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A Look Back on Wistar’s 2022 Achievements 

December 14, 2022

Wistar’s major accomplishments in 2022 are made possible by the dedicated and innovative scientists, staff, and generous donors committed to improve the health of all through biomedical research. From new research studies and grant announcements to awards and world rankings, Wistar is a global biomedical research leader improving the quality of life and saving lives through early-stage discoveries, vaccines, and cures.

January 2022

Wistar and Stanford Medicine initiates a phase 2 clinical study of VK-2019 in patients with Epstein-Barr Virus-positive nasopharyngeal carcinoma and lymphoma who have recurred or progressed following standard therapy or have not responded to prior therapy.

Wistar scientists publish their work on a potential pathway for developing therapeutics that target Epstein-Barr virus in Nature Communications.

A collaborative study led by Wistar scientist identified that damaged “ghost” mitochondria drive tumor progression. 

Wistar hosts U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo for the announcement of a major national grant in support of locally driven programs that strengthen STEM workforce pipelines in Philadelphia and across the nation. 

February 2022

Cell Reports highlighted the work of Wistar scientists who developed a more targeted SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that can be stored at room temperature making it easier to transport to remote or developing locations than existing mRNA vaccines which require specialized cold storage.

Published in Nature Communications, Wistar researchers develop an immunogen that produces Tier-2 neutralizing antibodies, which may offer a promising step toward an HIV vaccine. 

March 2022

The Wistar Institute: Bold Science // Global Impact

Wistar’s world renown NCI-designated cancer center received a cornerstone gift and is now the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center of The Wistar Institute, making it one of only a few named biomedical research cancer centers in the country. The Caplan Family’s $10 million investment to advance cancer research supports Wistar’s internationally respected scientists in their high-impact research and discoveries.

“Wistar scientists are some of the most dedicated, brilliant people we have ever met. Thanks to their incredible work, Wistar is the one place where every time Ron and I leave, we feel inspired.” – Ellen Caplan

April 2022

Wistar receives PAsmart grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to on-ramp more apprentices from our biomedical education & training programs across the region and create additional pre-apprenticeships to prepare students for life science careers.

Wistar scientists publish research in PLOS Pathogens that identifies proteins in EBV-infected cells that decreased expression of genes linked to the spread of the virus, a fresh direction for EBV research.

Wistar researchers identify a mutation associated with scarring of the lungs, revealing a useful diagnostic tool and target for gene therapy in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

June 2022

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier and State Senator Vincent Hughes toured the Institute to learn more about how Wistar bolsters the Pennsylvania workforce.

Dr. Amelia Escolano, assistant professor in The Wistar Institute’s Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, joins the 2022 cohort of Pew Scholars, supporting her project to develop innovative approaches to investigating vaccination approaches for highly mutating viruses such as HIV-1.

Wistar Institute launches the Bold Science // Global Impact Campaign to rechart the future of human health. This five-year plan sets out Wistar’s roadmap for accelerated progress to drive breakthroughs in biomedical science and technology, including education and training the next generation of innovators. Philanthropic support of the Campaign will fund the expansion of the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center and the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, as well as the creation of the Center for Advanced Therapeutics and the Hubert J.P. Shoemaker Education and Training Center.

In a research paper published in Cancer Immunology Research, Wistar scientists identified that inhibiting therapeutic target KDM5A can potentially re-activate immune response against tumors. The team’s novel approach may lead to improved ovarian cancer treatment efficacy and increase in ovarian cancer survival rates.

A global audience of scientists, activists, advocates, and community leaders share scientific advances and community engagement  on the global HIV cure agenda front through the first-ever global streaming of Wistar’s annual Jonathan Lax Memorial Award Lecture. Now in its 26th year, the Jonathan Lax Memorial reaches a global network across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, creating a global center for highlighting the most groundbreaking HIV cure research.

An endowed gift from Penny Fox, Amy Fox, and Wistar Trustee Daniel Wheeler to name the Fox Biomedical Research Technician Apprenticeship now provides continuity for Community College of Philadelphia students on the road to becoming research technicians as Wistar apprentices. The Fox BRT Apprenticeship is the first-ever registered apprenticeship program for biomedical research by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

“The idea that Wistar is training the next generation of young Philadelphia and regional students to be able to work in the sciences is very important to us and aligns with our own personal values and mission.” – Amy Fox

Creation of a five-year postdoctoral training fellowship in immunology, cancer research or vaccine biology by the Cotswold Foundation and I. Wistar Morris III now helps Wistar attract and support a cadre of exceptional, diverse, and talent postdocs conducting transformative biomedical research to advance improvements globally in health.

The SCImago Institution Rankings (SIR) place Wistar in the top percentiles among the world’s leading academic and research-related institutions based on research performance and innovation. The institute placed in the 1st percentile for innovation and in the 8th percentile for research. This past year, Wistar research teams published collaborative manuscripts in 103 journals on research and discoveries.

Wistar receives a transformational $20M gift from an anonymous donor to create a new Center for Advanced Therapeutics.

July 2022

A Wistar-led collaboration studying the rapid pre-clinical development of DNA-encoded SARs-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies to prevent COVID-19 advances to clinical trials. The research was funded by a $37.6 million award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) to the public-private collaboration which includes Wistar, University of Pennsylvania, AstraZeneca, INOVIO Pharmaceuticals and Indiana University.

Wistar scientists reveal a new function of the enzyme ADAR1 in age related diseases. The research published in Nature Cell Biology will help scientists promote healthy aging and combat age-associated disorders. 

Wistar director of operations Pete Scarpati is featured in magazine Blueprint Vol. IV 2022 in a spotlight on facilities professionals who are an essential component to ensuring Wistar lab, advanced technology, and other facility-based resources support our scientists in the research they pursue.

Wistar Institute Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Joseph Trainor, CPA, was celebrated among the top honorees of Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2022 CFO of the Year Awards. Trainor’s outstanding leadership, especially through the height of the pandemic enabled Wistar to continue to grow. 

“Surround yourself with great people, listen to them, and follow the mission. The best decisions I’ve made were those decisions made with others.” – Joe Trainor

August 2022

NCI grants a Cancer Center Support Grant Merit Extension Award totaling more than $5 million to The Wistar Institute’s Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center. The Institute is the first NCI-designated Basic Cancer Center in the nation to receive this prestigious award. The seven-year term of the current NCI-designation propel deeper understanding of cancer biology and expand programmatic initiatives in the recently launched Bold Science // Global Impact five-year strategic plan. 

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network announced that Rahul S. Shinde, D.V.M., Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Immunology, Microenvironment & Metastasis Program of Wistar’s Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center, was bestowed the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Career Development Award.

September 2022

Wistar researchers and collaborators at Jubilant Therapeutics Inc. discovered that inhibiting protein arginine deiminase 4 (PAD4) in specialized immune cells called neutrophils halts tumor growth and spread. 

Using artificial intelligence, Wistar scientists identify key biomarkers that reliably predict response to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy for melanoma. The biomarkers will help scientists better predict if a patient will respond to immune checkpoint inhibitor, or ICI therapy, and will further understanding of the mechanisms behind ICI therapy response and resistance. 

Wistar and ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute mark a decade of collaboration to expedite the pipeline of cancer interventions from bench to bedside. The collaboration has yielded more than a dozen translational cancer research papers to date and advanced research discoveries made in Wistar labs into early clinical trials at ChristianaCare, including a population health study on treating triple-negative breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) describes the collaboration—the only one of its kind between an NCI-designated research center and an independent academic community cancer—as “extraordinary and innovative.”

A $1 million grant awarded by Pew Charitable Trusts now helps Wistar recruit a world-class researcher to direct the Center for Advanced Therapeutics and put into use the Center’s new drug discovery platform. The new director will, in turn, recruit researchers who are innovators in immunology, computational and structural biology and other fields.

October 2022

The National Institutes of Health honors Amelia Escolano, Ph.D., assistant professor in Wistar’s Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, with its 2022 Director’s New Innovator Award, recognizing high impact research with unconventional approaches to major biological and behavioral research challenges. Escolano’s research identifies guidelines for the design of vaccines that will induce long-term protection against viruses that mutate frequently in humans, including HIV, influenza, and potentially future variants of SARS-CoV2. 

In a research paper published in PLOS ONE, Wistar scientists alongside national and international collaborators, distinguish a specific gene signature indicative of mitochondrial reprogramming in tumors that correlates with poor patient outcome.

Think tank Heart Forward ranks Wistar among top 3 in the nation as a top driver of innovation, research and tech transfer to build a stronger economy.

November 2022

Wistar’s 2022 Helen Dean King Award is presented to Nobel Prize winner Dr. Carolyn Bertozzi of Stanford University in recognition of her outstanding biomedical research on understanding how sugars that coat our cells impact diseases. The award, named for the well-respected geneticist and member of Wistar’s research staff from 1908 to 1950, is presented to a distinguished researcher each year of Wistar’s Women & Science series. 

“Do the highest quality science you can do with the most diligence and most attention to detail, and good things will follow.” – Carolyn Bertozzi

December 2022

The National Science Foundation (NSF) granted a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant to The Wistar Institute’s Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Education and Training Center totaling more than $400,000 for three years. The Center will use this grant to create a new program, Molecular Basis of Cellular Phenotypes, for undergraduate students who may not have access to research opportunities to continue their academic studies in graduate school.

The Wistar Institute’s Biomedical Technician Training (BTT) pre-apprenticeship program was voted the BioBuzz 2022 Workforce Champion of the Year. This honor recognizes the program that has made a measurable contribution to enhancing the biotechnology workforce within the Philadelphia region. Cultivating scientific talent underpins the success of a regional economy and the BTT program takes an innovative approach to attracting, training, and growing the biotechnology workforce.