Science Market Update

WashU Receives $10M for Research on Immune-Based Therapies

Posted by Emily Olson on Wed, Nov 02, 2016

The $10 million gift from Andrew M. and Jane M. Bursky will advance cutting-edge research at the newly named Andrew M. and Jane M. Bursky Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs. Research at the center focuses on harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, infectious diseases, and autoimmune disorders.

According to a news release from the University of Washington, the center’s director, Robert Schreiber, has been instrumental in helping distinguish the roles that the immune system can play in cancer. 

Fifteen years ago, Schreiber and his collaborators introduced the three-phase concept of cancer immunoediting. Cancer immunoediting is the process in which the immunogenicity, or ability to provoke an immune response, of tumors changes to create immune-resistant variants. In other words, when some tumors are attacked by the immune system, surviving cells are able to adapt in a way that lets them evade future immune system attacks. This process occurs in three main phases: eliminaton, equilibrium, and escape.

Elimination phase

During the elimination phase, immune effector cells recognize and eliminate tumor cells (left). However, tumor cells which are less immunogenic are able to escape (right).

(Image is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

New cancer immune therapies focus on trying to retrain the immune system to once again attack these evasive cancer cells that have escaped. Schreiber and his colleagues have been pioneering a new genomics approach to identify unique mutant proteins in a patient’s tumor that can be used to target the cancer cells for immune destruction. This approach has formed the basis for translational programs to test personalized vaccines in patients with certain types of cancer.

“We are honored that Andrew and Jane Bursky have chosen to support human immunology research at Washington University through their generous gift,” Schreiber said. “With the strength of the immunotherapy programs at the School of Medicine combined with the sequencing power of the McDonnell Genome Institute, this new gift will help jumpstart major research initiatives in understanding and developing new immune-based therapeutics for a broad array of diseases.” 

In addition to cancer research, other research projects at the center are focused on studying emerging infectious diseases, such as Zika, Ebola, West Nile and Chikungunya viruses.

One major approach supported by the new research funding is the expansion of an ongoing effort to preserve blood and tissue from diseased patients. Researchers will be able to access blood and tissue samples before, during and after treatment so that they can study patients' natural immune response and how it might respond to different medical treatments. This could prove to be a valuable resource, as it would help physicians understand why some forms of immune therapy are effective in some patients but not in others.

On March 31st, 2017, Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. will host the 18th annual BioResearch Product Faire™ at Washington University in St. Louis. 


Life science professionals are invited to attend the upcoming trade fair to learn about how new lab tools and techniques can speed up the research process. To to attend the on campus trade fair, pre-register by clicking on the button below. 

Researchers: Attend  St. Louis Event

This event gives laboratory product and chemical supply companies the opportunity to meet face to face with hundreds of active life science researchers and discuss their equipment needs. It is a great opportunity for lab suppliers to display and demonstrate their latest products and increase scientific sales in 2017. To reserve a space at the upcoming event, or to learn more, call us at 530-272-6675 or visit the link below.

Learn More About St. Louis Event

Tags: Washington University, Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis, new research funding, cancer research, infectious diseases, Immune System, MO, Midwest Region, immune system research, Washington Univsersity St. Louis, cancer therapy

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