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Transformational Gift to Create New Center for Advanced Therapeutics at The Wistar Institute

November 29, 2022

In 1979, at the dawn of the biotechnology era, The Wistar Institute was awarded the first of several patents for the production of monoclonal antibodies against tumors and influenza virus antigens, which would lay the foundation for the entire field of immunotherapy. Leveraging this important discovery and intellectual property, Centocor, an immunotherapy start-up company led by Dr. Hubert Schoemaker in close collaboration with Wistar scientists brought Wistar’s seminal research discoveries in monoclonal antibody technology into a commercial platform that underpins a sizeable majority of today’s industry in biotherapeutics.

Now, nearly forty years later, Wistar is again poised to revolutionize the immunotherapy field with the creation of the new Center for Advanced Therapeutics, which is on target to launch in December 2023. The Center, which was made possible by a transformational $20M anonymous donation to Wistar’s Bold Science//Global Impact campaign, will focus solely on the custom design and development of tailored next-generation immunotherapy-based medicines.

The core scientific objectives of the Center for Advanced Therapeutics, which will bridge immunotherapy and vaccine biology with small molecule chemicals, will be fueled by collaborative research in immunology, next- generation sequencing technologies, chemical and structural biology, and computational, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven systems. The center will augment Wistar’s capabilities to create stand-out research programs that are unique in the academic world and position Wistar to develop a sustainable pipeline of future therapeutics that, just as it did four decades ago, attract co-development partners for generating impactful outcomes.

The spirit of the new Center will be one of continuous exchange of ideas, collaboration, and partnership. Here, a diverse group of scientists will approach the various facets of the drug discovery journey to bring long-lasting value, unique innovation, and general impact. Emphasis will be placed on both next-generation immunotherapies as well as small molecule therapeutics to “drug-the-undruggable”, shining laser focus on acutely unmet medical needs and hard-to-treat conditions in cancer and infectious diseases. Relying on its collaborative and multidisciplinary framework, the Center will tackle critical and largely unexplored research areas of enormous therapeutic potential such as the diversity of B cell and T cell repertoires, novel drug-target interfaces, cancer neoepitopes, and groundbreaking vaccine platforms.

As always, the first goal is to aggressively recruit the best and brightest researchers to build our scientific capital and expertise in the biology of the immune systems, high-throughput approaches, and chemical and structural biology. Once these researchers have been identified, we will need to secure access to cutting-edge equipment to identify promising, disease-relevant targets, study their efficacy, and validate their activity in models of different disease conditions. The scale, high-throughput approaches, and multidisciplinary thinking behind the Center, will create a unique platform to address fundamental, unanswered questions in medicine and biology.

Wistar has always understood that to transform a field, and create a truly paradigm shifting technology platform, innovative researchers must find an ideal environment to support their ideas, their goals, and their boldest aspirations and dreams. The Institute has a long and proud tradition of excellence in creating the medicines of tomorrow, bringing scientists together to solve complex problems of human health. This successful past combined with our ambitious future will provide the most compelling foundation to again create the most conducive, collaborative environment for the new Center, where new ideas and concepts will become medicine designed to revolutionize the treatment of some of the most complex and challenging human diseases.