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Cancer Cell Therapy Pioneer Carl June, MD, Named 2021 Dan David Prize Laureate


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Carl June, MD

Carl June, MD

International cancer cell therapy pioneer Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and Director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center, has been named a 2021 Dan David Prize laureate.

The Dan David Prize is endowed by the Dan David Foundation, headquartered at Tel Aviv University, which annually awards three prizes of $1 million each to inspiring individuals and organizations, honoring outstanding contributions that expand knowledge of the past, enrich society in the present, and promise to improve the future of the world.

Dr. June has been recognized in the “future” category for his contributions to molecular medicine, including his groundbreaking work in developing chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy. Dr. June will share the prize with Steven Rosenberg, MD, PhD, Chief of the Surgery Branch at the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, and Zelig Eshhar, PhD, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.

Decades of Research

“I am honored and humbled to receive the Dan David Prize,” said Dr. June, who also serves as Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Penn. “This is especially meaningful to me to be given the award along with Steven Rosenberg and Zelig Eshhar, who have been my long-term mentors and colleagues over the past 30 years. I also want to thank my wife Lisa and our five children who, along with my team at Penn, have been partners during this journey. Finally, I would like to thank the Dan David Foundation and Tel Aviv University for promoting science to the lay public during the global challenge facing all of us with the pandemic.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. June and his lab discovered several basic scientific principles of how cells in the immune system work to fight cancer and infections. His lab conducted the first clinical evaluation of gene-modified T cells. In 2014, the cellular therapy was awarded Breakthrough Therapy status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of acute leukemia in children and adults and was approved as the first personalized cellular therapy for cancer, tisagenlecleucel, in 2017. 


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