Dr. Carl June of University of Pennsylvania is an immunologist, oncologist and one of the pioneers of CAR–T cell research. He is responsible for leading the team to a historic FDA approval.
In the 1980s, June’s lab discovered the CD28 molecule as the major control switch for T cells. A few years later, he tested the ability to culture genetically modified CAR-Ts in humans and discovered that the cells could engraft and persist in patients with HIV/AIDS for years.
This led to the development and commercialization of tisagenlecleucel, the first FDA-approved gene therapy. The historical approval went through in August 2017.
Marketed as KYMRIAH via pharma giant Novartis, the cutting-edge immunotherapy uses the power of the bodies own immune system ( the body’s own T cells ) to fight cancer.
T cells from a person with cancer are removed, genetically engineered to make a specific chimeric cell surface receptor with components from both a T-cell receptor and an antibody specific to a protein on the cancer cell, and transferred back to the person. The T cells are engineered to target a protein called CD19 that is common on B cells. A chimeric T cell receptor (“CAR-T“) is expressed on the surface of the T cell.
For his life’s work, June has won a long list of awards — most recently he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2018.
June is currently the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania.Tags: cancer, cancer research, cancer treatment, CAR-T, genetics, genomics