When the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) launched its latest grant program, we sought to empower scientists who are pursuing disruptive avenues of research. The CRI Lloyd J. Old STARs—Scientists Taking Risks—recognize opportunities that are both high-risk and high-reward, potentially allowing for leaps forward in immunology and cures for cancer. They are the future leaders of the cancer immunotherapy field.
Unsurprisingly, during a global pandemic, our STARs have demonstrated their leadership capabilities with various contributions to combat COVID-19 in addition to their work on cancer in pursuit of a safer, healthier future.
Early in the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests were developed and distributed rapidly. CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR Alexander Marson, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), was part of a project involving 50 scientists who sought to verify that the antibody tests currently on the market can deliver accurate results. They found that many of the tests were flawed. While these faulty tests complicate public health plans for control the spread of the virus, the data has helped guide use in the biomedical community and allowed officials to adapt and develop alternative strategies accordingly. The study is published in Nature Biotechnology.
CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR Joshua Brody, M.D., is a medical oncologist and was among the emergency medical personnel at Mount Sinai helping take care of COVID patients in New York City. Given his pioneering work with in situ cancer vaccines, he is also contributing expertise in discussions surrounding COVID treatments at the Immunology Institute of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Miriam Merad, M.D., Ph.D.; Sacha Gnjatic, Ph.D.; Brian D. Brown, Ph.D.; Joshua D. Brody, M.D. of the Icahn School of Medicine. Photo courtesy of Brian Brown
Another medical professional called to aid in the crisis was CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR Gavin Peter Dunn, M.D., Ph.D., a neurosurgeon at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who was deployed by the Naval Reserve in this national emergency.
CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR Yvonne Chen, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), volunteered her lab’s services to the UCLA hospital system in the event that there is anything, such as PCR-based testing, with which they can assist.
Finally, CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR Andrea Schietinger, Ph.D., is one of the hosts of “MSK Science Spotlight,” an online lecture series. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center launched the series in response to the pandemic, which prevented in-person lectures and magnified the importance of bringing cutting-edge science to people around the world.
We thank these scientific leaders for their work fighting both cancer and COVID-19.
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