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Thought Leaders on Gene Editing, Cancer Immunotherapy and Vaccines Convene at Drexel’s National Symposium

December 06, 2022

How can scientists develop new ways to change our immune systems to treat disease and help the body heal from injury? National leaders in the rapidly growing field of immune engineering pursuing these answers will gather at Drexel University for the 4th Annual Immune Modulation and Engineering Symposium, hosted by Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems.


Now in its fourth year, the nation’s only conference on translational immunology and engineering, will be held from Dec. 7-9 at the Study Hotel in University City. It will showcase the latest research in biomedical engineering and basic and translational immunology.


The symposium was established at Drexel in 2019 by Biomed Professor Kara Spiller, PhD, a leading researcher studying the immune system’s interaction with bone and tissue scaffolding to facilitate injury and wound healing. Spiller co-hosted the inaugural event with her colleagues Chris Rodell, PhD, Yinghui Zhong, PhD, Michele Kutzler, PhD, from the College of Medicine. The idea for the national gathering stemmed from monthly gatherings between Drexel Biomed and College of Medicine researchers to discuss collaborating on immune modulation research.


Those meetings led to the first recognized symposium for immune modulation and engineering researchers, a one-day in-person event led primarily by researchers from Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; College of Medicine and College of Engineering. The gathering has grown steadily each year with more researchers and industry experts joining the symposium to present their work and learn from colleagues in the field.


“An immune-centric approach to human health and disease has opened the door to a growing number of therapeutic targets, ranging from specific disease states (e.g., viral infection, cancer, or cardiovascular disease) to pleiotropic effectors of the immune response (e.g., specific cell types, common biomolecular pathways). New insights gained from basic science have also paved the way for a rapidly growing toolbox of methods to study and manipulate the immune response,” Spiller and Rodell recently wrote in an editorial about the potential for immune engineering in the journal Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews.


This year’s symposium – focused on that growing toolbox of research methods — is a three-day hybrid event that will welcome more than 200 researchers to University City, which has become a destination for life sciences researchers in recent years, with several hundred more joining virtually from around the world. In addition to Spiller, Rodell and Zhong, organizers of the 2022 symposium include Michele Kutzler, PhD, and Peter Gaskill, PhD, from the College of Medicine, and Hao Cheng, PhD, from the College of Engineering.


Speakers and attendees represent leaders in the burgeoning field, each with expertise in collaboration across disciplines to generate innovative ways to treat disease and injury using the body’s immune system. Lola Eniola-Adefeso, PhD, a professor and associate dean at the University of Michigan, will serve as the keynote speaker, presenting on “Diverse Perspectives in Immune Engineering” at the event-opening reception. Winners of an abstract competition will also be recognized at the reception.


The symposium will feature panel presentations, a poster session, and opportunities for researchers to share and collaborate on the latest research in regenerative medicine, infectious diseases, vaccines, nanomedicine, cancer immunotherapies, and immune engineering in cell and gene therapy.

Thursday’s panels on regenerative medicine will include talks from Spiller, on “Immunomodulatory biomaterials for regenerative medicine” and Kam Leong, PhD, a professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University on “Cationic drug carriers as immunomodulating biomaterials.”


Additional panels on Thursday will discuss infectious disease, vaccines and nanomedicine, including talks from Michael Nonnemacher, PhD, a professor in the College of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology on the “Role of HIV genetic variation in pathogenesis and cure strategies” and Yizhou Dong, PhD, of Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai on “Lipid nanoparticles for mRNA therapeutics, cancer immunotherapy, and cell therapy.”


Diversity travel scholarships and free student virtual registrations were made available for the symposium thanks to support from the National Institutes of Health, the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; Drexel’s Office of Research and Innovation; the College of Medicine; the College of Engineering; the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership Program; Integra Foundation; Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

More information on the event, including registration and full schedule, are available at: