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Rotem Karni, PhD

Rotem Karni, PhD

Erez Levanon, PhD (Co-PI, Bar-Ilan University)

Grant Status

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Grant Type
Acceleration Grant

Project Title
Inducing Neoantigens for Immunotherapy through Splicing Modulation

Tumor Types

Research Topics
Immunology and Immunotherapy

About the Co-Investigators:

This project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the laboratories of Erez Levanon, at Bar-Ilan University, and Rotem Karni, at Hebrew University. These two talented and productive co-investigators bring highly-complementary skills to the project. The Levanon lab provides unique expertise in computational analysis of how normal cellular transactions are altered by cancer, and the Karni lab has developed sophisticated strategies for cancer treatment based on modulating the synthesis of mRNA, and testing them in pre-clinical models. Prof. Levanon received his MSc and PhD degrees from Tel Aviv University, was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, and joined the faculty of Bar-Ilan University in 2009, where he is now a Professor in the Life Sciences Faculty. Prof. Karni received his BS and PhD degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was a postdoctoral fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and joined the faculty at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in 2008, where he is now Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

About the Research:

Advances in the field of cancer immunotherapy are revolutionizing the practice of clinical oncology. Immunotherapy has shown particular promise in treating bone cancer, pancreatic cancer, and other solid tumors that are challenging to treat. However, not all patients exhibit a robust response. The best response is in patients whose tumor cells make potent immunogenic peptides, called “neoantigens,” as the result of unusual mutations in specific genes. However, many tumors do not synthesize immunogenic neoantigens and do not respond well to immunotherapy.

To overcome this limitation and expand the use of immunotherapy, Drs. Levanon and Karni propose to induce production of potent neoantigens in tumor cells. To do so, they will design molecules predicted by computational analysis to cause changes in mRNA splicing that will force creation of new proteins within the tumor cells. These new proteins are predicted to serve as neoantigens that will invoke a robust, anti-tumor, immune response.


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