Leadership & Members
The following distinguished scientists serve as members of the Vaccine Center. They bring a wide range of immunological expertise to the work of vaccine development.
David B. Weiner, Ph.D., is director of the Vaccine Center. Dr. Weiner’s research focus is in the area of Molecular Immunology. His group has focused extensively on the development of gene-based vaccines, immune therapies and molecular interventions for the treatment of human and animal disease. His laboratory is one of the founders of the field of DNA vaccines, and importantly, was the first to move DNA vaccines to human clinical studies establishing their initial safety and immunogenicity opening up this area for clinical development. His lab is instrumental in the recent resurgence of interest in the DNA vaccine field due to the lab and collaborators developing new vectors and delivery approaches that improved their immune potency in humans.
Weiner is the recipient of numerous honors including election as a fellow to both the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011 and the International Society for Vaccines in 2012. He is the recipient of the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award and received the Vaccine Industry Excellence Award for Best Academic Research Team in 2015 at the World Vaccine Congress. Weiner was honored with the prestigious Hilleman Lectureship in 2015 at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Grand Rounds session and received a Stone Family Award from Abramson Cancer Center for his groundbreaking work on DNA vaccines for cancer immune therapy.
Weiner returns to Wistar from his position at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. From 1990 to 1993, Weiner held a joint position as assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at The Wistar Institute and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Hildegund C.J. Ertl, M.D., is developing preventive and therapeutic vaccines for an array of infectious and noninfectious diseases, including AIDS and some forms of cancer. She will lead center efforts including the development of a universal influenza vaccine.
Ertl’s areas of research include vaccines against HIV, influenza virus, rabies virus, human papilloma virus (HPV), and the pathogen causing malaria. She and her colleagues are developing an HIV vaccine using a genetically engineered virus from chimpanzees as the vaccine carrier to induce an immune response. They also are working on an immunotherapy for HPV, which causes cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women worldwide.
Ertl received her doctorate from Georg-August University of Goettingen and was a visiting scientific fellow at Australian National University and the University of Minnesota. She served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School before joining Wistar. Ertl is currently the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Center for Reference and Research on Rabies. She also is a reviewer for the National Institutes of Health Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee. Ertl has reviewed global-health grant proposals submitted to the Gates Foundation and other international organizations. She is a member of the Immunology Graduate Group and Microbiology Graduate Group of the University of Pennsylvania. She has also served as an editor or reviewer for many professional journals, including Immunity, Journal of Immunology, Molecular Therapy, Science, Vaccines, and Viral Immunology.
Jan Erikson, Ph.D., leads efforts to better understand immune cell activation and regulation. Her lab has been studying the signals that guide immune cells down distinct developmental paths that result in short-term immunity or long-lasting responses and memory formation. Her detailed understanding of immune cells and their interaction will inform her work in the Vaccine Center on the development of a universal influenza vaccine.
The Erikson laboratory strives to define the cellular and molecular interactions that influence appropriate activation of immune cells in healthy settings and vaccine use versus the inappropriate activation seen in autoimmune disease. Erikson and her team have helped to clarify the mechanisms critical to the understanding and eventual treatment of diseases including autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Erikson received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania and postdoctoral fellowships from Stanford University and Fox Chase Cancer Center. She is a member of the University of Pennsylvania Immunology Graduate Group and serves on the Medical Advisory Board of the Lupus Foundation. She participates in grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health and the Lupus Research Institute. Her numerous honors include acceptance into the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, the Life Sciences Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Monica H.M. Shander Memorial Fellowship.
Andrew J. Caton, Ph.D., researches the mechanisms by which the immune system regulates its responses to infecting microbes and to the body’s own tissues and cells. Caton has extensive experience analyzing immune responses to influenza virus and has developed novel models expressing influenza antigens in tissues to examine how immune responses are regulated. His expertise in immunology will support his work on the development of a universal influenza vaccine, as well as other projects.
In healthy adults, the immune system maintains white blood cells, called T and B lymphocytes, that recognize and eliminate infecting microorganisms yet remain unresponsive toward the host’s own cells and tissues. Caton’s laboratory strives to define the mechanisms by which T cells and B cells are regulated and to understand how these processes fail or can be manipulated in infections and in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and cancer.
Caton received his doctorate from the University of Cambridge and was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Oxford. He is a member of the Executive Committee and chair of the Student Affairs Committee of the University of Pennsylvania Immunology Graduate Group. He serves as a reviewer for Immunity, Nature Immunology, Journal of Experimental Medicine, and other professional publications.
Luis J. Montaner, D.V.M., D.Phil., works with adult and pediatric HIV/AIDS patients in the Philadelphia area and in South Africa, researching strategies for understanding and strengthening the immune system’s response to HIV. He and his colleagues investigate the immune dysfunction associated with the disease, immune recovery associated with therapy, and the impact of immunotherapy. He also has tested whether structured reductions in drug treatment could decrease drug-related toxicity without diminishing treatment benefits. Montaner’s expertise in human trials and cohort follow-up will support the center’s development of vaccines for HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Montaner received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from Kansas State University and his doctorate in experimental pathology from the University of Oxford. As a British Marshall Scholarship awardee, he held a combined postdoctoral appointment and doctoral studentship at the University of Oxford before being appointed as a faculty junior fellow at Lady Margaret Hall (University of Oxford).
He is a member of the Penn Center for AIDS Research at the University of Pennsylvania and the Scientific Advisory Board of the Foundation for AIDS and Immune Research, and he serves as director of basic research at the Jonathan Lax Immune Disorder Center. Montaner also currently sits on the editorial board of Journal of Leukocyte Biology and has served as a reviewer for many other publications, including AIDS, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Immunology, Journal of Virology, Nature Immunology, Nature Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Vaccine, and Virology. He has been a research grant reviewer for the Wellcome Trust and other organizations.
Michael Betts, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania