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Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Symposium Title
This symposium aims to catalyze new approaches to anti-cancer immunity in settings where it is currently limited by bringing together bioengineers, cancer immunologists and oncologists.   Symposium Details
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About the i3 Center

The mission of the i3 Center is to create biomaterials-based approaches to enable anti-cancer immune-therapy in settings where it currently is limited, such as myeloid malignancies and solid tumors.

The Harvard i3 Center is part of NIH’s Cancer Moonshot initiative that was formed to accelerate cancer research to make more therapies available to more patients, while also improving the ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.  One component of the Moonshot initiative is to develop centers focused on Immune-Engineering to Improve Immunotherapy (i3 Centers).

T lymphocyte (T cell) responses are key to cancer immunotherapy, and this Center will create biomaterials to address a number of fundamental questions in immunoengineering related to T cell biology and cancer therapy. Our approach benefits from both a deep scientific understanding of the relevant immune/stem cell biology, an appreciation for the clinical realities of the motivating diseases and their treatments, and technical materials expertise in multiscale design of receptor, cell and tissue-interactive biomaterials, and experience in the implementation of novel cell-based therapeutics. For this purpose, we combine the expertise in bioengineering at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University with the expertise in cancer immunology, oncology, hematology, biostatistics and stem cell biology at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI).

Our groups have previously made major contributions to the development of checkpoint blockade therapy, neoantigen vaccines, cellular therapies, and therapeutic biomaterials, and have a long track record of highly productive collaborations. This i3 Center is expected to yield major scientific and translational advances in cancer immunotherapy.


i3 Project Overview Schematic
Harvard’s i3 Center will develop new biomaterials-based approaches for cancer immunotherapy. The materials will enhance tumor-specific activities of cytotoxic T cells, acting at different stages of their development. Implantable “Bone Marrow-niche Mimicking Cryogels” (left) recreate key features of the bone marrow where hematopoietic stem cells produce T cell progenitor cells that can go on to differentiate into tumor-specific T cells during their passage through the thymus and tumor-draining lymph nodes. Implantable tumor “Antigen-presenting DNA Origami” (middle) present tumor-derived antigens and adjuvants with nanoscale precision to attract and activate dendritic cells (a type of antigen-presenting cell or APC), which then proceed to tumor-draining lymph nodes where they orchestrate a tumor-directed T cell response. “APC-Mimetic Scaffolds” (right) presenting tumor-specific antigens are used outside the body to amplify tumor antigen-specific T cells that can be infused back into patients in adoptive T cell therapies. Credit: David Zhang/Wyss Institute at Harvard University.