PHILADELPHIA – E. John Wherry, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, director of the Institute for Immunology, and co-director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded the 2016 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute (CRI).

E. John Wherry, PhD

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Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

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The award honors an outstanding former CRI-Irvington postdoctoral fellow and is named after former fellow Frederick W. Alt, MD, a professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. The fellowship, established in 1971, is CRI’s longest-standing program. Fellowships provide support to fund and train young immunologists around the world. Wherry was a CRI-Irvington postdoctoral fellow from 2000 to 2003 at Emory University.

Wherry’s discoveries include insights into how changes in gene expression affect T cell exhaustion, which is a loss of immune function that occurs as a result of chronic viral infection and cancer. Normally, during a short-term infection, such as the flu, immune cells handily eliminate the offending pathogen. But in the long-term, chronic infections such as hepatitis C, HIV, and malaria, and also in cancer, T cells and the opposing pathogen or malignancy engage in a continuous struggle, and over time the T cells become “exhausted,” giving cancer or the pathogen the edge.

Several current immunotherapies for human cancer work in part by reversing T cell exhaustion.

Wherry received his bachelor’s degree in science from the Pennsylvania State University in 1993 and his doctorate in immunology from Thomas Jefferson University in 2000. He has been recognized as one of the most frequently cited researchers in his field by Thomson/ISI and named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian magazine (2007). He serves on many scientific advisory panels and editorial boards, including the Journal of Experimental Medicine, PLoS Pathogens, Cancer Immunology Research, the Journal of Immunology, and the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

The Cancer Research Institute, which was established in 1953, supports immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and eventually cure all cancers. An award ceremony, which will include other award presentations, will take place at the Cancer Research Institute’s 30th Annual Awards Dinner on September 27, 2016 in New York City.

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