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University of Pennsylvania Pledges $5 Million to Company Cofounded by Staff Member

It is not common for Penn Medicine – which includes the University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Perelman School of Medicine – to make monetary investments in companies founded by one of its own faculty members. In fact, it has never happened before until now; Penn Medicine recently pledged $5 million to Tmunity Therapies Inc., a Pennsylvania-based company. The company was cofounded by Carl June, a leader of immunotherapy trial at Penn for more than 20 years. Tmunity Therapies Inc. will be used to build on immunotherapy research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania – Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, according to a recent article published in Philly.com.

Immunotherapy Research

Immunotherapy is a mouthful, and most people do not know what the medical term means, nor how important research in the field may be for disease treatment and prevention. Immunotherapy refers to treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight disease, including diseases such as cancer. While research regarding immunotherapy is still growing, current methods rely on stimulating the body’s own immune system. There are multiple types of immunotherapy, which range from stimulating the cells of the immune system using cytokine injections to stimulating the production of bone marrow cells. Research on immunotherapies may one day be the key behind treatment for the most serious of diseases.

Groundbreaking Research at Tmunity Therapies Inc.

According to an article in Bizjournals, the $5 million from Penn Medicine (combined with another $5 million from Lilly Asia Ventures) will be used by Tmunity Therapies Inc. to develop new products that unleash the potential of T cells. T cells are white blood cells that kill viruses and diseases found within the body. By maximizing the potential of these cells, the combat of multiple diseases may be possible.

The Best Minds in Medicine

Those who will be working on the research at Tmunity Therapies Inc. include some of the best minds in medicine. In addition to June, who is currently the director of Translational Research in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center as well as a cancer and HIV expert, others on the team include:

  • Ann Chew, the executive deputy director of Penn’s Center for Cellular Immunotherapies;
  • Bruce Levine, director of Penn’s Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility;
  • James L. Riley, associate professor of microbiology and expert on adoptive T-cell therapies;
  • Yangbing Zhao, director of the T-cell Engineering Laboratory; and
  • Bruce Blazar, the Regent’s professor of pediatrics, director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institutes, and the Children’s Cancer Research Fund Land Grant Chair in Pediatric Oncology.

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