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AACR-TESARO Career Development Award for Immuno-oncology Research

The AACR-TESARO Career Development Award for Immuno-oncology Research represents a joint effort to promote and support junior faculty to conduct immuno-oncology research and establish a successful career path in this field. The research proposed for funding may be basic, translational, clinical, or epidemiological in nature and must have direct applicability and relevance to checkpoint inhibitor resistance or approaches to overcome this resistance.

2017 Grantee

Michael Birnbaum, PhD

Michael Birnbaum, PhD

Assistant Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Manipulating T and NK cell recognition in cancer

Scientific Statement of Research
Immunotherapy has transformed how we treat melanoma, but at present is only effective in a subset of those treated, and has serious associated morbidities. Antigen-specific approaches would increase effectiveness while limiting side effects, but there are presently a lack of effective tumor-specific antigen targets for melanoma. The Birnbaum group is working to combine protein engineering and immunology, to determine which antigens are recognized in an effective antitumor response. This approach is unique in its ability to find antigens regardless of their source, including self-antigens, neoantigens, and completely synthetic peptide sequences able to more potently induce an immune response than the target antigen itself. In addition to finding the targets of the natural immune response to a tumor, the group is also working to retarget the immune response to recognize antigens that may be expressed by larger populations of patients.

Dr. Birnbaum obtained his undergraduate degree in chemical and physical biology at Harvard University. He received his PhD in immunology at Stanford University, where he worked under K. Christopher Garcia, studying the molecular mechanisms of T-cell receptor recognition, cross-reactivity, and activation. After postdoctoral work in Carla Shatz’s group, he started his lab at MIT in the Department of Biological Engineering and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in 2016. His lab works to better understand and then molecularly manipulate immune recognition and signaling in cancer and infection.

Acknowledgement of Support
Support from the AACR-TESARO Career Development Award for Immuno-oncology Research is a crucial catalyzing force for my lab as we embark upon our initial experiments to bridge immunology and engineering, hoping to understand which antigens are targeted in a successful immune response and to identify more broadly applicable antigen targets.