicine News Release • Medical Xpress • News-Medical.Net

Middle-Aged Individuals May Be in a Perpetual State of H3N2 Flu Virus Susceptibility

Middle-Aged Individuals May Be in a Perpetual State of H3N2 Flu Virus Susceptibility

Penn Medicine researchers have found that middle-aged individuals — those born in the late 1960s and the 1970s — may be in a perpetual state of H3N2 influenza virus susceptibility because their antibodies bind to H3N2 viruses but fail to prevent infections, according to a new study led by Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology. The paper was published today in Nature CommunicationsScience Daily • Medical Xpress • News-Medical.Net

Middle-Aged Individuals May Be in a Perpetual State of H3N2 Flu Virus Susceptibility

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Studies Showing Waning Coronavirus Antibodies

Penn Medicine researchers have found that middle-aged individuals may be in a perpetual state of H3N2 influenza virus susceptibility because their antibodies bind to H3N2 viruses but fail to prevent infections, according to a new study led by Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The paper was published today in Nature Communications. Penn Medicine News Release

An Interview with Carl June, MD, a Pioneer in CAR T-Cell Therapy

An Interview with Carl June, MD, a Pioneer in CAR T-Cell Therapy

Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, discussed his work in developing CAR T therapy, his experience fighting COVID, and his role as a mentor to other researchers. Cancer Research Catalyst

The FDA’s New App for Doctors Could Spur New Uses for Old Drugs

The FDA’s New App for Doctors Could Spur New Uses for Old Drugs

Doctors treating COVID-19 patients are increasingly turning for guidance to Cure ID, an app developed by the FDA that enables doctors to consult with each other across hospitals, academic disciplines, and international borders. David C. Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics and director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory, who runs a database called the COVID-19 Registry of Off-label & New Agents, was quoted. CNN

Q&A on Coronavirus Vaccines

Q&A on Coronavirus Vaccines

In the more than eight months since the novel coronavirus emerged and spread around the world, scientists across the globe have made rapid progress on developing a vaccine. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, said that although there’s evidence that reinfection can occur, “it is likely unusual, if not rare,” and protective immunity “remains the more likely outcome of infection (and effective vaccination).” Factcheck.org

COVID-19 and mRNA Vaccines — First Large Test for a New Approach

COVID-19 and mRNA Vaccines — First Large Test for a New Approach

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Medicine and an Infectious Diseases researcher, spoke to the Journal of the American Medical Association about the strengths of mRNA-vaccine technology compared to other vaccine foundations. His mRNA formulation is being licensed by two vaccine makers with vaccines currently in phase 3 trials. JAMA Network


August 2020

New Study Of COVID-19 Risk Among Pregnant Women Reveals Distressing Racial Disparities

New Study Of COVID-19 Risk Among Pregnant Women Reveals Distressing Racial Disparities

Research led by Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, and Karen Puopolo, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Pediatrics, recently undertook a broad survey looking at pregnant women and risk of COVID-19 exposure. The team discovered that Black and Hispanic expectant mothers were five times more likely to have been exposed to the novel coronavirus than white or Asian pregnant women. Romper

Can Hydroxychloroquine Prevent COVID-19?

Can Hydroxychloroquine Prevent COVID-19?

David C. Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics and director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory, is quoted in an article focusing on the logistics of research into hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19. While different doses and different starting points are still under investigation, “in a world where we have limited resources, you can’t do every possible scenario for every drug,” he said. Buzzfeed

Smell Could Be a Better Sign of Early COVID-19 Infection Than Fever

Smell Could Be a Better Sign of Early COVID-19 Infection Than Fever

Because loss of smell is an early symptom of COVID-19 — and often the only symptom present in people who otherwise feel fine — it may be helpful in screening asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers. “The idea is very attractive because we need testing any way we can get it, and there’s just not enough to go around. The other side of the equation is that people who wake up with allergies or a hangover and can’t smell the coffee as well as they did yesterday might panic and run to urgent care for a test. It would be good to understand the costs,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology. Philadelphia Inquirer

Repurposed drugs

Repurposed drugs

In light of new research exploring statins as a potential COVID-19 treatment, Daniel Rader and David Fajgenbaumof the Perelman School of Medicine propose a systematic approach to drug repurposing to bolster the fight against the novel coronavirus. “Everyone wants effective treatments for COVID-19 as soon as possible, but we have to be disciplined about evaluating the data,” says Fajgenbaum. Read More

Why ‘T Cell Immunity’ Won’t End the Coronavirus Pandemic

Why ‘T Cell Immunity’ Won’t End the Coronavirus Pandemic

SARS-CoV-2 is one of seven coronaviruses known to infect humans, four of which are prevalent pretty much everywhere and cause colds and other respiratory infections. “Most people have been exposed [to a coronavirus] by early childhood,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology. But, he said, just because you have a T cell recognizing the coronavirus, that doesn’t mean SARS-CoV-2 still won’t make you sick. Forbes

Antibodies Fight Off the New Coronavirus, But What Do T Cells Do?

Antibodies Fight Off the New Coronavirus, But What Do T Cells Do?

In a recent Nature Reviews Immunology article, research led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, summarized what scientists know about T cells and COVID-19 to date. Medical News Today

Scientists Uncover Biological Signatures of the Worst COVID-19 Cases

Scientists Uncover Biological Signatures of the Worst COVID-19 Cases

Studies of patients with severe cases of COVID-19 show the immune system lacks its usual coordinated response. John Wherry, PhD, director of the Penn Institute of Immunology and chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, recently published a study of these telltale immune signatures. “A lot of these data are telling us that we need to be acting pretty early in this process,” Wherry said. As more findings come out, researchers may be able to begin testing the idea that “we can change the trajectory of disease.” Penn Medicine News Release • New York Times

The Coronavirus Is New, But Your Immune System Might Still Recognize It

The Coronavirus Is New, But Your Immune System Might Still Recognize It

All people carry immune cells called T cells, but some possess T cells that can capitalize on the resemblance of the novel coronavirus to other members of its family tree. Researchers are investigating how these T cells — likely from past infections with other coronaviruses — might affect those with COVID-19, and whether the memory of past infection is hindering a person’s ability to fight the virus. Laura Su, MD, PhD,an assistant professor of Rheumatology, said, “It’s almost like some people are trying to say this is ‘good’ or ‘bad.' It’s probably more nuanced than that.” New York Times

Coronavirus Vaccines and Immunity: What We Know

Coronavirus Vaccines and Immunity: What We Know

Although the pandemic still defies prediction, medical experts are expressing increasing optimism about the human immune system’s ability to fight the virus. A study led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, found that people’s T cell responses could be divided into three “immunotypes.” In the first type, T cell responses were “unbalanced” with an excess of helper cells and an emptying out of the ones that kill infected cells. The second type saw fewer helper cells and more killer ones. The last type largely lacked any T cell response, as if the immune system hadn’t even gotten started. BuzzFeed News

What the Immune Response to the Coronavirus Says About the Prospects for a Vaccine

What the Immune Response to the Coronavirus Says About the Prospects for a Vaccine

Sporadic accounts of reinfection — people recovering from COVID-19, only to fall ill and test positive again — have stoked fears that immunity to the novel coronavirus might be short-lived. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, said, “We’re all hearing anecdotes, but I don’t know if any of us know what to think about them. So far, reports of reinfection have lacked sufficient information about the person’s immune responses to rule out other possibilities." Nature

Can You Get COVID-19 Twice? Scientists Say It’s Too Early to Tell

Can You Get COVID-19 Twice? Scientists Say It’s Too Early to Tell

Recovery from the coronavirus seems to stimulate protective immunity, but there’s not enough data to determine how long that protection lasts. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, was quoted. Discover

Dangerous COVID-19 Complication Casts a Shadow Over College Sports

Dangerous COVID-19 Complication Casts a Shadow Over College Sports

There are about a dozen cases of college student athletes with myocarditis, one of the more frightening possible complications tied to COVID-19. It weakens the heart’s ability to pump blood and can cause abnormal rhythm, which in rare cases can result in sudden death. Rajat Deo, MD, MTR, an associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, was quoted. Bloomberg Business

Coronavirus Vaccine: Moderna’s mRNA Vaccine and Oxford’s Adenovirus Vaccine, Explained

Coronavirus Vaccine: Moderna’s mRNA Vaccine and Oxford’s Adenovirus Vaccine, Explained

Different types of vaccines are being tested for COVID-19. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Medicine, spoke about the benefits of mRNA vaccines. Weissman’s mRNA technology was licensed by Moderna and BioNTech as they developed mRNA vaccines specifically for COVID-19. Vox

U.S. Far from Reaching Herd Immunity for COVID-19

U.S. Far from Reaching Herd Immunity for COVID-19

The coronavirus has killed more than 750,000 people worldwide since late 2019, nearly a quarter of them in the United States. Rumors maintaining that the U.S. has reached herd immunity could push people to take unnecessary risks, leading to more infections and a worsening of the crisis. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology, was quoted. AFP Fact Check

Penn Commentary Highlights Potential for Existing Drugs Like Statins as Promising COVID-19 Treatments

Penn Commentary Highlights Potential for Existing Drugs Like Statins as Promising COVID-19 Treatments

New data suggest statins as a potentially helpful class of drugs to fight COVID-19. Pointing to that study, Daniel Rader, MD, chair of Genetics, and David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics, propose a framework for a systematic approach to drug repurposing for the novel coronavirus.  Penn Medicine News Release

Taking Risks for Big Rewards

Taking Risks for Big Rewards

Much of the world has focused its attention on how T cells, which play a central role in immune response, might shape the trajectory of COVID-19 infection, and how immunotherapy can shed light on treatment of the disease. In this Q&A, Avery Posey, Jr., PhD, discusses how he hopes to leave an indelible mark on the world through scientific investigation. Penn Medicine News Blog

One-Two Punch: Researchers Identify Drug That Acts as Immunosuppressant & Antiviral Against COVID-19

One-Two Punch: Researchers Identify Drug That Acts as Immunosuppressant & Antiviral Against COVID-19

A study led by Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and scientific director of the High-Throughput Screening Core at Penn, has identified nine drugs that inhibit infection of the novel coronavirus in human lung epithelial cells.

The team found that Cyclosporin — an FDA-approved generic drug that is readily available — both suppresses overactive immune response and inhibits infection from COVID-19. Drugs that act as both antiviral and immunosuppressant show great promise for treatment of late stage COVID-19 patients with cytokine storm. They also found a Cyclosporin derivative, alisporivir, that can block infection without suppressing the immune system, which could potentially be used in acutely infected patients.  bioRxiv 

How COVID-19 Disproportionately Affects LatinX and African American Communities

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Studies Showing Waning Coronavirus Antibodies

Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, spoke with Cheddar News about the rising rate of coronavirus in children and how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting communities of color. Cheddar News


July 2020

COVID-19 Inflammation Can Kill; Steroids Help Coronavirus Patients, but Only at Right Time

COVID-19 Inflammation Can Kill; Steroids Help Coronavirus Patients, but Only at Right Time

A new pair of studies led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, and Michael Betts, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, may offer a road map to a more targeted way to deal with immune response and inflammation in patients with COVID-19. When it was all boiled down, people with COVID seemed to cluster into three broad “immunotypes,” Wherry said. “The findings represent a first step toward identifying which patients might need to have certain inflammatory agents calmed down, and which might need other elements of the immune system dialed up.”

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Medical Care for Very Ill COVID-19 Patients is Getting Better

Medical Care for Very Ill COVID-19 Patients is Getting Better

USA Today interviewed Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, and E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, about improvements in care for COVID-19 patients and the immunology science driving better outcomes.

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How to Join a Coronavirus Vaccine Clinical Trial

How to Join a Coronavirus Vaccine Clinical Trial

The Philadelphia Inquirer offered an update on the development and testing of coronavirus vaccines. They also explained how readers can join a trial. Ian Frank, MD, a professor of Medicine and the PI of the mRNA vaccine trial at Penn, said he and his colleagues will be looking for study participants who are at higher risk of contracting the disease. Read More

In Remission for 10 Years: Long-term Toxicity Data on CAR T Cells

In Remission for 10 Years: Long-term Toxicity Data on CAR T Cells

As part of a detailed look at 10 years of CAR T therapy, Medscape interviewed Doug Olson, one of the first CAR T patients, who was treated and went into remission a decade ago. Olson was treated at the Abramson Cancer Center by David Porter, MD, director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation. Read More

How to Understand COVID Treatment Studies

How to Understand COVID Treatment Studies

David C. Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics and director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory, took part in a Facebook Live hosted by NBC Newswhich examined common myths around COVID-19 and explained what the average person should look for when consuming news about research on the pandemic and possible treatments. Read More

Scientists Focus on How Immune System T Cells Fight Coronavirus

Scientists Focus on How Immune System T Cells Fight Coronavirus

As scientists question whether the presence, or absence, of antibodies to the novel coronavirus can reliably determine immunity, some are looking to a different component of the immune system, known as T cells, for their role in protecting people in the pandemic. A new pair of studies led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, and Michael Betts, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, looked at the diverse immune responses among COVID-19 patients and how we might best treat them. “SARS-CoV-2 has already offered its own twists and turns, like its propensity to prompt runaway immune responses. There's no prototypical immune response, especially in severe cases.” Wherry said.

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There’s Good News About Your Immune System and the Coronavirus

There’s Good News About Your Immune System and the Coronavirus

Antibodies aren’t the only tools the immune system has to fight repeat invaders like SARS-CoV-2. A new study led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, has shown that in addition to antibodies, people also develop virus-specific T cells. Read More

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Are Promising — A Lot Can Still Go Wrong

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Are Promising — A Lot Can Still Go Wrong

As vaccine developers quickly work to create and test vaccine options to prevent COVID-19, Voxwrote that there aren’t yet guarantees that we’ll have an effective vaccine in the next few months. Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, a professor of Medicine, whose vaccine technology is being licensed for COVID-19 mRNA vaccines currently being trialed, commented on the speed at which Moderna began human trials. Read More

Why a COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Hardest to Make for Those Most at Risk

Why a COVID-19 Vaccine Will Be Hardest to Make for Those Most at Risk

COVID-19 has been shown to be much more deadly in older people, and a large part of that may have to do with the immune system. “Lack of response among some older people in the study could be linked to immunosenescence,” said Michael Betts, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, referring to a depletion of certain T- cells and the weakening of the frontline immune defense the body mounts against invading microbes. Betts and John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, are collaborating with others at Penn to study COVID-19’s effects on the immune system. Read More

Why can’t the U.S. get control of COVID-19 infections?

Why can’t the U.S. get control of COVID-19 infections?

Five months into the pandemic, coronavirus cases continue to surge around the country. All but a handful of states are seeing infection rates rising. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, spoke with WHYY about why the United States has struggled to keep the pandemic under control.

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Visa Restrictions Prompt Worries for Philly-Area Workforce From Abroad

Visa Restrictions Prompt Worries for Philly-Area Workforce From Abroad

César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, and Bioengineering, discussed the impact of tighter visa restrictions on his research lab team. He hopes that his lab members will qualify for an exception; since the pandemic began, his lab has shifted research to developing a diagnostic sensor for SARS-CoV-2.

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NBC News Ask the Experts: Infections & Immunity

NBC News Ask the Experts: Infections & Immunity

On a NBC News Google Hangout, E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, discussed his work investigating immune response to COVID-19, including his new study developing COVID-19 “immunotypes” and how treatments might be tailored to specific immune profiles in patients. Read More

David Fajgenbaum, Drawing From His Own Health Scare, Guides Search for COVID-19 Treatment

David Fajgenbaum, Drawing From His Own Health Scare, Guides Search for COVID-19 Treatment

Led by David C. Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics and director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory, researchers and volunteers are cataloging every off-label drug used to treat COVID-19 that has been documented in medical literature so far, with the goal of identifying candidates that may be promising enough to be tested in a clinical trial. Read More

Heart Rhythm Disorders Seen in Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients

Dangerous COVID-19 Complication Casts a Shadow Over College Sports

Coverage continues on new research led by Rajat Deo, MD, MTR, an associate professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, that showed patients with COVID-19 who were admitted to an intensive care unit were 10 times more likely than other hospitalized COVID-19 patients to suffer cardiac arrest or heart rhythm disorders. Researchers said the results suggest that cardiac arrests and arrhythmias suffered by some patients with COVID-19 are likely triggered by a severe, systemic form of the disease and are not the sole consequence of the viral infection. Read More


June 2020

Black, Hispanic women infected with coronavirus 5 times as often as whites in Philly, Penn study suggests

Black, Hispanic women infected with coronavirus 5 times as often as whites in Philly, Penn study suggests

Black and Hispanic pregnant women in Philadelphia tested positive for antibodies to the coronavirus five times as often as their white counterparts in April and May, according to a study led by Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology. This stark disparity — far wider than what has been reported in the general population — was among the latest COVID-19 research presented Wednesday at a symposium held by the Perelman School of Medicine.

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How the Coronavirus Short-Circuits the Immune System

How the Coronavirus Short-Circuits the Immune System

Growing research into the effects of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, the disease it causes, point to “very complex immunological signatures of the virus,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology. Wherry and Michael Betts, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, have been collaborating with researchers and clinicians across Penn to investigate immune response to COVID-19. Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, who is not involved in the work, said research with severely ill COVID-19 patients is fraught with difficulties.

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Cytokine Storm

Cytokine Storm

The elevated circulating levels of cytokines associated with a variety of infectious and immune-mediated conditions are frequently termed a cytokine storm. In a recent Immunity paper, Chris Hunter, PhD and Nilam Mangalmurti, MD explain the protective functions of cytokines in “ideal” responses; the multi-factorial origins that can drive these responses to become pathological; and how this ultimately leads to vascular damage, immunopathology, and worsening clinical outcomes.

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Genetic predisposition

Genetic predisposition

Researchers have found hundreds of genetic variants never before linked to Type 2 diabetes, including those tied to conditions like coronary heart disease and those that vary by ethnicity. “Knowing the genetic susceptibility for diabetes complications in a patient already diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, for example through a cumulative genetic risk score, could help guide that patient’s care,” Kyong-Mi Chang, MD of the Perelman School of Medicine says.

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COVID-19 Research Opens to Little-Studied Group: Pregnant Patients

COVID-19 Research Opens to Little-Studied Group: Pregnant Patients

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are allowing pregnant and lactating women to enroll in two convalescent-plasma trials for COVID-19 patients, giving access to a group that hasn’t been widely included in drug testing for the coronavirus. Katharine Bar, MD, an assistant professor of Infectious Diseases and principal investigator of the trials, said, “If we don’t enroll them in trials, we won’t have therapies for them when they are sick.” Convalescent-plasma trials have some advantages as a test case; plasma was already in use to treat pregnant patients with blood-coagulation disorders and to stop massive bleeding. “Antibody preparations made from plasma are given to pregnant women if the mother has antibodies that are potentially harmful to the fetus,” said Michal Elovitz, MD, vice chair of Translational Research in Obstetrics & Gynecology and co-investigator of the trials.

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Parasite Influence

Parasite Influence

Our microbiome takes shape starting at birth, growing into a complex community that influences our health. In a study of ethnically diverse Cameroonians, the largest of its kind, a team led by former doctoral student Meagan Rubel (left, shown with colleague Eric Mbunwe), working with the Perelman School of Medicine’s Frederic Bushman and PIK Professor Sarah Tishkoff, found that the presence of a parasite infection was closely linked with the composition of the gut microbiome.

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Can a vaccine for COVID-19 be developed in record time?

Can a vaccine for COVID-19 be developed in record time?

As part of a panel of scientists discussing the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine, Susan R. Weiss of the Perelman School of Medicine says, “If you can identify the viral protein that interacts with the cellular receptor, then you can try to create a vaccine. This spike protein represents a particularly attractive candidate for a vaccine, because it is a protein that most prominently sticks outside of the surface of the virus, and so it’s the part of the virus that is most visible to the immune system.”

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Protective microbes

Protective microbes

Michael Silverman of the Perelman School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and his team are studying how microbes in the gut may protect against autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes. After identifying which microbes prevent diabetes, the team will test to see if they can be given to those at risk for developing the disease in hopes of boosting a protetive immune response.

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Slowing tumors

Slowing tumors

Researchers have discovered a new type of checkpoint inhibitor, a form of immunotherapy, that targets myeloid immune cells and slows tumor growth. “We have shown that a new drug inhibitor targeting this pathway works as well, if not better, than the first generation of checkpoint blockers,” Youhai Chen of the Perelman School of Medicine says.

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Blood Vessel Attack Could Trigger Coronavirus’ Fatal ‘Second Phase’

Blood Vessel Attack Could Trigger Coronavirus’ Fatal ‘Second Phase’

A new hypothesis suggests COVID-19 may cause direct and indirect damage to the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels, particularly in the lungs. By attacking those cells, COVID-19 infection causes vessels to leak and blood to clot, changes that can spark inflammation throughout the body and fuel the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). “It’s a vicious cycle,” said Nilam Mangalmurti, MD, an assistant professor of Pulmonary Medicine, who was not involved in the research.

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Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at Six Months

Monster or Machine? A Profile of the Coronavirus at Six Months

Research on coronaviruses used to consist of a small, close-knit community of scientists. With the coronavirus pandemic though, “there has been such a deluge of attention,” said Susan R. Weiss, PhD, a professor of Microbiology who has been studying coronaviruses for more than four decades. “It is quite in contrast to previously being mostly ignored.”

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Penn Experts Weigh in on New Targeted Lung Cancer Therapy and Impact of Chemotherapy on COVID-19 Patients

Penn Experts Weigh in on New Targeted Lung Cancer Therapy and Impact of Chemotherapy on COVID-19 Patients

Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, commented on a pair of lung cancer studies presented at the ASCO Annual Meeting. The first showed Tagrisso, an EGFR-targeted therapy, reduced the risk of lung cancer relapse by 83 percent compared to placebo. The second found prior use of chemotherapy appeared associated with an increased risk for death among patients with lung or other thoracic cancers and COVID-19.

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Is the Coronavirus Airborne? Here’s What We Know

Is the Coronavirus Airborne? Here’s What We Know

While scientists say it is possible that the coronavirus can drift through the air, many note there’s no evidence these tiny bits of virus are enough to make people sick. To understand how the virus travels by air, it’s important to know whether it’s hitched a ride on a jumbo jet—or a paper airplane. “It’s basically a size difference,” said Ronald Collman, MD, PhD, a virologist and a professor of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, referring to the size of droplets that contain viral particles.

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Increased susceptibility

Increased susceptibility

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine have identified a link between autoimmune-disease medications called interleukin-17 inhibitors and the likelihood of developing symptoms associated with respiratory-tract infections. “Our patients are concerned about the immune suppressive effects of their treatments,” Joel Gelfand says.

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