AbbVie Joins UChicago to Talk Oncology Research, Ongoing Collaboration, and Opportunities for Expansion

Henry Gosebruch, AbbVie executive vice president and chief strategy officer, presents at the UChicago-AbbVie Research Symposium, on August 19, 2022. (Photo by Anne Ryan)

The annual UChicago-AbbVie Research Symposium in August celebrated another successful year of the strategic partnership – bringing together academia and industry to exchange new ideas and drive innovation.

The event included poster sessions, presentations, and networking opportunities, featuring select research efforts in oncology and leadership from each organization, including the University of Chicago’s Kunle Odunsi, Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Walter Stadler, Dean for Clinical Research, as well as AbbVie’s Thomas Hudson, Senior Vice President, R&D, and Chief Scientific Officer, and Henry Gosebruch, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer.

Thomas Hudson, AbbVie’s senior vice president, R&D, and chief scientific officer. (Photo by Anne Ryan)

Insights gained could be used to accelerate the development of lifesaving cancer treatments for patients, said Odunsi, who joined UChicago Medicine in March 2021 following a $10 million grant from the AbbVie Foundation to support scientific and educational activities.

Steve Davidsen, Vice President, Oncology Discovery Research at AbbVie, noted that the collaboration enables the company to explore the underlying biology in key areas of interest, such as immuno-oncology, oncogenic pathways, and biomarkers of drug sensitivity or disease. “This effort drives towards a common goal of accelerating discovery efforts and delivering novel therapies to people living with cancer,” he said.

Kunle Odunsi and Walter Stadler at the UChicago-AbbVie Research Symposium. (Photo by Anne Ryan)

UChicago and AbbVie in 2021 announced an extended collaboration agreement through 2025 to support preclinical oncology research. To date, the collaboration has led to novel insights related to biomarkers and therapeutic applications for existing AbbVie programs. This has included the development of novel drug delivery approaches to enhance anti-tumor immune response and incorporating unique 3D screening methodologies for selecting novel therapeutic molecules.

Stadler describes the AbbVie-UCCCC partnership is “a model of academic-commercial collaboration.”

Santiago Acero-Bedoya presents a poster: Dendritic cell-intrinsic PTPN22 negatively regulates tumor immunity. (Photo by Anne Ryan)

“UChicago’s partnership with AbbVie continues to strengthen,” added Omkar Bhave, manager of industry relations at the Polsky Center and alliance manager for the AbbVie partnership. “The successful symposium highlighted the deep scientific collaboration on our six ongoing research projects – in addition to opportunities for expansion featured in the five presentations. We look forward to working with our AbbVie colleagues to structure mutually beneficial projects based on some of the ideas presented.”

Projects Presented:

// Nutrients, Metabolism, and Cancer

Jing Chen, Janet Davison Rowley Distinguished Service Professor in Cancer Research, University of Chicago

Jing Chen is a renowned researcher in the area of cancer metabolism. He is interested in elucidating the signaling interplay between metabolic and cell signaling networks for a better understanding of cancer metabolism and improved clinical outcomes. In particular, his research aims to determine both metabolic and signaling functions of intracellular metabolites and circulating “blood chemicals,” which influence tumorigenesis and tumor progression, and responses to anti-cancer therapies. He also works to decipher mechanistic bases underlying the pathogenic links between diets and particular oncogenic mutations by exploring the pro- and anti-tumor effects of diet-derived substances on tumors with specific genetic backgrounds.

// Pharmacologic Inhibition of PTPN2/N1 Augments Anti-tumor Immunity in a Two-pronged Approach

Christina Baumgartner, Principal Research Scientist II, Immuno-Oncology Discovery Research, AbbVie

Christina Baumgartner has been leading an immuno-oncology discovery biology team at AbbVie since 2016 and started serving as Project Director in 2021. She has authored and co-authored manuscripts in immunology and hemostasis research, is co-inventor on patents of immuno-oncology therapeutics, reviews for several scientific journals. She has more than 20 years of experience in immunology research which has centered around investigating modulators of adaptive immune responses.

// Identifying New Treatments for High-Risk Myeloid Neoplasms

Megan McNerney, Associate Professor, Dept. of Pathology and Dept. of Pediatrics, Hematology/Oncology, University of Chicago

The McNerney lab studies the genomic changes in blood cancers with the goal of identifying therapeutic vulnerabilities. The focus is on myeloid malignancies, which are particularly difficult to treat. The researchers apply a variety of functional genomics approaches and model systems to decipher changes in the cancer genome. Ongoing and available projects include studies of hematopoietic stem cell regulation, gene regulation during hematopoiesis, contiguous gene syndromes in cancer, and oncogenic signaling.

// Balance Hypothesis and the Miracle Project: Decoding the Mediators of Immune Response Against Cancer

Tolga Turan, Principal Research Scientist, Computational Oncology, Discovery Research, AbbVie

Tolga Turan is currently leading research efforts into the Tumor-Immune Micro-Environment (TIME). In addition to his TIME research, Turan is the computational biology lead for several AbbVie IO programs in current clinical development and has led efforts to better understand the drivers of response to these therapies and drive novel biomarker identification.

// Requirements for a Potent Tissue-Specific Type III Interferon Anticancer Activity

Juan Mendoza, Assistant Professor of Molecular Engineering and in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Chicago

Mendoza has expertise in cancer research, bioinformatics, protein engineering, structural biology, and immunology. The Mendoza Group’s research focuses on understanding basic principles of protein function relevant to human health and disease. Protein families of interest include the interferon (IFN) superfamily of cytokines which are an essential part of the innate immune system, providing protection against the spread of viral infections and cancerous growths. Further work in the lab focuses on developing computational tools to accelerate protein engineering efforts and extend our understanding of the protein sequence-structure-function paradigm to other protein superfamilies.

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