Justin Eyquem

Justin Eyquem, PhD, an affiliate investigator at Gladstone Institutes and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at UC San Francisco, is one of five early-career scientists selected as a 2024 Pew-Stewart Scholar for Cancer Research.

Eyquem will receive a four-year grant to pursue questions related to cell therapies for cancer, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust announced.

“Despite decades of groundbreaking research and innovative breakthroughs, millions of Americans are still all too familiar with the devastation and uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis,” Donna Frisby-Greenwood, senior vice president for scientific advancement at the Pew Charitable Trusts, says in a statement. “Scientists have so much more to learn about the complexities of cancer, and Pew hopes this standout group of cancer researchers will help move us even closer to finding cures.”

Eyquem is a bioengineer who has been refining a sophisticated cancer treatment called CAR-T therapy, in which a patient’s own immune cells are re-engineered to attack the tumor. While these treatments can be highly successful, “living” drugs are also difficult to make and prohibitively expensive.

The process involves isolating immune cells from patients’ blood and reprogramming them with gene editing, which must be done in a sterile facility. The cells are only put back in after patients have undergone chemotherapy to suppress their immune systems.

Eyquem wants to skip over these steps with technologies that can edit immune cells directly within a person’s body. This innovation could eliminate costly steps in the production of the cells and spare patients from needing chemotherapy. Eyquem hopes this will make CAR-T cell therapy dramatically cheaper, faster, and more accessible. The method could also be applied to noncancer indications such as infectious disease and autoimmune and genetic disorders.

Eyquem is part of a small cohort of Pew-Stewart scholars who will meet throughout the four-year fellowship to share their work and hopefully inspire new ideas.

“It’s going to introduce me to a community of very creative thinkers and people that are at the forefront of this field,” he says. “This is the kind of network that really helps move these discoveries from the lab into the clinic.”

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Kelly Quigley
Director, Science Communications and Media Relations

About Gladstone Institutes

Gladstone Institutes is an independent, nonprofit life science research organization that uses visionary science and technology to overcome disease. Established in 1979, it is located in the epicenter of biomedical and technological innovation, in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco. Gladstone has created a research model that disrupts how science is done, funds big ideas, and attracts the brightest minds.

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