Beckman Research Institute on Oct. 9 announced the formation of the Division of Translational Vaccine Research. Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., is director of the new division.
The new Division of Translational Vaccine Research resides within the Department of Virology.
The change expands the former Laboratory of Vaccine Research into a complete division that focuses on developing vaccines that combat solid tumors and blood and immune system cancers, as well as infectious agents such as HIV and cytomegalovirus, or CMV.
|Don Diamond directs the new Division of Translational Vaccine Research. (Photo by p.cunningham)|
“Dr. Diamond is an excellent scientist and accomplished researcher,” said Richard Jove, Ph.D., director of Beckman Research Institute. “This new division is designed to further strengthen the vaccine program and provide greater opportunities to efficiently translate Dr. Diamond’s work from the laboratory to clinical studies.”
In recent years, Diamond’s team has developed a novel CMV vaccine procedure aimed at protecting patients who receive a blood stem cell transplant from a donor. CMV is common in the general population and usually harmless; however, it can be life-threatening to people with weakened or suppressed immune systems, including transplant patients. A clinical trial to evaluate the method is ongoing. John A. Zaia, M.D., chair of the Department of Virology, is the clinical lead on the study.
In his new position, Diamond intends to bolster the division’s research centered on cancers. “While we’ve had considerable success with our CMV program, we also have a number of cancer-focused initiatives already in place,” he said. By studying ways to target cancers, the division can more effectively integrate into the comprehensive cancer center, he explained.
Diamond cited a number of projects aimed at developing vaccine strategies against cancers, including a collaboration with physician/researcher Joshua D.I. Ellenhorn, M.D. The pair has developed a novel vaccine designed to stimulate cells’ natural ability to stop themselves from becoming cancerous. Ellenhorn, who is chief of the Division of General Oncologic Surgery, and Diamond hope to move the method into clinical trials for gastrointestinal cancer patients soon.
Other division projects target melanoma, acute myeloid leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia. The leukemia studies continue a long-standing association between Diamond and the Hematologic Malignancies Program, led by Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.
“Steve has always been very supportive of our work,” said Diamond, who joined City of Hope in 1989. “I’ve been very fortunate to benefit from his expertise and to work with the transplant program team over the years.”