Immunotherapy for Infectious Diseases Conference


Dr. Arnaud Avril works as a project manager for the French ministry of defense. He has a PhD in biotechnology applied to antibodies from the Grenoble University. He works in the department “immunity and biotherapies for infectious diseases”, which developed prophylaxis, therapy, detection and diagnostic tools. He is the head of a team specialized in the research, development and engineering of recombinant antibodies against rare diseases for biodefense. He contributed to the development of several antibodies neutralizing botulinum neurotoxins, anthrax, ricin and orthopoxvirus. He also contributed to the development of immuno-diagnostic assays for the rapid, convenient and cheap detection of biological agents, for armed forces, first responders and medical staff. He is a member of the board for the clinical development of an antibody neutralizing anthrax.

Bret Sellman, PhD is a Director in the Microbial Sciences Department at MedImmune, LLC and has over 17 yrs of industry experience in vaccines and antibacterial research and development. He has worked at MedImmune for over 10 years where he has led various antibacterial monoclonal antibody programs from discovery thru IND and into clinical development. Prior to MedImmune he worked at Wyeth Vaccine Research for 7 years in early vaccine discovery. He earned his B.S. in microbiology from New Mexico State University and his PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center before completing his post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School studying bacterial toxin biochemistry.

Dr. Weiner is a Wistar Institute Professor & W.W. Smith Chair in Cancer Research, Director Vaccine Center & Executive Vice President of the Wistar Institute,

Professor Emeritus University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Dr. Weiner directs a translational research laboratory within the area of Molecular Immunology. His group is one of the pioneering research teams establishing the field of DNA Vaccines & Immune Therapies. His laboratories & collaborators accomplishments include the first clinical studies of DNA vaccines, clinically important advances in gene optimization and in DNA delivery. His group developed the first clinically efficacious DNA vaccine (HPV immune therapy) and has moved synthetic DNA MERS, HIV, Ebola and Zika vaccines through development into clinical studies. His laboratory published over 400 papers/chapters & reviews. Dr. Weiner received multiple awards/honors, including the NIH Director’s Translational Research Award (2011), W.W. Smith Family Chair in Cancer Research – 2016, Top 20 Translational Research Laboratories of the Year (Nature Biotechnology 2016 & 2017), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2011. Fellow of the International Society for Vaccines 2014, President International Society for Vaccines (2018-2020). Dr. Weiner has been an avid trainer and advisor for students and fellows and is highly committed to the development of young scientist’s careers.

Gary Kobinger obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Montreal in 1998 before completing a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. In March 2005, Gary was the Chief of the Special Pathogens Biosafety Level 4 program at the National Microbiology Laboratory where he worked for 11 years. He is now professor and the Director of the Infectious Disease Research Centre at the Université Laval and has an appointment of associate professor at the University of Manitoba and adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Gary was granted several awards including scientists of the year award from Radio Canada (CBC), the Order of Manitoba in 2016, the Meritorious Service Cross (civil division) of the Governor General of Canada also in 2016 and the Ernest C. Manning Principal Award in 2017. Gary co-authored around 200 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts, and gave numerous invited seminars in Universities, national and international funding agencies, departments of national defenses, the White House, Singapore NEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning research on high consequence pathogens and the development of new public health policies and recommendations.

In 2013-2017, 60 minutes, National Geographic, BBC Horizon, NOVA, France 2, PBS, CBC, RC and others featured the leading work on successful treatment of Ebola infection that was developed by Gary and his team and the VSV-based Ebola vaccine to which he also contributed to bring to clinical trials including a Phase III efficacy study in Guinea.

John McCafferty was one of the founders of Cambridge Antibody Technology (now Medimmune, Cambridge) in 1990 and published the first paper/patent describing antibody phage display. Work during this time included the discovery of the antibody which became Humira, the world's biggest selling drug.

After 12 years at CAT he returned to academia at the Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge. In 2012 John formed IONTAS, an innovative biotechnology company using phage display to develop novel antibody therapeutics. In this period John has developed a novel technology allowing the construction of very large mammalian display libraries permitting the direct discovery of high affinity antibodies with optimal biophysical properties. Finally John has led the development of a novel molecular fusion format wherein naturally occurring cysteine-rich peptides (eg venom derived blockers of Kv1.3 or ASIC1a channels) are inserted into peripheral CDR loops of an antibody while retaining the folding and function of both molecules.

Dr. Lynn Soong received her medical and MS training at Shanghai Medical College Fudan Univ. in China, and her PhD in immunoparasitology at the Univ. of Georgia in Athens. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow and research associate at Yale School of Medicine. In March 1998, she joined the Univ. of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) as an assistant professor. Currently, she is a professor and vice chair for research in the Dept. of Microbiology & Immunology, director for the Microbiology & Immunology Graduate Program, as well as director for the NIAID-funded T32 and T35 training programs at UTMB. Dr. Soong’s research is focused on host immunity and immunopathogenesis during infections with intracellular parasites and bacteria. Recently, her group has established lethal and sublethal Orientia tsutsugamushi infection models in mice, which mimic clinical/pathologic features of human scrub typhus. Using gene knockouts, immunological tools, and the state-of-art BSL3/ABSL3 facilities, her group has revealed, for the first time, molecular details underlying immune dysregulation and pathogenesis of severe scrub typhus, highlighting Th1-skewed, but Th2-impared, immune responses as the hallmark of lethal infection. Defining infection- versus immune-mediated dysregulation and prognostic biomarkers will help efficient control of scrub typhus, a neglected tropical disease.

Dr. Mireia Pelegrin was born in Barcelona and obtained her Veterinary degree in this city. She next did a PhD. at the Autonomous University of Barcelona focused on the development of transgenic mice as models of diabetes. In 1996, she moved to France for a post-doctoral training at the Institute of Molecular Genetics of Montpellier, in the laboratory of Marc Piechaczyk to work in the development of gene and cell therapy approaches for in vivo production of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, project that led to two international patents. In 2000, Dr. Pelegrin became Senior Researcher at the CNRS in the same institute. Since then, she has been a Project leader of a research program on antiviral immunotherapies. By using mouse models of persistent viral infections, her group has pioneered the proof-of-concept that antiviral antibodies can induce long-term protective immunity (vaccine-like effects). The current work aims at identifying the main mechanisms underlying such mAb-induced antiviral vaccine-like effects. Addressing these issues might have important implications for the improvement of immunotherapies based on antiviral mAbs.

Janice M. Reichert, Ph.D., is Executive Director of The Antibody Society, a non-profit business association representing individuals and organizations involved in antibody research or development. Dr. Reichert is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of mAbs, a peer-reviewed, PubMed-indexed biomedical journal that focuses on topics relevant to antibody research and development, and co-editor of the Handbook of Therapeutic Antibodies. She has published extensively on development trends for antibody therapeutics, and she has presented her research results as an invited speaker at conferences held worldwide. Dr. Reichert received her PhD in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania and did her post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School.

Michael studied biology at the Carl von Ossietzky Universität in Oldenburg, Germany, from 1993-1999. He received his PhD from the Leibniz Universität in Hannover, Germany, in 2002. Since end of 2002 he is working as group leader at the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany. In 2011, he finished his professorial dissertation (Habilitation, venia legendi for Biotechnology) and was appointed as Privatdozent (PD). In 2014 he was appointed as professor for biotechnology.

He published more than 120 articles and filed five patents in the field of antibody engineering and phage display He is working on the development of human and human-like antibodies for proteome research, diagnostics and therapy with a focus on pathogens and toxins. Another field of work is the identification of biomarkers of pathogens using ORFeome phage display. He co-founded two biotech companies, the mAb-Factory GmbH in 2007 and the YUMAB GmbH ( in 2012.

Dr. Dickey is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He has studied vesicle traffic since fellowship training more than thirty years ago, and for the past eighteen years his principal focus has been airway mucin secretion. His laboratory uses a mouse genetic approach, knocking out or overexpressing genes in airway secretory cells to study their function. This approach also allows the use of these genetically modified mice in models of pathologic challenge. Together, this provides fundamental insight into the mechanism of mucin secretion and how its dysregulation contributes to pathophysiology. He has also contributed to related work on inducible epithelial resistance to infection, promotion of lung carcinogenesis by inflammation, and modulation of inflammation by β2-agonists. As a clinician, Dr. Dickey focuses on diseases of the airways to promote the transfer of knowledge between laboratory and clinic. He has founded two biotechnology companies, Pulmotect and Exotect, to develop therapeutics to treat respiratory infections and muco-obstructive lung diseases, respectively.

Dr. Tong-Ming Fu obtained his medical doctor degree at Peking University Health Science Center, formerly Beijing Medical University, in China, and Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University, Hershey Medical Center. He is a member of the council of 100 of VACCINE editorial board, and an editorial member of npj Vaccines. He has co-authored more than 90 manuscripts in vaccine research.

During his 20 plus years at Merck, he initially worked on understanding antigen processing and presentation mechanisms following DNA vaccination, and viral vector or DNA vaccine modalities for eliciting T-cell responses as novel vaccines for targets such as pandemic flu and HIV-1. He established Merck internal capacity for quantitatively measuring T cell responses in humans and nonhuman primates which ultimately led to a Phase 2 evaluation of Merck Ad5 HIV-1 vaccines (the STEP study). He later worked on protection mechanisms for Merck influenza M2 peptide conjugate vaccines, and also initiated an internal mAb discovery program to develop PD-1 blockade antibodies for chronic viral infection and diseases. He started Merck CMV vaccine program in 2006 and led discovery and early clinical development of a novel candidate V160, which is currently in Phase 2 evaluation for prevention of CMV acquisition in women.

Victor Nizet is a Professor and Vice Chair for Basic Research and Chief of the Division of Host-Microbe Systems & Therapeutics at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), School of Medicine as well as Professor at UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. Dr. Nizet received his medical training at Stanford University School of Medicine, completed a Residency and Chief Residency in Pediatrics at Harvard University's Children's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and a Fellowship in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington's Children's Hospital in Seattle. Dr. Nizet leads a large basic and translational research laboratory focused on discovering virulence factors of invasive bacterial pathogens, elucidating mechanisms of host innate immunity, and novel approaches to infectious disease therapy. Dr. Nizet has authored over 400 peer-reviewed publications and has collaborated with several biotechnology interests in developing new antibiotic and immune-based therapies against drug-resistant pathogens. Dr. Nizet's work has been recognized by an AHA Established Investigator Award, ALA Career Investigator Award, AAF Senior Investigator Award, and the E. Mead Johnson Award for Research in Pediatrics. Dr. Nizet has been elected to the ASCI, AAP, and the American Academy of Microbiology. Details of his research program can be found on the lab website.

Wouter Hazenbos started his scientific career by studying interactions between bacteria and phagocytes, leading to a PhD at Leiden University (The Netherlands). Subsequently he specialized further in the field of immunology and inflammation as postdoc and later as immunologist at UCSF.

In 2007, he joined Genentech, which was a good opportunity to perform translational research in the field of infectious diseases. At Genentech, he has primarily been focusing on the biology of Staphylococcus aureus, including in vivo gene regulation and antibiotic resistance mechanisms.

Recently, he has been performing research on the antibody-antibiotic conjugate (AAC). His combined experience in infection and immunity provides a good match to this work. The AAC is a relatively new approach in the treatment of infectious diseases. While it was initially developed against S. aureus, this platform has potential applications to other organisms. The AAC concept will be the topic of his talk.

Luca Varani graduated in chemistry in Milan (Italy) and obtained a PhD at the prestigious MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge, UK) using molecular and structural biology to study RNA-protein interactions and their impact on gene expression. High caliber publications, culminated in the determination of the largest NMR structure available at the time, allowed him to move to Stanford with a “long term EMBO fellowship”, reserved to the best young molecular biologists in Europe. In California, Luca Varani completed the first magnetic resonance study on TCR/pMHC complexes.

Since 2007 he leads the Structural Biology group of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (Bellinzona, CH), investigating the interactions between pathogens and antibodies in rare and neglected diseases such as Dengue or Zika virus, Prion or rare form of Leukemias. The NMR approach developed at Stanford was pushed forward at the IRB, where experimentally guided computational simulations yield the atomic structure of antibody/pathogen complexes. The approach allowed rationally modifying an antibody increasing its ability to neutralize Dengue virus by 50 fold utilizing, for the first time, only computational tools. More recently, the strategy allowed designing a bispecific antibody that prevents Zika virus escape mechanisms. Recent high impact publications appeared in journals such as Cell, Science, Nat. Cell. Biol. and PNAS.

The group uses a highly multidisciplinary approach, varying from structure determination to cellular experiments, computational biology, biophysics, protein and antibody production and engineering, nanoparticles and confocal microscopy.

Dr. Sumathi Nambiar is Director of the Division of Anti-Infective Products, Office of Antimicrobial Products, since July 2013. Dr. Nambiar joined the Division of Anti-Infective Products in 2002. In her current role, Dr. Nambiar provides regulatory oversight for anti-infective products, including antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic drugs.

Dr. Nambiar is board-certified in pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases. She completed her pediatric residency at the Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, VA and her fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s National Medical Center, Washington DC. She received her MPH from The George Washington University School of Public Health.

Dr. Ann Leen is an Associate Professor in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine and an immunologist with over 15 years of experience in developing and testing novel T cell therapies for the treatment of cancer and viral infections in immunocompromised patients. She has characterized the immune response to a range of viruses that cause morbidity and mortality in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients and devised and clinically implemented immunotherapeutic strategies to treat patients with Adenovirus, BK virus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein Barr virus and Human Herpesvirus 6 infections. She serves as a principle investigator on numerous clinical trials performed under investigator-initiated Investigational New Drug (IND) applications and in 2013 was awarded an Outstanding New Investigator Award from the ASCGT for her work in developing novel cell therapies.

Dr. Qihui Wang has completed her Ph.D. training in the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2012. She was promoted to be Associate Professor in 2015 in Institute of Microbiology, CAS. In 2017, she won the scholarship supported by China Scholarship Council as a visiting scholar in University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She was honorably elected National Committee member of the 9th National Committee of Chinese Association for Science and Technology (CAST). She won Young Elite Scientists Sponsorship program by CAST (2015-2017) and is Principal Investigator for the State Key Research Development Program of China.

Her research focuses on 1) Interaction between viral ligands and host receptors, 2) Isolation of therapeutic mAbs targeting virus infection and tumor. Her previous work uncovered the entry mechanism and interspecies transmission of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). She set up a platform combining the isolating of antigen-specific memory B cells and sequencing the single cell. Applying this platform, she isolated several neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against Zika with high potency from a Zika patient. Her related work was published in reputed journals, including Nature, Cell Host & Microbe, Science Translational Medicine (Cover) and Journal of Virology.

Jeroen Pollet, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the Section of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston Texas and he is the Director of the Formulation Unit of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. Dr. Pollet received his Ph.D. in Biochemical Engineering from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium in 2010. In 2011, he came to the USA after being granted a Fulbright fellowship from the U.S. Department of State. Working at the University of Houston, Dr. Pollet developed innovative molecular diagnostics for tropical diseases. In 2012, he joined Baylor College of Medicine, where he has been involved in over a dozen vaccine projects and (co-)authored 35 peer-reviewed publications.

Dr. Zhiqiang An is Professor of Molecular Medicine, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry, and Director of the Texas Therapeutics Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. His laboratory focuses on cancer antibody drug resistance mechanisms, biomarkers for cancer therapeutic antibodies, and antibody drug discovery targeting cancer and infectious diseases. He also directs the Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibody Lead Optimization and Development Core Facility funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Previously, Dr. An served as Chief Scientific Officer at Epitomics, Inc. and was Director of Biologics Research at Merck Research Laboratories. He is a fellow of Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology and a fellow of the American Academy Microbiology. Dr. An is well published in the field of antibody drug discovery including the award-winning book “Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibodies: from Bench to Clinic”. He started his biotech career at Millennium Pharmaceuticals after receiving his Ph.D. degree from the University of Kentucky and his postdoctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Marcos Pires (Chemistry) earned a doctorate in chemistry at Purdue University, and a bachelor’s in chemistry at Ithaca College. Before joining Lehigh’s faculty, Pires was an NRSA post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on bacteriology and biochemistry, specifically, he works on immunotherapy and bacterial cell sensing and remodeling. He has presented his work widely and published in ACS Chemical Biology, Cell Chemical Biology, and ACS Infectious Diseases. His work has been highlighted by The Guardian, Smithonian, and various other news outlets.

Anna Honko received her doctorate in Microbiology and Immunology in 2005 from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, developing vaccine adjuvants for Yersinia pestis.

She continued her biodefense career at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), where she directed a program focused on the development of animal models for viral hemorrhagic fever pathogenesis, as well as the evaluation of potential vaccines and therapeutics in these models. These biocontainment level 4 (BSL4) agents include Ebola and Marburg viruses, Lassa fever virus, Junín virus, Machupo virus, and Nipah virus. Subsequently, as a staff scientist at NIAID’s Integrated Research Facility, Dr. Honko was the lead scientist for usage of radiotelemetry in animal models of high consequence pathogens and was responsible for establishing the standardized virus materials and nonhuman primate challenge model systems.

Dr. Honko has recently joined the Biodefense Research Section of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center, a team she’d collaborated with during her tenure as an investigator at USAMRIID. In addition to success with Ebola and Marburg vaccine development, the laboratory has recently discovered and characterized a human-derived monoclonal antibody for Ebola virus disease that is currently undergoing clinical trials.