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E. John Wherry, PhD

Dr. E. John Wherry is the Barbara and Richard Schiffrin President’s Distinguished Professor in the Department of Microbiology in the Perelman School of Medicine and Director of the UPenn Institute for Immunology.  Dr. Wherry received his Ph.D. at Thomas Jefferson University in 2000 then went on to do his postdoctoral research at Emory University where he trained with Dr. Rafi Ahmed from 2000-2004.  Dr. Wherry was appointed Assistant Professor in 2005 in the Immunology Program at The Wistar Institute and then joined the Department of Microbiology in the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine in 2010.  Throughout his faculty career, Dr. Wherry had a strong involvement in the Immunology Graduate Group (IGG) and the larger immunology community.  Dr. Wherry served as IGG Admissions Chair from 2006-2011 and then as the Chair of the Immunology Graduate Group from 2011-2013.   In October 2012, Dr. Wherry was appointed as Director of the Institute for Immunology (IFI), a Type-2 center at the University of Pennsylvania whose mission is to advance our knowledge of the basic immunology of inflammation, autoimmunity, cancer, transplantation and infection and to translate this new knowledge to novel strategies for diagnosis, prevention and therapeutic intervention.  


Dr. Wherry’s research has focused on pioneering work to define the cellular and molecular nature of Immune Exhaustion - or failure of normal immune system function – in chronic infection and cancer.  His work helped identify the role of the “checkpoint” molecule PD-1 and the ability to block this pathway and reinvigorate the immune function from exhausted T cells.  PD-1 is now the target of new anticancer drugs (Opdivo-BMS; Keytruda-Merck; Atezolizumab-Roche/Genentech). He also has identified novel combinations of immune treatments including being one of the first to demonstrate the efficacy of co-inhibitory receptor blockade, a concept that will likely be future mainstay of therapeutics for cancer and infections.  Other work from his laboratory focuses on epigenetics of immune cells, systems immunology approaches, vaccine responses and respiratory infections.

Dr. Wherry has received numerous distinctions for his consistent and significant contributions to infectious disease research.  In 2007, Dr. Wherry was selected as one of “America’s Young Innovators-37 under 36” by the Smithsonian magazine. In 2009, he was appointed a member of the Faculty of 1000 and has been named a Rising Star by Thomson/Reuters ISI in 2006 and a Thomson/Reuters ISI Highly Cited Research in, 2014 and 2016.  In 2014, Dr. Wherry received the distinguished Alumni Award from the Thomas Jefferson University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. In 2016, Dr. Wherry received Cancer Research Institute’s Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology.  Dr. Wherry has over 160 publications in top international journals including Nature, Science, Nature Immunology, Immunity, and the Journal of Experimental Medicine. His publications have been cited over 33,000 times and his H-index is 75.  His work has resulted in international recognition as evidenced by many invitations for seminars and extensive local and national service.   The long-term goal of Dr. Wherry’s laboratory is to develop approaches to reinvigorate the immune system in settings where it fails including chronic infections and cancer.

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