Skip to main content

The Wistar Institute Recruits Vaccine Researcher Amelia Escolano, Ph.D., and Immunologist Nan Zhang, Ph.D., as Assistant Professors

PHILADELPHIA — (Sept. 1, 2021) — The Wistar Institute, an international biomedical research leader in cancer, immunology and infectious diseases, welcomes Amelia Escolano, Ph.D., and Nan Zhang, Ph.D., as assistant professors.

Escolano’s research focuses on the development of novel vaccine approaches against highly mutating viruses. She will join the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center.

“My laboratory will investigate the immune responses elicited by a new form of vaccination that involves sequential immunization. Our goal will be to identify guidelines for the design of efficacious vaccines that induce broad protection for prolonged periods of time,” said Escolano. “I also plan to establish collaborations with members of Wistar’s Cancer Center in order to explore the use of our sequential vaccination approaches against cancer-related viruses and tumor neoantigens.”

Zhang, who joins the Immunology, Microenvironment and Metastasis Program of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center, studies the role of a group of white blood cells known as macrophages during ovarian cancer metastasis in the abdominal cavity.

“Because of recent developments in macrophage research, these cells are known to be highly plastic and heterogenous, meaning that depending on their surrounding environment they can either promote or suppress tumor growth and form different subgroups that are very difficult to identify and to target pharmaceutically,” said Zhang. “My lab will use cutting-edge technologies to better understand the functional differences among these macrophage subgroups and eventually find a treatment plan for this devastating disease.”

“We are delighted to be able to recruit top talent to our scientific community,” said Dario Altieri, M.D., Wistar president and CEO, director of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center and the Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. “Nan and Amelia have outstanding research records in finding answers to some of the most pressing and timely questions in cancer and HIV, and have done so using cutting-edge models and technologies. We can’t wait to witness their potential unfold and to see what new research frontiers they will conquer.”

“I’m excited to join an institution with such an important history of contributions to the vaccine design field and where my research can synergize with that of other outstanding members of the Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center,” said Escolano. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to develop my own scientific ideas and create a community of researchers around them. It is my goal to transmit my passion for science to the new generations and train a solid group of researchers who will significantly influence scientific progress.”

“I have always admired the collaborative, world-class research environment at Wistar, particularly in cancer biology and immunology, and thought the Institute would be a perfect fit for me given my mutual research interests with other investigators,” Zhang said. “I feel like I’m about to embark on some of the most thrilling adventures one could ever have — making new discoveries that can potentially save people’s lives and mentoring next-generation scientists.”

Escolano earned her B.S. from the University of Oviedo, Spain, and University of Turku, Finland, and a master’s degree from Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa, Madrid, and Genome Research Institute (GRI), Cincinnati, Ohio. She obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Spanish Center for Cardiovascular Research, Madrid, and Autonoma University, Madrid, and completed her postdoctoral training at The Rockefeller University, New York.

Zhang received his B.S. in microbiology and immunology from Shandong University, China, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He completed his postdoctoral training in the Department of Pathology and Immunology of Washington University School of Medicine.


The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the United States, Wistar has held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute since 1972. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible.

For press inquiries or more information please contact