Carl June, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Perelman School of Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies (CCI) at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center, has been named a winner of the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for the development of CAR T cell immunotherapy, a revolutionary cancer treatment in which a person’s T cells are modified to fight several types of blood cancer [“The T Cell Warriors,” Mar|Apr 2015].
An internationally recognized immunologist and oncologist, June came to Penn in 1999 and has built the University into a global hub for cell and gene therapy. Since the first clinical trial of CAR T cell therapy in 2010 from gene-modified T cells engineered in June’s lab, the field has grown exponentially with hundreds of clinical trials now in progress worldwide. Some of the earliest patients treated have experienced long-lasting remissions of 10 years or more and FDA approvals have made the therapy commercially available to patients across the world.
June’s lab and the CCI team have also developed new strategies to make CAR T cell therapy more effective for all blood cancers, solid tumors, and diseases beyond cancer.
“We are immensely proud to have Dr. June as a member of the Penn academic community,” Penn President Liz Magill said in a statement, “and we know that CAR T cell therapy is just the first chapter in an inspiring and lifesaving new era of medicine.”
Founded in 2012, the Breakthrough Prizes are given to standout individuals in life sciences, mathematics, and fundamental physics. June and the other recipients of the award receive $3 million in prize money and will be celebrated at a ceremony in Los Angeles in April.