- Faculty in the News
Faculty in the News
Feeling unmotivated to exercise? It might not be your fault, but in fact gut microbes in your body, according to a recent study led by Christoph Thaiss, PhD, an assistant professor of Microbiology.
An experimental mRNA vaccine targets all known influenza virus subtypes, and dramatically reduced signs of illness and protected from death, even for flu strains different from those used in making the vaccine, according to research from Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology. The vaccine uses the same mRNA technology employed in the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, pioneered at Penn by Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and Director of Vaccine Research.
A preclinical study by CAR T cell therapy pioneer Carl Juneand colleagues at the Perelman School of Medicine finds that a special CAR T gel can eliminate residual tumor cells when applied to surgical wounds from partial tumor removal. “We also think that this approach could be broadened to deliver other cellular therapies and anticancer agents in addition to CAR T cells,” says June, “potentially boosting the antitumor effectiveness even further.”
The biotech company CureVac said it will now focus its efforts on the development of modified mRNA vaccines rather than unmodified mRNA vaccines. Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery and a researcher whose foundational work led to the modified mRNA vaccine platform, explained the role T cells and the immune system have in infectious-disease prevention.
January 20 marks the third anniversary of the day the United States reported its first COVID-19 diagnosis. Four years in, many experts point to reasons to be optimistic. Frederic Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology, says that although it’s “extremely unlikely” COVID-19 will go away anytime soon, as long as we continue to avoid steep climbs in hospitalizations or deaths, the impact of COVID-19 could “get a little less with each passing year.”
Lung cell research led by the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Montserrat Anguera and Andrew Vaughan found differences in gene expression that may explain why older males are at a higher risk than females for more severe outcomes from COVID-19 and similar diseases.
Results from a new study in mice have identified a promising experimental drug that directly targets pancreatic tumors with a particular KRAS mutation. Ben Stanger, MD, PhD, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research, explains the findings published by Abramson Cancer Center researchers in the journal Cancer Discovery.
Penn Medicine recently announced that it received a $9.7 million grant that will be used to fund continuing education and training for genetic counselors. Kathy Valverde, PhD, LCGC, director of Penn’s Masters Program in Genetic Counseling, and Daniel J. Rader, MD, chair of Genetics and Chief of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics at Penn, discussed the new initiative.
Research shows that the body seems to fixate on the first version of the virus that it encountered, either through injection or infection — a preoccupation with the past that researchers call “original antigenic sin,” and that may leave us with defenses that are poorly tailored to circulating variants. However, this phenomenon is also the reason repeat infections, on average, get milder over time. Scott Hensley, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, explained what this research means for future COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
From lions and tigers to big hairy armadillos, a growing number of animals have been infected with the coronavirus. Frederic Bushman, PhD, chair of Microbiology, explained what we know about how the virus infects animals and humans alike.
Penn’s Katalin Karikó, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, and Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, are being officially inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame for their foundational mRNA research, which led to the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. They join a wide range of others being inducted this year, including the co-inventor of CAPTCHA and the inventor of the Bobcat construction vehicle.
While mRNA therapeutics have focused on infectious disease prevention, there are a myriad of potential uses for mRNA technology, said Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research, whose foundational research over 15 years ago made it possible to create mRNA vaccines. mRNA could be used in the future to treat sickle-cell anemia, cancer, and even food allergies, said Weissman.
While mRNA vaccine technology gave us a novel vaccine to prevent COVID-19, the future of mRNA technology will likely expand far beyond coronaviruses and even infectious diseases. Katalin Karikό, PhD, an adjunct professor of Neurosurgery, and whose foundational work with Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and Director of Vaccine Research, led to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, discussed why mRNA vaccines are ideal for prevention and how an mRNA vaccine could be created to prevent cancer.
Moderna recently shared data from a Phase 2b clinical trial on a cancer vaccine to prevent recurrent melanoma. Alexander Huang, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, commented on the results and explained the challenges and promise of personalized cancer vaccines.
Gut-dwelling bacteria activate nerves in mice that promote the desire to exercise, according to a study by Christoph Thaiss of the Perelman School of Medicine and colleagues. “If we can confirm the presence of a similar pathway in humans, it could offer an effective way to boost people’s levels of exercise to improve public health generally,” he says.
A study conducted at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center has revealed possible drivers of recurrence in breast and ovarian tumors with BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations. Senior study author Katherine Nathanson, MD, the Pearl Basser Professor for BRCA-Related Research and deputy director of the Abramson Cancer Center, discussed the study results and what they might reveal about the mechanisms of cancer recurrence.