Integrative Approaches to the Immunotherapy
of Cancer and Infectious Diseases

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the VGTI Florida
Symposium Program



Topic & Speakers Summaries

This world-class scientific research proceeding has attracted an esteemed group of internationally acclaimed research and clinical experts in topics ranging from systems biology and immunotherapy of cancer to viral pathogenesis and immunology of HIV. These key opinion leaders, together with the world-class VGTI Florida® research team will deliver the highest level of scientific clarity in these important topics such as an up-to-date review of the progress in basic, translational, and clinical research in the areas of cancer, immune modulation, and infectious diseases. Together these renowned scientists, under the palm trees of sunny Port St. Lucie, will demonstrate how VGTI Florida is living up to their mission of  “Translating Research Into Health®.”

Below we provide a brief overview of the remarkable careers and discoveries of the visiting scientist speakers, as we look forward to their presentations at the VGTI Florida Symposium.  

Systems Biology
Our opening keynote speaker is Dr. Alan Aderem, an expert in systems biology approaches to the study of the human immune response, who has studied the interface between the innate and adaptive immune system for more than 25 years. He is currently President of Seattle BioMed, and previously Professor of Immunology and Medicine at the University of Washington. Dr. Aderem integrates the tools of systems biology with the global infectious diseases research under study at Seattle BioMed.

Dr. Sumit Chanda is an Associate Professor at the Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in San Diego. Dr. Chanda also holds an Adjunct Professor appointment at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Dr. Chanda’s areas of research focus are systems-based analyses of infectious and autoimmune diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Pandemic Influenza, and System Lupus Erythematosus.

Also included in our guest Faculty is Dr. Shannon McWeeney, a faculty member in the Division of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). She is the Director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Bioinformatics Shared Resource and the OCTRI Translational Bioinformatics Program. The focus of her research is the development and application of statistical and computational methodologies for functional genomics data such as gene expression (microarray and RNA-seq), chIP-Seq and proteomics. Applications of this work have included such complex traits as diabetes, cancer and alcoholism. There is also a strong interest in her group in network inference, particularly for applications in cancer and infectious disease.

HIV-1 Immunopathogenesis
In field of HIV-1 Immunology, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Susan Moir, an Associate Scientist in the Laboratory Immunoregulation at NIAID, and Head of the B Cell HIV Unit in its Immunopathogenesis Section. She has been lead investigator on the Role of B cells in the Pathogenesis of HIV disease in the laboratory of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci. Their work has focused on the dysregulation of B cells in HIV-infected individuals at various stages of disease, with an emphasis on pathogenic mechanisms associated with ongoing viral replication and the effects of early and delayed antiretroviral therapy. Mechanisms of HIV-induced B-cell pathogenesis investigated by Dr. Moir’s group include B-cell apoptosis, exhaustion and terminal differentiation, as well as the impact of these defects on B-cell responses against HIV and other pathogens.

Another internationally acclaimed HIV-1 clinician-scientist is Dr. Steven Deeks, MD Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, who has been engaged in HIV research and clinical care since 1993. He is a recognized expert on the role of chronic inflammation in untreated and treated HIV disease. His work currently focuses on determining the cause and consequences of HIV-associated inflammation and has several linked objectives, including: characterizing the impact of persistent inflammation during antiretroviral therapy on end-organ disease and function; determining the mechanisms which contribute to persistent inflammation during therapy; determining the impact of inflammation and immune dysfunction on HIV persistence during effective therapy; and developing novel therapeutic interventions to reduce chronic inflammation and/or the size of the latent reservoir. Dr. Deeks is the recipient of several NIH grants and is a principal investigator of DARE, an international NIH-sponsored collaboration aimed at developing therapeutic interventions to cure HIV infection. In addition to his clinical and translational investigation, Dr. Deeks maintains a primary care clinic for HIV infected patients.

Among the world’s leading HIV researchers joining our Symposium is Dr. Michael Lederman, Professor of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Lederman is a clinician scientist who has been engaged in HIV/AIDS research since he and Dr. Oscar Ratnoff first described and characterized the occurrence of AIDS-related immune deficiency in otherwise healthy men with hemophilia in 1983. Dr. Lederman received his M.D. from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York. In 1985, Dr. Lederman established the Special Immunology Unit at University Hospitals of Cleveland that was the first dedicated HIV clinic in Northeast Ohio. In 1987, he established the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at Case/University Hospitals and within the national network of these units, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), he directs the network of Immunology Service Laboratories that provides immunologic monitoring of national HIV treatment trials.

Dr. Mario Stevenson is Professor of Medicine, and Chief of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Miami. Dr. Stevenson is a molecular virologist who earned his Ph.D. degree at Glasgow University. He has been working on the viral etiology of AIDS for over 25 years and has provided fundamental insight into the mechanisms regulating HIV replication and disease pathogenesis. Dr. Stevenson served as Chair of the HIV AIDS Virology Study Section, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the National AIDS Conference (CROI), and he has served on the NIH Office of AIDS Research that sets AIDS research directives. He is currently Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board and a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and a scientific board member of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Dr. David Watkins and his laboratory at the University of Miami are focused on the development of vaccines for viruses that affect millions of people worldwide, particularly HIV and dengue fever. He is Professor and Vice Chair of the Dept. of Pathology at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami. With approximately 30 million people living with HIV and 400 million people infected with Dengue, effective vaccines against these two viruses are among the world’s top public health priorities. Dr. Watkins received his Ph.D. in Immunology at the University of Rochester in New York. He joined the Harvard Medical School Faculty in 1989 and in 1992, he moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There he started a program using the rhesus monkey to study simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection as an animal model to understand HIV-infected humans. Dr. Watkins currently uses animal models to study how some rare HIV-infected humans control replication of HIV, a finding that may provide insight into mechanisms for controlling the infection.

Viral Pathogenesis and Vaccine Development
We are pleased to welcome Dr. Annie De Groot, Professor and Director, Institute for Immunology and Informatics, University of Rhode Island, an international expert in infectious disease, vaccine design and immunoinformatics, a new branch of bioinformatics. Dr. De Groot trained at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, New England Medical Center, and NIH. Dr. De Groot was recently awarded the Smith Medal for her dedication to making vaccines for emerging infectious disease more efficiently, more efficacious, and more easily available to global populations.

Dr. Michael Diamond, Professor of Medicine, Molecular Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology at Washington University of St. Louis, is a world-leader in research on the interface between viral pathogenesis and the host immune response. Dr. Diamond is also Co-Director of the Midwest Regional Center for Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease Research. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, and completed his postdoctoral and clinical training in infectious diseases and virology from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Diamond’s laboratory is studying the mechanisms by which viruses cause direct injury to specific target cell types, and how the host responds to limit viral replication. More recently, his group has studied how novel effector molecules of the innate immune response restrict infection by multiple families of pathogenic human viruses, including Dengue, West Nile Virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Chikungunya, and hepatitis C viruses.

Dr. Michael Farzan is currently a Professor of Infectious Diseases at Scripps Research Institute Florida. Dr. Farzan received his Ph.D. in Immunology from Harvard Medical School (HMS). He was appointed Assistant Professor in the HMS in 2002 and worked his way through the ranks to Professor of Microbiology and Immunobiology in 2012. Dr. Farzan’s key observations include discovery of CCR5 sulfotyrosines, demonstration that these sulfotyrosines mediate association of CCR5 with the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein, demonstration that the antigen-combining regions of HIV-1 neutralizing antibodies also incorporate functionally important sulfotyrosines, identification of the obligate receptors for the SARS coronavirus and for New World hemorrhagic fever arenaviruses, and discovery of a family of restriction factors - the IFITM family - critical to the innate immune control of influenza A virus. His current research goals include understanding the range and mechanism of IFITM-mediated restriction of viral entry, and exploring the ability of cocktails of neutralizing antibodies, delivered by adeno-associated virus, to control an ongoing HIV-1 infection.

Dr. Janko Nikolich-Zugich, Professor and Head, Dept. of Immunobiology, University of Arizona, received his M.D., MSc and Ph.D. in Immunology from Belgrade University Medical School. In 1990, he joined the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York as the Head of both the Flow Cytometry Core Facility and the Laboratory of T Cell Development. He served as Assistant and Associate Professor at Cornell University School of Medicine. In 2001, Dr. Nikolich-Zugich assumed the position of Senior Scientist at the VGTI-Oregon, along with joint appointments in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. In 2008, Dr. Nikolich-Zugich moved to the University of Arizona to lead the Department of Immunobiology and the Arizona Center on Aging. His current interests include immunity to infection in older adults, vaccines and biomarkers of declining immunity in the elderly, immune rejuvenation, immune monitoring in chronic conditions of aging and the impact of inflammation and nutritional intervention in aging, immunity and metabolic disorders.

Cancer Immunotherapy
The field of cancer immunotherapy is one of the most exciting, rapidly moving areas of pre-clinical and clinical Research. Dr. Tom Gajewski, Professor of Pathology and Medicine, University of Chicago, conducts basic immunology laboratory research, oversees the melanoma oncology clinic, and is leader of the Immunology and Cancer Program at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he also directs the Human Immunologic Monitoring core facility. Dr. Gajewski received his M.D. and his Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Chicago. Dr. Gajewski’s research interests include the molecular and cellular regulation of T lymphocyte activation and differentiation, preclinical studies of anti-tumor immunity, and clinical trial efforts to understand the tumor-host interaction and to promote immune-mediated tumor control in patients.

Dr. Grant McFadden is Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Florida Gainesville. Dr. McFadden’s specific scientific expertise is in the field of viral immune evasion by poxviruses and how this relates to virus-host tropism. He has pioneered the field of viral immunomodulation, and is credited with the discovery of a wide variety of viral inhibitors of the immune system, including a variety of virus-encoded modulators of extracellular pathways. He is currently developing oncolytic virotherapy for the treatment of various cancers, using his vast experience with poxvirus and viral immunology. Prior to relocating to the University of Florida from Canada in 2006, Dr. McFadden held a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology and was also a recipient of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Scholarship. He is co-founder of Viron Therapeutics, Inc., which develops the use of viral proteins for therapeutic purposes against systemic inflammatory diseases,

Dr. Michel Sadelain is Director of the Center for Cell Engineering and clinical oncologist from Memorial Sloan Cancer Center in New York. He is also Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. Dr. Sadelain earned his medical degree from the University of Paris, France, and his doctorate in Immunology from the University of Alberta, Canada. Dr. Sadelain investigates T lymphocytes, hematopoietic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells for their potential use in cell-based therapies to treat cancer and genetic disorders. His laboratory pioneered different strategies to target T lymphocytes to tumor cells and augment their anti-tumoral activity by reprogramming their antigen specificity and costimulatory support. His group was the first to demonstrate the feasibility of treating beta-thalassemia by transferring the human beta-globin gene in bone marrow stem cells of thalassemic mice, paving the way for clinical trials aiming to cure severe globin disorders with genetically engineered hematopoietic stem cells. Dr. Sadelain’s recent work explores the therapeutic potential of induced pluripotent stem cells, in particular the identification of genomic "safe harbors," for safe and effective genetic engineering.