Jones Seminar: Advancing Cancer Immunotherapy One Cell at a Time

Navin Varadarajan, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Houston

Friday, January 23, 2015, 3:30pm (watch live)

Spanos Auditorium, Cummings Hall

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

Tumors are a complex mixture of tumor and host cells that have acquired the ability to proliferate and overcome programmed cell death, suppress the host immune response, and induce growth of blood vessels to sustain growth and promote metastasis. The significance of the immune system in eliminating/suppressing the malignant cells, and the ability of tumor cells and the surrounding host cells to co-opt mechanisms of immunosuppresion to enable survival is well documented. The objective of immunotherapy is to harness this specific immune response to not only enable an immediate and potent anti-tumor response but also provide lasting immunity, through the establishment of memory. Indeed, immunotherapy infusing antibodies, vaccines, and cells has emerged as a very effective approach for the treatment of human malignancies including ones refractory to conventional treatment regimens. Clinical trials have revealed the advantages of many immune-based therapies, including defined mechanisms of action, reduced deleterious off-target effects, and lower toxicities than conventional approaches. Immune-based therapies, such as allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) and monoclonal antibodies are now considered the standard-of-care for many malignancies. The engineering of either antibodies that aim to modulate the immune-system, or genetically modified immune cells, has enabled new challenges in the design and manufacture of these products, and in determining potency. I will discuss single-cell technology platforms and molecular engineering approaches that we have developed to address these problems, and how these are being implemented to improve the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.

About the Speaker

Navin Varadarajan

Professor Navin Varadarajan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Houston. He holds a Bachelor Degree from University of Madras in India, a Master's Degree from Indian Institute of Science, and a PhD from University of Texas. He has several professional memberships, several awards including research and teaching, and many publications. Professor Varadarajan's training is in the fields of chemistry, molecular biology, immunology and chemical engineering. The overall goal of his research group is to facilitate the clinical translation of human immunotherapies/vaccines, right from the discovery of novel cytotoxic antibodies to the evaluation of single-cell functionality in adoptive cell therapy, by employing custom high-throughput nanowell assays.

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