The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review recently selected Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., to head a study section on vaccine research, reflecting the prominence of immunotherapeutic research at City of Hope.
Diamond will direct the Vaccines Against Microbial Diseases Study Section. His two-year term began July 1.
|Photo of Don Diamond|
NIH study sections comprise groups of recognized scientific experts who review grant applications for scientific merit. The Vaccines Against Microbial Diseases Study Section reviews grant applications for projects about immune responses and vaccines against disease-causing germs. Diamond has served on the study section as a reviewer since 2007.
Diamond said he aims to ensure the study section remains efficient and effective in its review process and provides unbiased evaluation of all applications.
“I’m honored to receive the invitation and serve as chair,” said Diamond, who is director of City of Hope’s Division of Translational Vaccine Research.
Diamond has extensive expertise in the field. He established City of Hope’s Laboratory for Vaccine Research in 1999 and has worked to develop vaccines for infectious diseases and cancers.
He currently leads efforts to develop a novel vaccine strategy for cytomegalovirus, a common germ harmless to most healthy people but potentially deadly to transplant patients and others with weakened or suppressed immune systems. The vaccine currently is undergoing testing in a clinical trial led by John A. Zaia, M.D., Aaron D. and Edith Miller Chair in Gene Therapy and chair of the Department of Virology.
The division also aims to develop vaccines to treat malignancy. “Our mission is to use our experience in infectious disease and apply it to cancer,” he said.
While infections result from a germ entering the body, he explained, cancer comes from within. “What we’re trying to do is make the immune system see cancer as foreign so it attacks it like a pathogen.”
Diamond has collaborated with Joshua D.I. Ellenhorn, M.D., chief of the Division of General Oncologic Surgery, for several years on a vaccine strategy aimed at pancreatic cancer. Newer efforts focus on blood cancers, including lymphoma and leukemia, in collaboration with several City of Hope hematologic oncologists.
Diamond believes cancer vaccines will likely work best when they target several different cancer mechanisms at once and when they are used together with other therapies — not alone.
“‘Multimodal therapy’ is the catchphrase,” he said.
Boosting the division’s efforts, the community nonprofit ThinkCure recently awarded Diamond one of its first six research grants to develop a vaccine for leukemia, and postdoctoral fellow Ed Manuel, Ph.D., received a two-year minority fellowship award from the NIH.
“We have a number of studies that are advancing,” he said. “We’re looking forward to some good progress in the coming year.”