Faculty in the News

Origins: The People, Stories and Magic behind Breakthrough Healthcare with John Wherry, PhD

Origins: The People, Stories and Magic behind Breakthrough Healthcare with John Wherry, PhD

Watch the video HERE!

Large Patient Review from Penn Shows Low Lymphoma Risk Post–CAR-T Cell Therapy

Large Patient Review from Penn Shows Low Lymphoma Risk Post–CAR-T Cell Therapy

A review of 449 patients treated with CAR T-cell therapy at Penn Medicine found only one case of T-cell lymphoma, which the data show was not a CAR T cell-caused cancer, noted David Porter, MD, director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center. The study, led by Marco Ruella, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, reinforces that the benefits of this therapy for most patients outweigh the potential risks.

Cancer Discovery

How a Penn PhD Student is Working in a World-Class Cellular Immunotherapy Lab

How a Penn PhD Student is Working in a World-Class Cellular Immunotherapy Lab

Penn graduate student Amanda Finck spoke about her experience as part of the laboratory team led by Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies.

Biotech TV

How the New MRSA Antibiotic Cracked AI’s ‘Black Box’

How the New MRSA Antibiotic Cracked AI’s ‘Black Box’

New research that found a new class of antibiotics relied on a method known as explainable artificial intelligence (AI), which unveils the AI’s reasoning process. César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, noted that this is the first major study that he has seen seeking to incorporate explainability into deep learning models in the context of antibiotics.

Medscape

Secondary Cancers Rare After CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy

Secondary Cancers Rare After CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy

The incidence of secondary malignancy after anti-CD19 CAR T-cell immunotherapy is very low, according to a study led by Marco Ruella, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology.

HealthDay

BRCA Vaccine Trial Takes Aim at Cancer Before It Even Starts

BRCA Vaccine Trial Takes Aim at Cancer Before It Even Starts

Penn researchers are studying a preventative vaccine for people who carry cancer-causing BRCA gene mutations, through a clinical trial with healthy participants. The vaccine would help the body to recognize the earliest signs of cancer and stop the disease before it develops, in hopes of sparing families the toll of hereditary cancers. Principal investigator and Executive Director of the Basser Center for BRCA Susan Domchek, MD, and Abramson Cancer Center Director Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, explained the potential lifesaving impact for BRCA carriers.

Philadelphia Inquirer • Philadelphia Inquirer (2)

‘Butterfly Effect’ May Explain Some Genetic Causes of Autism

‘Butterfly Effect’ May Explain Some Genetic Causes of Autism

A new study suggests a “butterfly effect” may help explain how autism-related genes in DNA get switched on. Daniel J. Rader, MD, chief of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, said the findings could have potential therapeutic implications, and could theoretically help alleviate symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Live Science

Pfizer’s Singing Super Bowl Commercial Makes a ‘Supersonic Woman’ Out of Penn’s Nobel Prize Winner Katalin Karikó

Pfizer’s Singing Super Bowl Commercial Makes a ‘Supersonic Woman’ Out of Penn’s Nobel Prize Winner Katalin Karikó

During the Super Bowl, Nobel Prize winner and Penn adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, Katalin Karikó, PhD, was featured in a Pfizer commercial, placing Karikó among some of history’s most significant scientists and thinkers like Albert Einstein and Rosalind Franklin.

Philadelphia Business Journal • STAT News

A Clue Why Lupus and Other Autoimmune Diseases Strike Far More Women Than Men

A Clue Why Lupus and Other Autoimmune Diseases Strike Far More Women Than Men

An estimated 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disorder—such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and dozens more. New research has found a possible culprit for why about four of every five of those patients are women: how the body handles females’ extra X chromosome. This “transforms the way we think about this whole process of autoimmunity, especially the male-female bias,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics.

Associated Press

National Donor Day: Delco Mother Donates Kidney to Son After She Was ‘Perfect Match’

National Donor Day: Delco Mother Donates Kidney to Son After She Was ‘Perfect Match’

When Shanequa Hammock learned her five-year-old son needed a kidney, her mission became finding one for her son. Lucky for her, she didn’t have to look far. Hammock was a perfect match. Matthew Levine, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Transplant Surgery, who performed Hammock’s nephrectomy, described what steps she needed to go through before she could donate her kidney.

CBS3


February 2024

CAR T Cell: Do Benefits Still Outweigh Risks?

CAR T Cell: Do Benefits Still Outweigh Risks?

Reports of a small number of patients developing secondary T-cell malignancies following treatment with CAR T-cell immunotherapy have raised concerns and prompted the FDA to require adding a warning label to CAR T products. For now, data shows that the benefits of the groundbreaking therapies still appear to well outweigh the risks, explained Marco Ruella, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, who recently published an analysis of patients treated with CAR T cell therapy at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Medscape

Giant Project Will Chart Human Immune Diversity to Improve Drugs and Vaccines

Giant Project Will Chart Human Immune Diversity to Improve Drugs and Vaccines

This year, an ambitious effort known as the Human Immunome Project will probe thousands of immune variables in blood and tissue samples, seeking to create the world’s largest and most comprehensive immunological database, a resource for scientists investigating immune system differences. Allison Greenplate, PhD, an adjunct assistant professor of Pharmacology, added that such a project is feasible, saying that “we have the experience and technology.”

Science

Shorter Manufacturing Process for CAR T Cell Therapy

Shorter Manufacturing Process for CAR T Cell Therapy

The makers of the cell therapy product Yescarta announced they received FDA approval to shorten its manufacturing process by about two days. David L. Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz professor in Leukemia Care Excellence, noted that it’s important to get the cells back to patients as soon as possible, and this represents an incremental improvement.

EndPoints News

The Next Biotech Breakthroughs and Why Philadelphia Will Lead the Way

The Next Biotech Breakthroughs and Why Philadelphia Will Lead the Way

CAR T cell therapy pioneer Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, shares why Philadelphia is “Cellicon Valley” and the innovations he’s most excited to see next, including clinical trials in progress using CAR T-cell therapy to treat autoimmune diseases and brain cancer.

Philadelphia Business Journal

New Antibiotic Uses Novel Method to Target Deadly Drug-Resistant Bacteria

New Antibiotic Uses Novel Method to Target Deadly Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Scientists have developed a new type of antibiotic to treat bacteria that causes serious infections in the lungs, urinary tract, and blood, is resistant to most current antibiotics, and kills a large percentage of people with an invasive infection. César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, cited the method of modifying molecules to target specific bacteria as potentially better for our overall health.

CNN

Resurrection Biology: Why it’s Gaining Traction Around the World

Resurrection Biology: Why it’s Gaining Traction Around the World

Advances in the recovery of ancient DNA from fossils has opened up a new front in the fight against drug-resistant superbugs. A group led by César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, mines this genetic information from Neanderthals and ice age creatures such as the woolly mammoth and giant sloth for molecules they believe to have bacteria-fighting powers.

CNN

Abramson Cancer Center’s Free Ride Program for Patients Is a ‘Godsend’

Abramson Cancer Center’s Free Ride Program for Patients Is a ‘Godsend’

For five years, the Abramson Cancer Center has partnered with Ride Health to provide free rides to hundreds of cancer patients, and recently expanded these services for certain cancer screening appointments, including colonoscopies and mammograms. Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the ACC, Carmen Guerra, MD, the Ruth C. and Raymond G. Perelman Professor of Medicine and associate director of Diversity and Outreach at the ACC, and Heather Sheaffer, DSW, LCSW, FACHE, director of Patient & Family Services at the ACC, explained the impact of the program.

Philadelphia Inquirer


January 2024

Understanding the Persistence of Long COVID

Understanding the Persistence of Long COVID

Four years after the first reports surfaced on COVID-19, the aftereffects of the illness, known commonly as long COVID, continues to confound researchers. While many theories persist on the causes, E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, added that there is not a direct, causal link between the virus persisting in the body and symptoms of long COVID.

Washington Post

‘I’m Not Supposed to Be Here.’ How Horizontal Thinking Helped Save Dr. David Fajgenbaum’s Life

‘I’m Not Supposed to Be Here.’ How Horizontal Thinking Helped Save Dr. David Fajgenbaum’s Life

David Fajgenbaum, MD, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics, said he used “horizontal thinking” when trying to find a cure for Castleman disease, a rare disorder from which he suffered. After studying his own charts and testing his blood, an already FDA approved drug used to treat another illness helped him. He has since made it his mission to find hidden cures for other diseases, within other FDA approved drugs.

LinkedIn News

New Class of Antibiotics Discovered Using AI

New Class of Antibiotics Discovered Using AI

César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, shared how artificial intelligence can help guide the development of new antibiotics, including new findings using the concept of deep learning that builds on AI research from his lab.

Scientific American

Gut Health Could Play a Role in How Blood Cancer Patients Respond to New Therapies

Gut Health Could Play a Role in How Blood Cancer Patients Respond to New Therapies

Gut microbes may play an important role in determining how patients react to new therapies that engineer their immune systems to fight cancer. Marco Ruella, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, shared that validated results in larger studies may lead to future clinical guidelines to prioritize some antibiotics over others, based on their effects on the gut microbiome of cancer patients.

Forbes

Novel CAR T Cell Therapy May Show Early Efficacy in Patients with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Novel CAR T Cell Therapy May Show Early Efficacy in Patients with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Early results from a new study have demonstrated that the novel CAR T-cell therapy AT101 resulted in favorable complete response rates at higher dose levels in patients with relapsed or refractory B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to new findings simultaneously published in Molecular Cancer and presented at the 2023 American ASH Annual Meeting. The research was led by Marco Ruella, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology and scientific director of the Lymphoma Program.

ASCO Post

David Fajgenbaum, MD, Named Philadelphia Citizen’s 2023 Citizen of the Year

David Fajgenbaum, MD, Named Philadelphia Citizen’s 2023 Citizen of the Year

The Philadelphia Citizen has named David Fajgenbaum, MD, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics, as its 2023 Citizen of the Year. Fajgenbaum, who suffered from a rare disorder called Castleman disease, helped find a treatment for his disease through FDA-approved drugs that were being used to treat other diseases. He has since made it his mission to find hidden cures for other diseases in already approved drugs.

The Philadelphia Citizen

The FDA Investigates T-Cell Malignancies in CAR-T Therapy

The FDA Investigates T-Cell Malignancies in CAR-T Therapy

The FDA is investigating the cause of new blood cancers in some patients who received CAR-T therapy. Bruce Levine, PhD, the Barbara and Edward Netter Professor in Cancer Gene Therapy, noted that it’s important to put the risk in context compared to the long- and short-term side effects of chemotherapy. The story also mentioned Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy.

The Medicine Maker

Serotonin Depletion May Be Driving Long COVID Symptoms

Serotonin Depletion May Be Driving Long COVID Symptoms

A study led by Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, both assistant professors of Microbiology, Benjamin Abramoff, MD, MS, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and an assistant professor of Clinical Physical Medicine, and Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, found that serotonin reduction might be the driver for symptoms of long COVID, like impaired cognition.

Neurology Today

Nobel Prize Winner Drew Weissman Talks COVID-19 Vaccine

Nobel Prize Winner Drew Weissman Talks COVID-19 Vaccine

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research in Infectious Diseases, discussed the breakthrough research that led to the SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine and why, even now, it’s a good idea to receive the vaccine or a booster.

Boston Globe

Could Psychedelics be a Treatment for Long COVID?

Could Psychedelics be a Treatment for Long COVID?

New research from Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, both assistant professors of Microbiology, Benjamin Abramoff, MD, MS, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and an assistant professor of Clinical Physical Medicine, and Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, shows how COVID impacts how serotonin interacts with neurons in the vagus nerve. Now, other researchers are exploring whether psychadelic drugs that stimulate these serotonin receptors might be a viable treatment for long COVID.

Salon

Targeting cancer

Targeting cancer

A new CAR T cell therapy that uses a distinct binding mechanism has shown promising early results in clinical lymphoma trials, according to researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and Abramson Cancer Center. “Designing a different [receptor] might drastically change the way the T cells work, potentially allowing that CAR T cell product to work where other CAR T cell products have failed,” Marco Ruella says.

Read more
 

A Cancer Vaccine and Other Penn Medicine Cancer Innovations to Watch

A Cancer Vaccine and Other Penn Medicine Cancer Innovations to Watch

Three Penn cancer innovations show major promise to advance cancer care in the coming years: A kind of radiation that delivers ultra-high doses in a flash, an imaging technique that illuminates tumors during surgery, and a vaccine for people at high risk for cancer, which Abramson Cancer Center Director Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, described as a potential “game changer.”

Philadelphia Inquirer


December 2023

FDA Investigating CAR-Related T-cell Malignancies

FDA Investigating CAR-Related T-cell Malignancies

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating reports that CAR T-cell immunotherapies may be causing secondary malignancies. However, the agency and hematologists say the potential benefits of CAR T-cell therapies, which have saved thousands of lives, outweigh this risk. David L. Porter, MD, director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center and the Jodi Fisher Horowitz professor in Leukemia Care Excellence, and Bruce Levine, PhD, the Barbara and Edward Netter Professor in Cancer Gene Therapy, are quoted in the coverage.
Cancer Discovery

The Viral Threat Almost No One Is Thinking About

The Viral Threat Almost No One Is Thinking About

In an Atlantic piece on what could cause another pandemic, Sara Cherry, PhD, the John W. Eckman Professor of Medical Science in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, discussed some candidates, including other coronaviruses, flu viruses, and paramyxoviruses.

A Natural Defense Against Alphaviruses

A Natural Defense Against Alphaviruses

Hoping to find new protection against alphaviruses, which are now spreading more, a research team led by Sara Cherry, PhD, the John W. Eckman Professor of Medical Science in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, screened a large group of human enzymes called DDX helicases, which can bind to RNA—potentially including viral RNA. They found that one of these helicases, DDX39A, does powerfully inhibit alphavirus infection and spread, and also showed that it accomplishes this by binding to a loop-like structure in alphavirus RNA, highlighting potential for new antivirals.

Read the paper in Molecular Cell 

Summing Up CD8+ T Cells’ Fight Against Cancer

Summing Up CD8+ T Cells’ Fight Against Cancer

A team co-led by E. John Wherry, PhD, the Richard and Barbara Schiffrin President's Distinguished Professor of Immunology, has written a comprehensive review of the state of scientific knowledge about CD8+ T cells, also called “killer T cells,” which are major immune weapons against cancer. In their review, Wherry and colleagues concluded hopefully, writing “The progress in understanding T cell function in cancer has and will continue to improve harnessing of the immune system across broader tumor types to benefit more patients.”

Read the paper in Immunity 

Nobel Winner Drew Weissman Shares Seven Insights on Future mRNA Breakthroughs

Nobel Winner Drew Weissman Shares Seven Insights on Future mRNA Breakthroughs

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, described the value of mRNA in developing vaccines and therapeutics. He also explained what future mRNA-based treatments we're likely to see in the future along with his hopes, such as a single shot containing mRNA vaccines that would protect against multiple diseases, all delivered with one lipid nanoparticle..

Forbes

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Cancer Go Down

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Cancer Go Down

Macrophages are large myeloid white blood cells that can literally gobble up cancerous cells, and a group led by Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, found that dosing animals that had pancreatic cancer with a sugar-related molecule called beta glucan, a natural immune-system activator, greatly affected macrophages residing in the liver, which are known as Kupffer cells. It shifted the cells to an anti-tumoral mode so that they helped shut tumor metastases out of the liver, and even worked within existing liver metastases.
 
Read the paper in Nature Communications →

Reprogramming Tumor Fighters

Reprogramming Tumor Fighters

Myeloid immune cells should work with T cells to destroy tumors, but the tumors often find ways to deactivate or even co-opt these cells to act as immune-suppressing tumor protectors. Now, a team led by Max Miller Wattenberg, MD, an instructor of Medicine in the lab of Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, reprogrammed myeloid cells by activating two receptors, Dectin-1 and CD40, which kept them in an anti-tumor state. This dramatically improved survival in mouse models of cancer resistant to conventional immunotherapy and, in most cases, made tumors disappear.
 
Read the paper in Science Immunology →
 

Lifesaving CAR-T Therapy May Cause Blood Cancer in Rare Cases, FDA Says

Lifesaving CAR-T Therapy May Cause Blood Cancer in Rare Cases, FDA Says

The FDA is investigating the cause of new blood cancers in some patients who received CAR-T therapy. David L. Porter, MD, director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center and the Jodi Fisher Horowitz professor in Leukemia Care Excellence, shared his insights and noted that of the several hundred patients Penn Medicine has treated over the past decade, there hasn’t been a single case of new blood cancer after CAR-T treatment.

Very Well Health

This is Philadelphia's Big Life Sciences Moment

This is Philadelphia's Big Life Sciences Moment

Coverage of how stakeholders across the Philadelphia region are working together to support the life sciences industry mentions the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia's contributions to the field, including the development of CAR T cell therapy by Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy.

Technical.ly

New era of innovation

New era of innovation

Gov. Josh Shapiro and President Liz Magill celebrated with the Penn community the opening of the new home of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovation co-led by Penn Medicine’s Drew Weissman and James Hoxie. “It is my hope, and it is my expectation, that the research that is done here will lead to even more groundbreaking discoveries, more treatments, more cures, more opportunity for happiness and good health, not just here in the great city of Philadelphia, or in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but across the globe,” said Shapiro.

Read More

Penn Chair of Rheumatology Wins Award for Research

Penn Chair of Rheumatology Wins Award for Research

Peter Merkel, MD, MPH, a professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and chief of Rheumatology, earned this year’s Distinguished Clinical Investigator Award, given annually by the American College of Rheumatology to a clinical scientist making outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology. His work summarizing current treatments for vasculitis, different forms of therapy, and the use of glucocorticoids was also featured in The Rheumatologist.

The Rheumatologist • The Rheumatologist (2)

The Importance of Collaboration for Investigating Cell Therapy in Autoimmune Disease

The Importance of Collaboration for Investigating Cell Therapy in Autoimmune Disease

David L. Porter, MD, director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center and the Jodi Fisher Horowitz professor in Leukemia Care Excellence, discussed a seminar he gave at the inaugural Cell Therapy for Autoimmune Disease Summit.

CGT Live

Newly Developed mRNA Vaccine Protects Against Lyme Disease

Newly Developed mRNA Vaccine Protects Against Lyme Disease

The Scientist reported on the mRNA Lyme disease vaccine designed by Penn researchers, including Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, Norbert Pardi, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology, and Matthew Pine, PhD, a former postdoctoral researcher in Weissman’s lab. Clinical trials are needed to confirm that this vaccine could prevent Lyme disease in people.

The Scientist

The Beginnings of Penn’s New Nobel Prize Laureates

The Beginnings of Penn’s New Nobel Prize Laureates

Sweden’s national television broadcaster, SVT, produced a short documentary profiling Penn Medicine’s winners of the Nobel Prize, Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research in Infectious Diseases, and Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery. The piece explores each researcher’s beginnings and how it led them to creating the technology behind the COVID-19 vaccine.

SVT

Searching for Antibiotics in the Genes of Mammoths

Searching for Antibiotics in the Genes of Mammoths

César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, is tracking the genome of extinct animals using artificial intelligence, in search of antibiotic molecules and possible drugs. “We want to revive, to bring to life, molecules that may be useful today and that were produced throughout evolution,” he said.

elDiario

Summing Up CD8+ T Cells’ Fight Against Cancer

Summing Up CD8+ T Cells’ Fight Against Cancer

A team co-led by E. John Wherry, PhD, the Richard and Barbara Schiffrin President's Distinguished Professor of Immunology, has written a comprehensive review of the state of scientific knowledge about CD8+ T cells, also called “killer T cells,” which are major immune weapons against cancer. In their review, Wherry and colleagues concluded hopefully, writing “The progress in understanding T cell function in cancer has and will continue to improve harnessing of the immune system across broader tumor types to benefit more patients.”

Read the paper in Immunity 

The Potential of Using mRNA Technology for Flu Shots

The Potential of Using mRNA Technology for Flu Shots

The success of mRNA-based COVID vaccines has inspired hope that the same technology could also be used for influenza vaccines. Behind the development of one such experimental vaccine is Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, who discussed the promise—and challenges—of mRNA flu shots. In particular, changes to the vaccine manufacturing process could help produce a vaccine that better protects against the constantly changing flu virus.

STAT News

The Financial Times’ 25 Most Influential Women of 2023

The Financial Times’ 25 Most Influential Women of 2023

Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery whose mRNA research with Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, made COVID-19 vaccines possible, was named one of this year’s most influential women by the Financial Times. The Nobel laureate is named along with Grammy and World Cup winners and other visionaries and luminaries around the globe.

Financial Times


November 2023

A Way Out of Arthritis Pain

A Way Out of Arthritis Pain

Sharon Kolasinski, MD, a professor of Rheumatology, explained the benefit of using yoga as a gentle exercise that can help with arthritis pain, as well as to reduce tension and improve joint flexibility.

AOL

FDA Investigates Reports of CAR-T Therapy Causing Cancer in Rare Cases

FDA Investigates Reports of CAR-T Therapy Causing Cancer in Rare Cases

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether CAR-T therapy, which uses genetically modified white blood cells to attack tumors, can in rare cases cause lymphoma, a blood cancer. Bruce Levine, PhD, the Barbara and Edward Netter Professor in Cancer Gene Therapy, said that of the more than 800 CAR-T products manufactured at Penn, which has its own facilities for making the product, cases of lymphoma resulting from the treatment had never been seen. Coverage also includes comments from Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, and David L. Porter, MD, director of Cell Therapy and Transplantation at the Abramson Cancer Center and the Jodi Fisher Horowitz professor in Leukemia Care Excellence.
STAT • The Philadelphia Inquirer • End Points News • 6ABC • WIRED

With the Penn Medicine BioBank, Discoveries Are Just Getting Started

With the Penn Medicine BioBank, Discoveries Are Just Getting Started

More than 260,000 Penn Medicine patients have agreed to share their DNA for research, and the discoveries have already yielded promising results related to heart disease, hearing loss, diabetes, and other conditions. Especially promising is the high percentage of participants of color, which is helping drive insights to boost health equity. Co-Directors of the BioBank, Marylyn D. Ritchie, PhD, a professor of Genetics and Director of the Center for Translational Bioinformatics, and Daniel J. Rader, MD, Chair of Genetics, say this journey to new discoveries has only just begun.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Cancer Go Down

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Cancer Go Down

Macrophages are large myeloid white blood cells that can literally gobble up cancerous cells, and a group led by Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, found that dosing animals that had pancreatic cancer with a sugar-related molecule called beta glucan, a natural immune-system activator, greatly affected macrophages residing in the liver, which are known as Kupffer cells. It shifted the cells to an anti-tumoral mode so that they helped shut tumor metastases out of the liver, and even worked within existing liver metastases.

Read the paper in Nature Communications 

Nobel Winner Drew Weissman Shares Seven Insights on Future mRNA Breakthroughs

Nobel Winner Drew Weissman Shares Seven Insights on Future mRNA Breakthroughs

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, described the value of mRNA in developing vaccines and therapeutics. He also explained what future mRNA-based treatments we're likely to see in the future along with his hopes, such as a single shot containing mRNA vaccines that would protect against multiple diseases, all delivered with one lipid nanoparticle..

Forbes

Reprogramming Tumor Fighters

Reprogramming Tumor Fighters

Myeloid immune cells should work with T cells to destroy tumors, but the tumors often find ways to deactivate or even co-opt these cells to act as immune-suppressing tumor protectors. Now, a team led by Max Miller Wattenberg, MD, an instructor of Medicine in the lab of Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, reprogrammed myeloid cells by activating two receptors, Dectin-1 and CD40, which kept them in an anti-tumor state. This dramatically improved survival in mouse models of cancer resistant to conventional immunotherapy and, in most cases, made tumors disappear.

Read the paper in Science Immunology 

This is Philadelphia's Big Life Sciences Moment

This is Philadelphia's Big Life Sciences Moment

Coverage of how stakeholders across the Philadelphia region are working together to support the life sciences industry mentions the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia's contributions to the field, including the development of CAR T cell therapy by Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy.

Technical.ly

Newly Developed mRNA Vaccine Protects Against Lyme Disease

Newly Developed mRNA Vaccine Protects Against Lyme Disease

The Scientist reported on the mRNA Lyme disease vaccine designed by Penn researchers, including Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, Norbert Pardi, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology, and Matthew Pine, PhD, a former postdoctoral researcher in Weissman’s lab. Clinical trials are needed to confirm that this vaccine could prevent Lyme disease in people.

The Scientist

Searching for Antibiotics in the Genes of Mammoths

Searching for Antibiotics in the Genes of Mammoths

César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, is tracking the genome of extinct animals using artificial intelligence, in search of antibiotic molecules and possible drugs. “We want to revive, to bring to life, molecules that may be useful today and that were produced throughout evolution,” he said.

elDiario

Penn Chair of Rheumatology Wins Award for Research

Penn Chair of Rheumatology Wins Award for Research

Peter Merkel, MD, MPH, a professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and chief of Rheumatology, earned this year’s Distinguished Clinical Investigator Award, given annually by the American College of Rheumatology to a clinical scientist making outstanding contributions to the field of rheumatology. His work summarizing current treatments for vasculitis, different forms of therapy, and the use of glucocorticoids was also featured in The Rheumatologist.

The Rheumatologist • The Rheumatologist (2)

Superior Survival and Time to Treatment Are Hallmarks of Early Adoption of Liquid Biopsy

Superior Survival and Time to Treatment Are Hallmarks of Early Adoption of Liquid Biopsy

The expanded use of circulating tumor (ct)DNA—known as liquid biopsy—to earlier settings in the clinical workflow has many benefits, including improved survival for patients with lung cancer, explained Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH, the Leslye M. Heisler Associate Professor for Lung Cancer Excellence and associate director for the Penn Center for Precision Medicine.

Targeted Oncology


October 2023

National Academy of Medicine Picks Five from the University of Pennsylvania, CHOP

National Academy of Medicine Picks Five from the University of Pennsylvania, CHOP

Five University of Pennsylvania faculty are among 100 new members of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) announced on Monday. The new Penn inductees, elected by current NAM members, are Desmond Upton Patton, PhD, MSWKurt T. Barnhart, MD, MSCEChristopher B. Forrest, MD, PhDSusan L. Furth, MD, PhD, and Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil.

Penn Medicine News Release • Philadelphia Inquirer

This Penn Student Was the First Child Cured of Cancer with CAR-T

This Penn Student Was the First Child Cured of Cancer with CAR-T

Emily Whitehead was the first child treated with CAR-T cell therapy, a therapy that engineers the immune system to fight cancer and was developed at Penn by Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy. Now, she’s back on the University of Pennsylvania campus as a college freshman.

Philadelphia Inquirer

The Other Group of Viruses That Could Cause the Next Pandemic

The Other Group of Viruses That Could Cause the Next Pandemic

Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, commented on which viruses are the most likely candidates to cause another pandemic, including flu viruses, coronaviruses, and paramyxoviruses.

The Atlantic

Breakthrough Prize Oscars of Science Celebrates 2024 Laureates in Life Sciences

Breakthrough Prize Oscars of Science Celebrates 2024 Laureates in Life Sciences

Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, was named a recipient of the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences last month for the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy.

ASCO Post

Serotonin Could Be a Game Changer for Long COVID

Serotonin Could Be a Game Changer for Long COVID

Decreased serotonin levels could be a plausible explanation for some of the symptoms experienced with long COVID, according to recent research from Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, assistant professors of Microbiology, Benjamin Abramoff, MD, MS, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and an assistant professor of Clinical Physical Medicine, and Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Forbes

To Find Future Antibiotics, a Scientist Looks to the Fossilized Past

To Find Future Antibiotics, a Scientist Looks to the Fossilized Past

César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, believes the next breakthrough antibiotic might come from animals that have been dead for thousands of years. His lab is researching what he calls “molecular de-extinction” in seeking potential drugs in the genes of Neanderthals, giant sloths, and woolly mammoths, among other ancient animals.

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COVID breakthrough

COVID breakthrough

A study led by John Wherry of the Perelman School of Medicine sheds new light on immune response during SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections. The research shows that T-cells are seen as a critical defense against severe illness in the first days after infection, giving clues that could lead to stronger vaccines.

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Why Do Long COVID Patients Have Brain Fog? New Research Points to the Gut

Why Do Long COVID Patients Have Brain Fog? New Research Points to the Gut

Scientists have uncovered a possible explanation for one of COVID-19’s most vexing legacies: the stubborn neurological symptoms of long COVID, such as brain fog, memory loss, and fatigue. The research, led by Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, assistant professors of Microbiology; Benjamin Abramoff, MD, MS, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and an assistant professor of Clinical Physical Medicine; and Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, suggests that serotonin—specifically, a lack of the neurotransmitter circulating in the body—might be responsible for these symptoms.

NPR

To Find Future Antibiotics, a Scientist Looks to the Fossilized Past

To Find Future Antibiotics, a Scientist Looks to the Fossilized Past

César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, believes the next breakthrough antibiotic might come from animals that have been dead for thousands of years. His lab is researching what he calls “molecular de-extinction” in seeking potential drugs in the genes of Neanderthals, giant sloths, and woolly mammoths, among other ancient animals.

STAT News

COVID breakthrough

COVID breakthrough

A study led by John Wherry of the Perelman School of Medicine sheds new light on immune response during SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections. The research shows that T-cells are seen as a critical defense against severe illness in the first days after infection, giving clues that could lead to stronger vaccines.

Read More

Long COVID Tests and Treatments Are on the Horizon

Long COVID Tests and Treatments Are on the Horizon

Several studies have pointed to biomarkers that may help doctors accurately diagnose—and hopefully treat—people with long COVID, including recent research led by Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, assistant professors of Microbiology; Benjamin Abramoff, MD, MS, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and an assistant professor of Clinical Physical Medicine; and Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “In the short history of studying this disease, this is probably the most hopeful moment we’ve ever had,” said Thaiss.

TIME

New Biohub to Build Anti-Disease Cellular Machines

New Biohub to Build Anti-Disease Cellular Machines

Coverage of a newly announced Chan Zuckerberg Initiative “biohub” in New York City focused on building a new class of cellular machines that can surveil the body and snuff out disease includes commentary from Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy.

STAT News

Skin microbiome

Skin microbiome

Two new collaborative studies led by researchers at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Perelman School of Medicine demonstrate how bacteria found in leishmaniasis skin lesions and in an associated immune response, drive disease burden and treatment failure—and suggest new possibilities for treatment of the parasitic disease. “People have been studying leishmaniasis for many years, and they've thought of it as caused by one pathogen. It's not,” Phillip Scott (second from left) says.

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Cell therapies

Cell therapies

A team of researchers from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Perelman School of Medicine led by Nicola Mason and Antonia Rotolo of Penn Vet have shown that unedited canine iNKT cells from a donor, when selected for certain biomarkers, persist in recipients. This approach has promise for incurable cancers and other diseases in humans. Rotolo calls the canine system “a fantastic tool” to test hypotheses and therapies for both human and canine patients.

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What Causes Long COVID? The Answer Might Be in Your Gut

What Causes Long COVID? The Answer Might Be in Your Gut

New research from Maayan Levy, PhDChristoph Thaiss, PhD, both assistant professors of Microbiology, Benjamin Abramoff, MD, MS, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and an assistant professor of Clinical Physical Medicine, and Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, shows that remnants of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the gut can cause chronic inflammation—which may disrupt communication with the brain.

National Geographic • ABC News • Philly Voice • Becker’s Hospital Review

65 Million People Suffer from Long COVID. Our Experts Say New Vaccines Are the Best Defense

65 Million People Suffer from Long COVID. Our Experts Say New Vaccines Are the Best Defense

Forbes article emphasized the value of the COVID vaccines, powered by mRNA technology developed by Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research.

Forbes

A Heartwarming Call to Proud Parents of a Nobel Prize Winner

Nobel Winner Drew Weissman Shares Seven Insights on Future mRNA Breakthroughs

The phone call from Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, to tell his parents that he’d won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, continues to go viral as a heartwarming moment.

Inside Edition • New York Post

Scientists Offer a New Explanation for Long COVID

Scientists Offer a New Explanation for Long COVID

Research from Benjamin Abramoff, MD, MS, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic and an assistant professor of Clinical Physical Medicine; Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; along with Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, assistant professors of Microbiology, shows that components of the SARS-CoV-2 virus remain in the gut of some long COVID patients, causing persistent inflammation, vagus nerve dysfunction, and neurological symptoms. The findings could point the way toward possible treatments, including medications that boost serotonin.

Penn Medicine News Release • New York Times • Science • STAT News • Bloomberg • New York Post • Fortune

Chromosome Loss from CRISPR-Cas9 Is Common—and Swapping Steps Is Key to Stopping It

Chromosome Loss from CRISPR-Cas9 Is Common—and Swapping Steps Is Key to Stopping It

A new study published by a team from the University of California, Berkeley, with help from Penn Medicine collaborators including Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, found that the order steps are performed in CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing changes how well T cells are protected from a phenomenon known as chromosome loss.

Fierce Biotech

Booster for all

Booster for all

The Penn Medicine community gathered Monday afternoon to toast messenger RNA pioneers and Nobel laureates Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. “You guys are the heart of Penn Medicine, you guys are the researchers of the future,” Weissman told the crowd. Karikó inspired all to “persevere” and “have fun,” and she urged them to “do great things, and don’t give up that easily.”

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September 2023

Carl June Shares Breakthrough Prize for CAR T Cancer Treatment

Carl June Shares Breakthrough Prize for CAR T Cancer Treatment

Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, has been named a winner of the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell immunotherapy, a revolutionary cancer treatment approach in which each patient’s T cells are modified to target and kill their cancer cells. More than 20,000 patients have received CAR T cell therapy for leukemia and other blood cancers. “To me, that’s the most rewarding thing, to be able to see something go global like this, and to see so many people benefit,” June said.

Penn Medicine News Release • Philadelphia Inquirer • The Scientist • The Guardian • Forbes • USA Today

The Mystery Around COVID Fatigue

The Mystery Around COVID Fatigue

Questions continue to swirl around COVID fatigue. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, noted that there is still much to understand about the symptom, adding that “there’s a lot of speculation.”

New York Times

One CAR T Cell Therapy for Blood Cancers?

One CAR T Cell Therapy for Blood Cancers?

A Penn Medicine research team is developing an approach to CAR T cell therapy that could treat all forms and types of blood cancer. “We’re very determined to get this into a clinical trial,” said study senior author Saar Gill, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology. “It’s the only way we’ll know if it’s going to work.”

Cancer Currents

Are Cellular Therapies the Future of Autoimmune Disease?

Are Cellular Therapies the Future of Autoimmune Disease?

CAR T cell therapy, a revolutionary treatment for cancers, may also be able to treat and reset the immune system to provide long-term remission or possibly even cure certain autoimmune diseases. CAR T cell therapy pioneer Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, and Aimee Payne, MD, a professor of Dermatology and director of the Penn Autoimmunity Center of Excellence, discussed the state of the field.

Medscape

New Approach to Combat Rubella

New Approach to Combat Rubella

An effective vaccine helped eradicate rubella virus infections in many parts of the world, but some individuals who are immunocompromised or in regions that are undervaccinated may still suffer from rubella infections, and there are no known antivirals to treat these infections. A team led by Sara Cherry, PhD, the John W. Eckman Professor of Medical Science, found two small molecule compounds, NM107 and AT-527, that have been developed for other viral infections will efficiently block rubella virus, suggesting a new treatment strategy.

Read the paper in PNAS Nexus 

A Molecular Switchboard: Deciphering Microbiome Communication

A Molecular Switchboard: Deciphering Microbiome Communication

Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, both assistant professors of Microbiology, believe understanding the microbes that coexist within us might be key to deciphering the fundamental mechanisms that make our bodies work. “The more we learn about the role the microbiome plays in a wide range of diseases, the more important it becomes to understand what exactly its role is,” they said.

Read the post on the Penn Medicine News Blog 

Study Makes Case for Switching Base of Antibody Treatments

Study Makes Case for Switching Base of Antibody Treatments

Should the makers of antibody treatments for viral infections switch the bases of their treatments? A new study led by Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, shows that immunoglobulin-G 3 subtype (IgG3) may be more effective in monoclonal antibody treatments than the most common subtype used, IgG1. Subtype IgG3, which has a more flexible structure, was 100 times more effective in lab studies against SARS-CoV-2’s Omicron variant than IgG1, which effectively stopped working once Omicron emerged in the world.

Read the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 

A Disordered Protein Brings Order to T-Cell Development

A Disordered Protein Brings Order to T-Cell Development

Pioneer transcription factors are special proteins that “unsilence” regions of DNA to help cells mature, but the proteins have disordered, unfolded regions that are not well understood. A team led by Golnaz Vahedi, PhD, an associate professor of Genetics, studied one disordered region, called L1, within the pioneer factor TCF-1, which helps regulate the maturation of T cells—a major focus of cell therapies for cancers—and found that it has a key role in helping TCF-1 bind to its earliest target genes.

Read the paper in Nature Immunology 

Local Doctor’s Story of Chasing His Own Cure Getting Hollywood Treatment with Oscar-Winning Producer

Local Doctor’s Story of Chasing His Own Cure Getting Hollywood Treatment with Oscar-Winning Producer

The story of David Fajgenbaum, MD, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics, who found a treatment for his own deadly disease, will soon be heading to the big screen. An Oscar-winning producer is making a film about Fajgenbaum’s life and medical journey.

6ABC

What to Know About Paxlovid Rebound

What to Know About Paxlovid Rebound

Experts stress that Paxlovid is an effective, lifesaving treatment that helps to keep people out of the hospital and may even lower the risk of developing long COVID. But the medication has gotten a bad reputation from high-profile instances of “Paxlovid rebound,” or testing positive days after recovering from the virus. According to E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, data can be hard to quantify as many people who have a rebound are unlikely to tell their doctors.

New York Times

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease

Penn Medicine researchers have developed an mRNA vaccine to target the tick-borne bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The vaccine reduced the number of cases when tested in an animal model. “Cases of Lyme disease have been rising sharply in the United States, underscoring the need for a vaccine to protect individuals from infection,” Norbert Pardi says. “The mRNA technology shows great promise for use in developing a vaccine that may prevent Lyme disease.”

Read More

Penn, Jefferson, Fox Chase Join National Cancer Centers Alliance

Penn, Jefferson, Fox Chase Join National Cancer Centers Alliance

Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) joined a new national alliance, created by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), that aims to help researchers to share ideas, resources, and technology—all with the goal of speeding up discoveries that can lead to better treatment. “The ultimate goal of doing this is to improve the care of patients,” said Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the ACC and a member of the AACR alliance steering committee. “This type of collaborative will catalyze that and make it happen much faster.”

Philadelphia Inquirer

Immune Biomarkers Could Predict Chemo Response in Pancreatic Cancer, Study Suggests

Immune Biomarkers Could Predict Chemo Response in Pancreatic Cancer, Study Suggests

A research team led by Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, has identified certain immune activation markers that are associated with patient response to first-line chemotherapy in metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Precision Oncology News

When Is the Best Time to Get Your Flu, COVID-19 and RSV Shots?

When Is the Best Time to Get Your Flu, COVID-19 and RSV Shots?

Fall brings more than a chill in the air and changing leaves: it also ushers in respiratory virus season. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, shared insights into timing vaccines to stay protected, such as for the flu. For example, if you get sick with the flu before you’ve been vaccinated, you should still get the vaccine about a month later, because the flu vaccine typically protects against four types or strains of influenza.

Wall Street Journal

Penn Opens New Multi-Disciplinary Research Labs in One uCity Square

Penn Opens New Multi-Disciplinary Research Labs in One uCity Square

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research in Infectious Diseases, Harvey Friedman, MD, a professor of Infectious Diseases, and Vladimir Muzykantov, MD, PhD, Founders Professor in Nanoparticle Research, are among a group of prominent Penn scientists moving to new lab space in the 13-story One uCity Square building in West Philadelphia. The move consolidates research on messenger RNA, nanoparticles, and other cutting-edge biomedical technology.

Philadelphia Inquirer

How to Develop a Research Career

How to Develop a Research Career

Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, joined the Journal of the American College of Cardiology's “CardioOncology Pulse Podcast” to discuss the future of immunotherapy for cancer and cardiovascular disease and provide advice to aspiring physician-scientists.

JACC

Physics of fat

Physics of fat

Researchers led by the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Dennis Discher are the first to discover fat-filled lipid droplets’ surprising capability to indent and puncture the nucleus, the cell’s hub for DNA regulation. A ruptured nucleus can lead to elevated DNA damage, a key characteristic of many diseases, including cancer. “Intuitively, people think of fat as soft. And on a cellular level it is. But at this small size of droplet, it stops being soft. It can deform. It can damage. It can rupture,” Discher says.

Read More

Penn Researcher’s Non-profit Lands ‘Game-Changing’ Support as It Works to Help Patients With Uncurable Diseases

Penn Researcher’s Non-profit Lands ‘Game-Changing’ Support as It Works to Help Patients With Uncurable Diseases

David Fajgenbaum, MD, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics, calls new funding for the non-profit Every Cure, which he co-founded, a “game-changer.” Fajgenbaum, who suffered from a rare disorder called Castleman disease, helped find a treatment for his disease through FDA-approved drugs that were being used to treat other diseases.

Philadelphia Business Journal

Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Rolling Out to Pharmacies Nationwide

Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Rolling Out to Pharmacies Nationwide

The updated COVID-19 vaccine, approved recently by the FDA, debuted this week. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, spoke about the vaccine and noted that those receiving the new booster should expect “at least some coverage of a lot of the variants that may arise over the next four to six months.”

6ABC

Unleashing CAR T with Carl June

Unleashing CAR T with Carl June

Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, discussed his pioneering work in CAR T cell therapy—including how he started working in human immunology and his take on where cancer treatment is headed next.

Bio Eats World

Malaria vaccine

Malaria vaccine

Malaria has plagued humanity for millenia and continues to cause more than 600,000 worldwide deaths per year, but a new vaccine may lessen the affliction. A Perry World House conversation discussed how developments in mRNA vaccine technologies and lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic can help. “It’s a big puzzle,” said Drew Weissman of the Perelman School of Medicine. “All of the pieces have to be there and have to fit together for this to be able to work.”

Read More

How Oncology Could Change in 50 Years

National Academy of Medicine Picks Five from the University of Pennsylvania, CHOP

Nine cancer center leaders, including Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, told their vision of oncology in 50 years. “In 50 years, we won’t recognize most current treatment modalities for cancer,” Vonderheide said.

Becker’s Hospital Review

CAR T therapy

CAR T therapy

Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy has delivered promising results, transforming the fight against various forms of cancer, but for many, the therapy comes with severe and potentially lethal side effects. Now a research team led by Michael Mitchell of the School of Engineering and Applied Science has found a solution that could help CAR T therapies reach their full potential while minimizing severe side effects.

Read More

Children, Adults with Atopic Dermatitis at Greater Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Children, Adults with Atopic Dermatitis at Greater Risk for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

A new study from Joel Gelfand, MD, the James J. Leyden, M.D. Professor in Clinical Investigation of Dermatology, indicates a tie between atopic dermatitis and new onset inflammatory bowel disease. Previous studies on the topic were less conclusive.

Healio

New Trials, Therapies to Address Unmet Needs in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis

New Trials, Therapies to Address Unmet Needs in ANCA-Associated Vasculitis

Peter Merkel, MD, MPH, chief of Rheumatology, discussed the state of treatment for ANCA-associated vasculitis, an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the body’s small blood vessels. Merkel said management of the disease looks promising and discussed the possibility of new therapies, including those involving T cells.

Healio

Researchers Use ‘Epitope Editing’ to Make CAR-Ts That May Target All Blood Cancers

Researchers Use ‘Epitope Editing’ to Make CAR-Ts That May Target All Blood Cancers

In an article published in Science Translational Medicine, a research team from Penn Medicine described how it developed CAR T cells that target CD45, a protein found on the surface of nearly all blood cancer cells. The proof-of-concept study was led by Saar Gill, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, and Nils Wellhausen, a graduate student in Pharmacology and a member of Gill and June’s labs.

Fierce Biotech

Why Did Humans Start Drinking Milk from Cows?

Why Did Humans Start Drinking Milk from Cows?

Why did humans start drinking animal milk some 9,000 years ago? With many people currently lactose intolerant, Sarah Tishkoff, PhD, the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology, described the genetic mutations that allow adults to break down lactose.

National Geographic

Atopic Dermatitis: Common Type of Eczema Linked to Higher Risk of IBD

Atopic Dermatitis: Common Type of Eczema Linked to Higher Risk of IBD

Joel Gelfand, MD, the James J. Leyden, M.D. Endowed Professor in Clinical Investigation of Dermatology, and colleagues at Penn found that adults and children with atopic dermatitis are more likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease than their peers.

Medical News Today

Malaria vaccine

Malaria vaccine

Malaria has plagued humanity for millenia and continues to cause more than 600,000 worldwide deaths per year, but a new vaccine may lessen the affliction. A Perry World House conversation discussed how developments in mRNA vaccine technologies and lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic can help. “It’s a big puzzle,” said Drew Weissman of the Perelman School of Medicine. “All of the pieces have to be there and have to fit together for this to be able to work.”

Read More

How Oncology Could Change in 50 Years

How Oncology Could Change in 50 Years

Nine cancer center leaders, including Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, told their vision of oncology in 50 years. “In 50 years, we won’t recognize most current treatment modalities for cancer,” Vonderheide said.

Becker’s Hospital Review

Penn Medicine’s Carl June to receive 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

Penn Medicine’s Carl June to receive 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

Carl June has been selected as the recipient of the prestigious 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, in recognition of his pioneering work in advancing CAR T cell therapy. This revolutionary therapy involves the reprogramming of a patient's own immune cells to combat cancer. President Liz Magill expressed that this accolade not only underscores Dr. June's remarkable scientific achievements but also highlights the exceptional level of groundbreaking research undertaken by the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. The Breakthrough Prize, renowned as the world's most substantial science award, bestows a remarkable $3 million prize for each of its five principal categories.

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Blood cancer therapy

Blood cancer therapy

Perelman School of Medicine researchers have developed a new strategy that could expand CAR T cell therapy to all blood cancers. “One drawback of the current approach to CAR T cell therapy is that each therapy must be developed individually based on the targets for that cancer type,” Carl June says. “This study lays the groundwork for a more universal approach.”

Read More

Better PCR

Better PCR

Polymerase chain reaction tests, the “gold standard” for diagnostic testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, are unfortunately also hampered by time delays, specialized equipment, and labor, all of which drive costs, and most PCR tests end up in landfills. César de La Fuente (right) of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Perelman School of Medicine is leading the charge to develop new fast, affordable, and eco-friendly materials.

Read More

Sly CAR-T Strategy Evades ‘Fratricide’ to Aim at All Blood Cancers

Sly CAR-T Strategy Evades ‘Fratricide’ to Aim at All Blood Cancers

A study published in Science Translational Medicine demonstrated proof of concept for “epitope-editing,” a new form of gene editing, that holds potential to treat virtually all blood cancers. The preclinical study was led by Saar Gill, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, and Nils Wellhausen, a graduate student in Pharmacology and a member of Gill and June’s labs.

Penn Medicine News Release • STAT News

Enhancing CAR T Cells for Blood Cancer Treatment

Enhancing CAR T Cells for Blood Cancer Treatment

In a proof-of-concept study, Penn researchers devised a new approach to treat many types of blood cancers using CAR T cell therapy. The study was led by Saar Gill, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology, Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, and Nils Wellhausen, a graduate student in Pharmacology and a member of Gill and June’s labs.

Tech Explorist


August 2023

The Immune Health Future, Today

The Immune Health Future, Today

A new special issue of Penn Medicine magazine highlights our scientists’ efforts to define a new area of medicine: Immune Health®. Researchers are deeply profiling individual immune systems to understand how they function as a fingerprint, a unique piece of each person’s health-and-disease puzzle. The cover story describing Penn’s progress toward this vision of Immune Health is now online ahead of the full issue.

Read the Immune Health issue cover story

CAR T therapy

CAR T therapy

In a Q&A with Penn Medicine, Carl June (pictured) and Ph.D. candidate Daniel Baker of the Perelman School of Medicine discuss CAR T cell therapy’s potential to treat diseases ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases to asthma. “While it may seem counterintuitive, it may be easier to use CAR T cell therapy to treat other diseases than to treat cancer,” June says.

Read More

Kariko and Weissman Named Harvey Prize Laureates

Kariko and Weissman Named Harvey Prize Laureates

Katalin Kariko, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor for Vaccine Research, are the new recipients of the Harvey Prize Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Weissman and Kariko’s foundational mRNA research earned them the science-and-tech-specific accolade.

The Jerusalem Post

Ancient molecules

Ancient molecules

Researchers led by César de la Fuente of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and Perelman School of Medicine merged artificial intelligence with advanced experimental methods to mine the ancient past for future medical breakthroughs. Via “molecular de-extinction,” they explored proteomic expressions of extinct hominins and found dozens of small protein sequences with antibiotic qualities. Their lab then worked to synthesize these molecules, bringing these long-since-vanished chemistries back to life.

Read More

Scientists Are Resurrecting Extinct Molecules and Bringing Them Back to Life by Discovering the Immune Secrets

Scientists Are Resurrecting Extinct Molecules and Bringing Them Back to Life by Discovering the Immune Secrets

New research shows how the molecules from the past can be identified by artificial intelligence as potential candidates for medical use as antimicrobial treatments. César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, coined the term “molecular de-extinction,” for the technique that recreates molecules from Neanderthals and Denisovans that don’t exist in living organisms.

List23

‘Living Drug’ CAR T Is Taking on Some of Humanity’s Worst Medical Scourges

‘Living Drug’ CAR T Is Taking on Some of Humanity’s Worst Medical Scourges

In a perspective article published in Nature this week, Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, and colleagues, discussed the potential of CAR T cell therapy to tackle a wide range of diseases.

Singularity Hub

Chasing the Mysteries of Microbiome Communication in Our Bodies

Chasing the Mysteries of Microbiome Communication in Our Bodies

Microbiologists Maayan Levy, PhD, and Christoph Thaiss, PhD, hope that understanding the mechanisms of the microbiome can lead to treatments for some of the most devastating diseases, from cancer, to dementia and beyond.

Read More: Penn Medicine News Blog

Readers Reply: Which Person Has Had the Greatest Impact on the Course of the 21st Century So Far?

Readers Reply: Which Person Has Had the Greatest Impact on the Course of the 21st Century So Far?

Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, are named by a Guardian reader as the two people who have had the greatest effect on our world since the year 2000 due to the pair’s foundational mRNA research.

The Guardian

Carl June on The Boundless Potential of CAR T Cell Therapy

How to Develop a Research Career

CAR T cell pioneer Carl June, MD, explains how CAR T cell therapy, which has been transformative for blood cancer treatment, holds the potential to help millions more patients, if it can be successfully translated to other conditions.

Read More: Penn Medicine News Blog

How Does Stress Affect Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

How Does Stress Affect Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

Research led by Christoph Thaiss, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology, has traced two detailed molecular pathways from the brain to the gut that produce Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) flares. They found that psychological stress—a death in the family or a bad fight with a loved one, for instance—can trigger the release of brain chemicals that cause IBD symptoms.

Scientific American

Former South Jersey Firefighter Celebrates Major Health Milestone

Former South Jersey Firefighter Celebrates Major Health Milestone

Michael Marinelli is celebrating the 30-year anniversary of having both of his lungs transplanted at Penn. This kind of longevity after a lung transplant is exceptional, said Jason Christie, MD, MS, chief of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, who has been caring for Marinelli for the past three decades.

CBS3

Scientists Turn to Human Ancestors’ DNA in Search for New Antibiotics

Scientists Turn to Human Ancestors’ DNA in Search for New Antibiotics

César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, detailed the concept of molecular de-extinction, which recreates molecules from Neanderthals and Denisovans that don’t exist in living organisms. His new research shows how the molecules had been identified by AI as potential candidates for medical use as antimicrobial treatments.

Smithsonian Magazine • Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Heroes’ welcome

Heroes’ welcome

A Penn Medicine profile celebrates the successes of Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, who have received accolades for their mRNA research and their crucial contributions to the COVID-19 vaccines. “These awards are opportunities to talk about science and expose people to science, and I feel like it’s my responsibility now to engage with people,” Karikó says.

Read More

AI Scientists Are Bringing Neanderthal Antibiotics Back from Extinction

AI Scientists Are Bringing Neanderthal Antibiotics Back from Extinction

A study co-authored by César de la Fuente, PhD, a Presidential Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, Microbiology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Bioengineering, used artificial intelligence to identify new antibiotic protein snippets produced by ancient humans. “We’re motivated by the notion of bringing back molecules from the past to address problems that we have today,” he explained.

Vox • Nature • SciTechDaily