Professor Carl June
Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
University of Pennsylvania
Carl H. June is the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy ,Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies and Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Background – Dr. June is a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, 1979. He had graduate training in Immunology and malaria with Dr. Paul-Henri Lambert at the World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland from 1978-79, and post-doctoral training in transplantation biology with Dr. E. Donnell Thomas at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle from 1983-1986. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology. He founded the Immune Cell Biology Program and was head of the Department of Immunology at the Naval Medical Research Institute from 1990 to 1995. He rose to Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Cell and Molecular Biology at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland before assuming his current position at the University of Pennsylvania as of February 1, 1999.
Research – Dr. June’s pioneering work is being widely recognized as a major turning point that is delivering on the long-held promise of cancer gene therapy. Carl June has made paradigm-shifting contributions to the field of cellular immunology, with potentially field-changing implications for the clinical treatment of advanced leukemia and by extension, other cancers. In basic science studies, June’s laboratory discovered the CD28 pathway that controls T cell growth, and in later translational studies, his laboratory developed robust T cell culture systems that permit the growth of central memory T cells. He has since applied these culture systems to develop groundbreaking cell-based approaches for immunotherapy of cancer and HIV infection, with unprecedented results.
Called chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR T cells), these modified immune cells have proven effective at eliminating cancer in some patients, and offer great hope for this emerging strategy in cancer immunotherapy. This groundbreaking work is credited as the first successful and sustained demonstration of the use of gene transfer therapy to turn the body’s own immune cells into weapons aimed at cancerous tumors, and is considered a landmark breakthrough in treating blood cancers that have stopped responding to conventional therapies.
Results from the first trial testing CARs for cancer were reported in 2011 in three patients with advanced leukemia. The results were striking and indicate for the first time that CAR T cells are the first successful application of the principles of synthetic biology to humans. They have since treated more than 100 patients with advanced leukemia in adults and children with similar success. Perhaps most informative is that each year, Science magazine announces the top 10 breakthroughs in all fields of science and engineering and in 2013, “Cancer Immunotherapy” was selected as the #1 breakthrough. Additionally, CART19, invented in the June laboratory, was recently designated as a “Breakthrough Therapy” by the FDA, based on a 92% remission rate in refractory leukemia. This is the first therapy ever developed entirely in an academic setting to receive “breakthrough designation” by the FDA. Engineered T cells developed in the June Laboratory are the first successful example of synthetic biology to enter clinical medicine and clinical trials, and are now being developed for widespread use by Novartis and many other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, indicating that his work is seminal in advancing biomedical research for the benefit of patients.
In 2014, June published groundbreaking work using genetically edited cells that was accomplished with zinc finger nucleases. The adoptive transfer of T cells with targeted gene deletion of the ccr5 gene locus was used to induce a state of acquired genetic resistance to HIV in patients with advanced HIV/AIDS infection. This is the first example in humans that targeted gene modification can be used to knock in a disease resistance gene.
Awards and Honors – Dr. June’s numerous awards include the 1997 Dexter Conrad Award (the Navy’s highest award for scientific achievement), 1997 Frank Brown Berry Prize in Federal Medicine, 2002 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Lifetime Achievement Award, 2005 Federal Laboratory Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer, 2006 election to American Association of Physicians, 2012 election to Institute of Medicine on the first the first attempt, 2012 Clinical Research Forum’s Top 10 Distinguished Clinical Research Achievement Award, 2012 Cancer Research Institute William B. Coley Prize, 2012 ASH Ernest Beutler Prize, 2013 Philadelphia Award, 2013 Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Richard V. Smalley Award, 2014 American Association of Immunologists Steinman Award for Human Immunology Research, 2014 AABB Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award, 2014 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translational Medical Science, 2014 Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence (Cell Therapy), election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014, 2015 Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Leadership Award from Pennsylvania BIO, 2015 American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation E. Donnall Thomas Prize, 2015 Clinical Research Forum Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award, 2015 AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, 2015 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, 2015 AAMC Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences, and the 2016 Clinical Research Forum Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award.