Faculty in the News

New Studies Find Evidence of ‘Superhuman’ Immunity to COVID-19 in Some People

New Studies Find Evidence of ‘Superhuman’ Immunity to COVID-19 in Some People

Recent research from E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was highlighted in an NPR story about powerful immune responses against SARS-CoV-2. The research, published online in late August, showed that, over time, people who have had only two doses of the vaccine (and no prior infection) start to make more flexible antibodies — antibodies that can better recognize many of the variants of concern.

NPR

To Boost or Not to Boost?

To Boost or Not to Boost?

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, and Aaron Richterman, MD, MPH, a fellow in the division of Infectious Diseases, were quoted in a piece explaining what COVID-19 booster shot studies say so far and why some are skeptical of the immediate need for boosters.

FactCheck.org

Debate Over Need for COVID-19 Boosters Continues

Debate Over Need for COVID-19 Boosters Continues

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with 6ABC about COVID-19 booster shots, noting that most research shows that vaccines are holding up right now, as they work to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. That said, he does believe an extra dose is needed for some people. “If you are immunocompromised or have problems with your immune system, perhaps people of advanced age should be given priority for boosters now. For the general population of healthy adults, boosting people who are already vaccinated is not going to end the pandemic,” Wherry said.

6ABC

Study Finds Pfizer, Moderna Shots Provide Protection in People with Multiple Sclerosis

Study Finds Pfizer, Moderna Shots Provide Protection in People with Multiple Sclerosis

There have been concerns about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines among immunocompromised people since clinical trials began last year. The immunocompromised are one of the most vulnerable groups to severe complications from COVID-19, but even with the extra stimulation from the vaccines, their immune systems still have trouble generating adequate levels of antibodies to fight the virus. People undergoing treatment for multiple sclerosis generate a strong T-cell response to the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna despite having a muted antibody response, according to a new study by Penn researchers, including Amit Bar-Or, MD, FRCPC, director of the Center for Neuroinflammation and Experimental Therapeutics and chief of the Division of MS and Related Disorders, and E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

A Coronavirus Infection Might Not be Enough to Protect You

A Coronavirus Infection Might Not be Enough to Protect You

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, Perelman School of Medicine student Rishi Goel, and Beatrice Hahn, MD, a professor of Microbiology and Medicine, were quoted discussing how COVID-19 immunity differs between immunity from vaccination and from infection.

The Atlantic

COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity Is Waning — How Much Does That Matter?

COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity Is Waning — How Much Does That Matter?

As debates about booster shots heat up, what’s known about the duration of vaccine-based immunity is still evolving. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, and Jeffrey Morris, PhD, director of Biostatistics, were quoted discussing vaccine-induced immunity.

Nature

Pfizer Announces That COVID-19 Vaccine Works in Children Ages 5-11

Pfizer Announces That COVID-19 Vaccine Works in Children Ages 5-11

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined “Good Day Philadelphia” to talk about the latest in coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccine news. Wherry discussed the recent announcement from Pfizer that its coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be safe and highly effective in young children aged 5 to 11 years.

FOX29

COVID-19 After Being Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 After Being Fully Vaccinated

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with Buzzfeed about breakthrough COVID-19 cases, how the vaccines work to help protect one against the virus, and why it is important to get vaccinated — even if one is young and healthy. “These vaccines are absolutely still preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Many of those mild cases we are seeing in vaccinated individuals would be much more severe if the individual had not been vaccinated,” Wherry explained.

Buzzfeed

Structure of the ancient TRPY1 channel from Saccharomyces cerevisiae reveals mechanisms of modulation by lipids and calcium

Structure of the ancient TRPY1 channel from Saccharomyces cerevisiae reveals mechanisms of modulation by lipids and calcium

A team led by Vera Moiseenkova-Bell, PhD, a professor of Pharmacology and faculty director of the Electron Microscopy Resource Laboratory and Beckman Center for Cryo Electron Microscopy, used cryo electron microscopy — powerful imaging technology — to examine the structure of a TRPY1 channel, an ancient yeast protein. Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels span the outer membrane of many cell types to bind with molecules that guide cellular function. By understanding TRPs’ structure, one can manipulate how a cell communicates. Moiseenkova-Bell solved a structure of a yeast TRP channel which may benefit the wine industry, as this information could be used to manipulate fungal infections on grape vines. Cheers to that! 

Read the paper in Structure.

Robust T-Cell Response to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

Robust T-Cell Response to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines

mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provoke a swift and strong response by the immune system’s T cells — the heavy armor of the immune system — according to a study led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Institute for Immunology. The results revealed how the T-cell response to these vaccines unfolds and underline the importance of a second dose for people with no history of COVID-19. The findings showed, however, that in people with a history of COVID-19, the T-cell response was already robust after the first vaccine dose, with no significant increase after the second dose, which may have implications for potential future booster shots.

Read the News Release →

How Long Does COVID-19 Immunity Last Anyway?

How Long Does COVID-19 Immunity Last Anyway?

COVID-19 vaccines are the best tool to keep people out of the hospital and alive. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with NPR’s “Short Wave” about the impressive immune response from vaccines. His lab’s research shows that months after the vaccine, a person’s antibodies begin to become more powerful, more flexible. “So the same antibody can actually detect and, presumably, neutralize the Alpha variant, the Beta variant, and very likely the Delta variant as well,” Wherry said.

NPR

UNC Researchers Report a New Way to Charge CAR-T Against Solid Tumors

UNC Researchers Report a New Way to Charge CAR-T Against Solid Tumors

Avery Posey, PhD, an assistant professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, provided perspective on a recent study published in Nature Communications on CAR-T and solid tumors. He conveyed that the in vivo data is impressive; the approach was one of the next logical steps for CAR-T development, but it solves one of the problems for attacking solid tumors. Researchers still need to find safe and better targets.

Endpoints News

Back to School During COVID-19

Back to School During COVID-19

As students start to go back to schools, debates continue across the country on mask wearing. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined Good Day Philadelphia to discuss the importance of wearing masks and what’s next for booster shots for immunocompromised patients.

FOX20

COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots: What You Need to Know

COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots: What You Need to Know

Though research is continuing, early data using different methodologies suggests that immunity from the vaccines wanes at about eight months or earlier as the coronavirus’ Delta variant spreads. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, explained the research behind recommendations for booster shots, booster shots for immunocompromised patients, and why attention should still focus on getting the unvaccinated vaccinated.

WHYY

As COVID-19 Booster Shots Near, Penn Immunologist Explains Why He Hates the Term ‘Breakthrough Infection’

As COVID-19 Booster Shots Near, Penn Immunologist Explains Why He Hates the Term ‘Breakthrough Infection’

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with Philly Voice about growing research on the effectiveness of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and immune responses to those vaccines. Wherry’s team at Penn has closely examined the intricate details of the body’s immune response to a natural coronavirus infection and vaccination, accounting for multiple known variants. His lab studies not just the production of antibodies, but also the long-term blueprint for protection from memory B cells and T cells.

Philly Voice

Study Details Robust T-cell Response to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines, a More Durable Source of Protection

Study Details Robust T-cell Response to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines, a More Durable Source of Protection

Messenger-RNA (mRNA) vaccines against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 provoke a swift and strong response by the immune system’s T cells — the heavy armor of the immune system — according to a study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine. Although recent studies of vaccines tend to focus on the antibody response, the T-cell response is also an important and potentially more durable source of protection — yet little has been reported so far on the T-cell response to COVID-19 vaccines. In the study, published in the journal Immunity, senior author E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, shared that the findings underscore the need to look at T cells, not just antibodies, to understand the vaccine response for those who have not had COVID-19 and for those who have recovered from the disease.

Medical Xpress

Clarifying the Problem of T-Cell “Exhaustion”

Clarifying the Problem of T-Cell “Exhaustion”

Researchers have illuminated an important limitation of the immune system in prolonged battles against cancers or viruses: T cells, which are among the most powerful weapons in the immune systems of humans and other vertebrates, remain substantially programmed to stay exhausted even many weeks after exposure to a virus ended. “Exhaustion apparently leaves durable ‘epigenetic scars’ in T cells that constrain their ability to support an immune response. These findings point to a need to discover how to reverse that epigenetic scarring,” said study senior author E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of the department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics.

Read the News Release 

What Immunity Did Having COVID Give Me? Do I Need a Vaccine?

What Immunity Did Having COVID Give Me? Do I Need a Vaccine?

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with WHYY to answer listener and reader questions about those who have had COVID-19 and their immune response. Wherry discussed the benefits of the vaccine (as it provides more robust protection), protection from variants, and more.

WHYY

Pfizer Wants To Give You a Booster Shot—but Experts Say It’s Too Soon

Pfizer Wants To Give You a Booster Shot—but Experts Say It’s Too Soon

Many experts say it’s too soon for a COVID-19 booster when the vaccines work, and much of the world still hasn’t had its first shot yet. Data from lab studies and real-world infections indicate “the dam is holding,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. “Severe infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are being observed almost entirely in unvaccinated populations, even for the Delta variant.” And when infections do occur in people who have been vaccinated, the symptoms tend to be mild.

MIT Technology Review

Why Philadelphians Should Worry About the Wildfires Out West

Why Philadelphians Should Worry About the Wildfires Out West

Smoke from wildfires has traveled across the country and settled over the Eastern Seaboard, resulting in air quality warnings that started in code orange. Trevor Penning, PhD, director of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, was interviewed about the short- and potential long-term health risks that the polluted air poses for Philadelphians. “I think everyone needs to protect themselves to some extent,” he said.

WHYY

The COVID-19 Vaccine Doesn’t Fully Protect People Like Me Who Are Immuno-compromised. Science Is Working on it.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Doesn’t Fully Protect People Like Me Who Are Immuno-compromised. Science Is Working on it.

A story about the uncertainty around the protection immuno-compromised cancer patients receive from the COVID-19 vaccine featured the writer’s oncologist Noelle Frey, MD, an associate professor of Hematology-Oncology. Alexander Huang, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology-Oncology, who recently published a study in Nature Medicine exploring how the immune system compensates when one set of immune cells are down, and Emily Blumberg, MD, a professor of Medicine and director of Transplant Infectious Diseases, were also featured.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Meme Spreads Falsehood About Vaccine Transfer Through Eating Meat

Meme Spreads Falsehood About Vaccine Transfer Through Eating Meat

A new claim has emerged on Instagram suggesting that eating meat from animals vaccinated against COVID-19 could transfer the inoculation. “It just simply can’t happen,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. “It doesn’t work that way.” Referring to the messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, Wherry explained that once the mRNA gets into a cell, it doesn’t propagate any further — meaning it doesn’t spread from one cell to another.

FactCheck.org

COVID-19 Vaccines Are Better Than We Ever Expected

COVID-19 Vaccines Are Better Than We Ever Expected

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted discussing mRNA vaccines, which have emerged as the big winners in the pandemic — topping 90 percent effectiveness. “These will be among the most efficacious vaccines that we have. Period,” said Wherry.

Buzzfeed

Vaccine Protection May Diminish Need for Yearly Boosters

Vaccine Protection May Diminish Need for Yearly Boosters

Scientists have found clues that the world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines offer lasting protection that could diminish the need for frequent booster shots, but they caution that more research is needed and that virus mutations are still a wild card. Critical studies are underway, and evidence is mounting that immunity from the mRNA vaccines does not depend exclusively on antibodies that dwindle over time. “I’m pretty optimistic. I wouldn’t rule out the need for boosters, but the immune response so far looks actually quite impressive,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

Associated Press

Doctors Discuss Reasons Why People Aren’t Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

Doctors Discuss Reasons Why People Aren’t Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined “Good Day Philadelphia” to discuss some of the reasons why people say they aren’t getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and provide some medical insight into safety and effectiveness of the shots.

FOX29

Body’s Second Line of Defense May Protect Against Coronavirus Variants

Body’s Second Line of Defense May Protect Against Coronavirus Variants

Cancer patients with impaired antibody responses were more likely to survive COVID-19 if they had stronger T cell responses, according to a recent study. “The bottom line is, yes, there is immunological evidence that [vaccines] are priming more than just neutralizing antibodies and that these other parts of the immune response are important,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

Voice of America

How Do COVID-19 Vaccines Affect Immunocompromised People?

How Do COVID-19 Vaccines Affect Immunocompromised People?

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with WHYY about the COVID-19 vaccine for those who are immunocompromised. “There’s some data from patients who have contracted COVID-19 that indicate that T cells do prevent or limit disease severity,” said Wherry. While some immunocompromised patients “won’t have perfect protection,” there is some hope that “maybe they won’t get sick if they get infected.”

WHYY

Fact-Checking Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

Fact-Checking Anti-Vaccine Misinformation

Recent research from the Penn Institute of Immunology suggests vaccine side effects such as a sore arm, fever, or muscle aches could be a sign of a positive immune response and should not be a cause for concern. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, noted that side effects “are not necessarily a bad thing — they may actually be an indicator of an even better immune response.”

CNN

I’ve Already Had COVID-19. Do I Need One Vaccine Shot or Two?

I’ve Already Had COVID-19. Do I Need One Vaccine Shot or Two?

A recent study led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, found that people who were never infected with COVID-19 did not have a full immune response until after receiving the second dose. Wherry explained the study findings, noting that it’s very important that people who have never had COVID-19 get both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, to get optimal high levels of antibodies. The Penn study did not show any evidence that a second dose could cause harm among those who have previously had COVID-19.

WHYY

Debunking COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories That Could Hinder Vaccine Efforts

Debunking COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories That Could Hinder Vaccine Efforts

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined NBC10 to debunk three COVID-19 conspiracy theories that have some citizens hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine dose. For example, some falsely believe the mRNA vaccines could alter your genome or track you. “Just about every time you eat a meal, you’re ingesting RNA. This is not something that is really that unusual,” Wherry said.

NBC10

Mask Mandate Relaxed

Mask Mandate Relaxed

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke about the new mask guidelines from the CDC. He notes we still have to be vigilant: “This is where we are today. As we see how things evolve under these new guidelines, we may be able to go further, or we may have to actually dial it back a little bit.”

NBC10

Why Vaccine Side Effects Really Happen

Why Vaccine Side Effects Really Happen

Chills, headache, and fatigue after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are perfectly normal. But reactions can vary wildly, and they don’t reflect how your immune system would respond to a COVID-19 infection. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke with National Geographic about why reactions to vaccines differ and the difference between side effects and adverse events.

National Geographic

Do People Who Have Had COVID-19 Need a Second Vaccine Shot?

Do People Who Have Had COVID-19 Need a Second Vaccine Shot?

A recent study suggests that there is a strong boost to the immunity of everyone who receives the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, including those who have previously had a SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, only people who have never had a SARS-CoV-2 infection appeared to benefit from the second dose. The research team, led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, tracked not only antibody responses to vaccination but also the creation of memory B cells, which provide longer lasting immunity against infection.

Medical News Today

No COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects? Why It’s Fine to Feel Fine

No COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects? Why It’s Fine to Feel Fine

While side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine show your immune system is responding to the vaccine in a way that will protect against disease, evidence from clinical trials showed that people with few or no symptoms were also protected. However, there is some evidence of stronger immune response in those who get sick when vaccinated. A study led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, showed that people who reported side effects may have had somewhat higher levels of antibodies.

NPR

Vaccines Benefit Those Who Have Had COVID-19, Contrary to Viral Posts

Vaccines Benefit Those Who Have Had COVID-19, Contrary to Viral Posts

The authorized COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be safe and effective in clinical trials and in real-world conditions, and there is no evidence showing that vaccinating those with previous SARS-CoV-2 could be unsafe. On the contrary, growing evidence shows one dose of the vaccine benefits individuals who’ve recovered from the infection, boosting their immune response. “Our study and several other studies show that there is a benefit, immunologically … in people who were previously infected,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

FactCheck.org • Pharmacy Times

Dr. Wherry Discusses Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Resumption

Dr. Wherry Discusses Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Resumption

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined Good Day Philadelphia to discuss the latest developments with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the importance of getting a second dose if you received an mRNA vaccine, and a recent COVID-19 outbreak at a Montgomery County School.

FOX29

Indian Long Pepper Plant Packs Punch Against Glioblastoma in Animal Model

Indian Long Pepper Plant Packs Punch Against Glioblastoma in Animal Model

Piperlongumine, a chemical compound found in the Indian Long Pepper plant, is known to kill cancerous cells in many tumor types. Now an international team, which includes researchers at Penn, has illuminated one way in which the piperlongumine works in animal models — and has confirmed its strong activity against glioblastoma. Vera Moiseenkova-Bell, PhD, faculty director of the Electron Microscopy Resource Laboratory and Beckman Center for Cryo Electron Microscopy, was quoted.

Penn Medicine News Release • Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News • News-Medical.Net

Researchers Detail More Cases of Clots Tied to COVID-19 Vaccines

Researchers Detail More Cases of Clots Tied to COVID-19 Vaccines

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, discussed the decision to halt the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to six cases of a rare blood-clotting disorder. “The chances of this happening to you are about between 1 and 100,000 to 1 in 1 million,” Wherry said. “If you’re an American, the chances of dying from COVID are 1 in 600.”

Medscape

One Vaccine Dose May Be Enough For People Who Had COVID-19, Penn Research Shows

One Vaccine Dose May Be Enough For People Who Had COVID-19, Penn Research Shows

People who have already recovered from COVID-19 are showing signs of robust protection from the coronavirus and its variants after just one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to a new Penn study published in Science ImmunologyE. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, spoke about the findings, including insights about variants and the development of possible booster shots.

Philly Voice • News-Medical.Net

Penn Medicine Studies How Long the COVID-19 Vaccines Last

Penn Medicine Studies How Long the COVID-19 Vaccines Last

As vaccinations were underway with the mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna, researchers at Penn began to test volunteers to better understand the vaccine immune response. They measured antibodies that show rapid immunity and memory B cells which indicate longer immunity. “What we were able to see is the vaccines produce really good memory B cells. Which means even if antibody levels fall lower, even if we might see variants that the antibodies may not catch well, we still have this second-tier defense,” said E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology.

6ABC • Philadelphia Inquirer

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

Health Experts on the Future of COVID-19

Health Experts on the Future of COVID-19

As vaccines go into millions of arms, infectious disease experts consider what may happen to the virus in the long term. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted, discussing why COVID-19 is likely here to stay and potential long-term outcomes based on vaccination efforts and potential variants.

AARP

COVID-19 Vaccines Are Entering Uncharted Immune Territor

COVID-19 Vaccines Are Entering Uncharted Immune Territor

Coronavirus vaccines have promised a return to a semblance of normal life. But they were not designed for, or tested extensively on, immunocompromised or immunosuppressed individuals. E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, was quoted discussing research which could help tailor future vaccines to immune systems that have been altered by drugs or disease, or that have simply aged out of maximal protection.

The Atlantic

Penn joins ‘cryo revolution’ by adding Nobel-winning microscope

Penn joins ‘cryo revolution’ by adding Nobel-winning microscope

The Singh Center for Nanotechnology has added the newest technology to its arsenal of microscopes: the Krios G3i, a cryogenic electron microscope that will allow researchers to study cells, proteins, and engineered nanoparticles like never before. “Bringing this microscope onto campus is a big deal for everyone,” says Vera Moiseenkova-Bell of the Perelman School of Medicine.
Read More

Pandemic Precautions Made for an Illness-Free Year for Many. What That Means for Our Immune Systems.

Pandemic Precautions Made for an Illness-Free Year for Many. What That Means for Our Immune Systems.

Due to the social distancing, hand-scrubbing, and mask wearing that came along with the pandemic, there have been fewer cases of illnesses such as the flu and rhinovirus, a common cause of colds. As people look ahead towards the end of the pandemic, E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, explained what a return to the “real world” could mean for immune systems.

Philadelphia Inquirer

How Long Is the Vaccine Effective Is One of Many Questions Delaware Valley Residents Are Asking

How Long Is the Vaccine Effective Is One of Many Questions Delaware Valley Residents Are Asking

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology, joined FOX29 to answer one of the biggest questions on people’s minds these days — just how long do the COVID-19 vaccines last? “Six months is kind of like the floor here. That is the minimum,” said Wherry. “Six months is about the longest data we have from a reasonable sized number of people we can draw conclusions.”

FOX29

If You Don’t Have COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects, Are You Still Protected?

If You Don’t Have COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects, Are You Still Protected?

Not having side effects, or having not as severe side effects, is no reason to worry when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, explained E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute for Immunology. While researchers do not fully understand why only some people have side effects from COVID-19 vaccines, the experience probably reflects the quirks of each person’s immune system more than it does the vaccine’s effectiveness, Wherry said.

Scientific American

Investigating COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity

Investigating COVID-19 Vaccine Immunity

A new study led by E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Immune Health Institute, is investigating how well the COVID-19 vaccines work in the real world. Wherry's team, profiled in The Philadelphia Inquirer, is measuring antibodies, various kinds of white blood cells, including “helper” T cells that can act as sentinels, marshaling support to fight an infection, and “killer” T cells that, as the name suggests, fight infection by killing cells that the virus has penetrated, as well as looking at how immunity is affected by virus variants.

Read More

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

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

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

Deep Immune Profiling Shows Significant Immune Activation in Children with MIS-C

Deep Immune Profiling Shows Significant Immune Activation in Children with MIS-C

Taking the first deep dive into how the immune system is behaving in patients with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), research led by Laura Vella, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Pediatrics, and E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, has found that children with this condition have highly activated immune systems that, in many ways, are more similar to those of adults with severe COVID-19.

Science Immunology 

Science 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

Elemental (Medium)

What is SYNGAP1?

What is SYNGAP1?

Dr. Elizabeth Heller was recently awarded a research grant award from the SynGAP Research Fund to support her lab’s work in epigenetic regulation of SynGAP1-related intellectual disability. With the SynGAP Research Fund’s award to support a postdoctoral fellow in the lab, Dr. Heller and her team will work to uncover druggable targets that could be used to develop a treatment for this rare genetic disorder. Congratulations, Dr. Heller, and many thanks to the team at the SynGAP Research Fund!

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. 

National Geographic

Hundreds petition Penn to extend widespread COVID-19 testing for the entire fall semester

Hundreds petition Penn to extend widespread COVID-19 testing for the entire fall semester

Contrary to the petition, Paul Axelsen, Penn Med professor of Pharmacology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Medicine in the Infectious Diseases program, said widespread asymptomatic testing would not be useful, as the disease prevalence of COVID-19 off-campus is very low and will lend itself to false positive test results.

Read More

How the Coronavirus Short-Circuits the Immune System

How the Coronavirus Short-Circuits the Immune System

In a disturbing parallel to H.I.V., the coronavirus can cause a depletion of important immune cells, recent studies Led by E. John Wherry, PhD and Lab.

Read More

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.

NBC News

Congratulations to Dr. Pure!

Congratulations to Dr. Pure!

Dr. Ellen Puré received a distinctive COVID-19 Pilot Award from the Penn Vet COVID Research Innovation Fund. The Fund, provided with critical start-up support through a gift from Vernon and Shirley Hill, will bolster Penn Vet’s rapidly expanding research and response program to fight the novel coronavirus. 

  • Ellen Puré, Grace Lansing Lambert Professor of Biomedical Science; Chair, Department of Biomedical Sciences, “Defining the Cellular and Molecular Basis of the Fibro-inflammatory Response to SARS-COV2 Infection

COVID-19 management in light of the circadian clock

COVID-19 management in light of the circadian clock

Circadian clocks control the function of our immune system, virus replication and the severity of infections. Our daily rhythms also regulate the pharmacokinetics and efficacy of several therapeutics. Consequently, better understanding of the effects of circadian biology on SARS-CoV-2 infection would improve the clinical management of COVID-19. Review on COVID-19 and the circadian clock by AK Reddy and his lab.  

Read More

How the Coronavirus Short-Circuits the Immune System

How the Coronavirus Short-Circuits the Immune System

In a disturbing parallel to H.I.V., the coronavirus can cause a depletion of important immune cells, recent studies found. John Wherry explains how the Coronavirus Short-Circuits the Immune System in this NYT article. 

Read More

New “Blueprint” of Exhausted T Cell Lifespan Could Help Build Better Immunotherapies

New “Blueprint” of Exhausted T Cell Lifespan Could Help Build Better Immunotherapies

In a new study published in Cell Press, the lab of E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of the department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, for the first time showed four key stages of so-called “exhausted” T cell development and the molecular mechanisms driving the transition from one stage to the next.

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Penn’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) Receives $8 Million Grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Penn’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET) Receives $8 Million Grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

“The Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology combines rigorous scientific and medical research with direct community engagement and policy-making to effect positive outcomes for the health of our environment and our communities. One cannot conduct meaningful environmental health research without engaging the communities affected, ” said Trevor Penning, PhD, a professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics and founding director of CEET.

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How to Keep Your Immune System Healthy During the Coronavirus Pandemic, According to Experts

How to Keep Your Immune System Healthy During the Coronavirus Pandemic, According to Experts

E. John Wherry, PhD, chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that supplements available for purchase will likely not be any help against COVID-19. There’s no evidence to suggest anything can boost your body’s defenses against this novel virus, he said.

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Discovery of 318 novel loci for type-2 diabetes and related micro- and macrovascular outcomes among 1.4 million participants in a multi-ethnic meta-analysis

Discovery of 318 novel loci for type-2 diabetes and related micro- and macrovascular outcomes among 1.4 million participants in a multi-ethnic meta-analysis

Fresh preprint out now! 40 loci (35 novel) assoc'ed with longitudinal bone accrual. Read More

Asbestos Exposure: Who Will Get Cancer?

Asbestos Exposure: Who Will Get Cancer?

Ian A. Blair, PhD, a professor of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, was interviewed about his search to discover biomarkers for asbestos exposure, as well as biomarkers that could give clues about the possible effects of those exposures. To date, nearly a dozen Philadelphia Schools have closed this year due to asbestos risks.

Watch

The dangers of asbestos: What the public should know

The dangers of asbestos: What the public should know

Marilyn Howarth and Ian Blair of the Perelman School of Medicine discuss the hazards of asbestos, how it harms the body, the asbestos crisis in the School District of Philadelphia, and why there is no safe level of asbestos. Homes, schools, and buildings built before 1980—the majority of structures in Philadelphia—have a higher risk of containing asbestos.

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Congratulations to James H. Eberwine, Ph.D

Congratulations to James H. Eberwine, Ph.D

On his impressive honor of being inducted into the National Academy of Medicine, for his pioneering work in the field of single-cell genomics that has revealed the complexities of human and mouse transcriptome variability.  This is a great recognition of Jim’s impressive contributions to the field.  

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Sleep Deprivation Shuts Down Production of Essential Brain Proteins

COVID-19 management in light of the circadian clock

Two studies in the recent issue of Science look at the important role synapses play in sleep. Akhilesh Reddy, MB, PhD, an associate professor of Pharmacology and not involved in either study, tells Scientific American that the research may help us understand how memories are processed while we sleep.

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Congratulations to Dr. James Eberwine,

Congratulations to James H. Eberwine, Ph.D

Recipient of the NIHDirector's Pioneer Award! Learn more Dr. Eberwine's project and research interests.

Getting “exhausted” T cells back into action against cancer

Getting “exhausted” T cells back into action against cancer

When a malignancy or chronic infection sets in, a kind of immune combat fatigue can follow. Finding ways to recharge immune cells can restore their ability to fight deadly diseases, says immunologist John Wherry

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Reviving Tired T Cells to Improve Immunotherapy Treatments

Reviving Tired T Cells to Improve Immunotherapy Treatments

FierceBiotech highlighted a Nature paper by John Wherry, PhD, chair of Pharmacology and director of the Penn Institute of Immunology, and colleagues, which identified the protein TOX as key to waking up exhausted T cells.

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