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Research We Fund

With hundreds of projects currently underway, we fund scientists through our academic grant programs and biotech partners through our strategic venture philanthropy initiative. Use the filters below to find an LLS-funded project.

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Sameer Parikh

Sameer Parikh, MBBS

Mayo Clinic, Rochester

Rochester, Minnesota
United States

Immunogenicity and safety of commercially available vaccines against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in patients with hematologic malignancies and associated precursor conditions

Mass immunization campaigns are underway in the US after the emergency use authorization of highly effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. Despite the efficacy of these measures, patients with B cell malignancies and associated precursor conditions remain at a high risk of adverse outcomes due to COVID-19 infection. These patients were excluded from pivotal vaccination trials that tested the efficacy in the general population. Historically, patients with hematologic malignancies have a 20-50% rate of immunogenicity to routine vaccinations – either due to the underlying malignancy itself or due to immunosuppressive therapies. We are currently enrolling patients in an observational study (NCT04748185) to assess the immunogenicity and safety of commercially available vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 in patients with B cell malignancies and associated precursor conditions such as monoclonal B cell lymphocytosis (MBL). Eligible patients who those with a diagnosis of a B cell malignancy (without regard to treatment status of the underlying malignancy). In collaboration with the Mayo Vaccine Center, we will determine immunogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination by: a) measuring antibody response (including anti-spike antibody, anti-nucleocapsid antibody, and blocking antibody titers); and b) measuring cell mediated immune response (including T cell ELISpot assay).

Program: Special Grants
Project Term: June 1, 2021 - December 31, 2021
Michael Keller

Michael Keller, MD

Children's Research Institute

Washington, District of Columbia
United States

T-cell immunotherapy for prevention of COVID-19 following bone marrow transplantation

SARS-Cov-2 infections may be prolonged in cancer patients and may enable intrahost development of virulent viral variants. Adoptive immunotherapy with virus-specific T-cells has been an effective treatment for refractory viral infections in immunocompromised patients following HSCT. We propose to study the functionality of coronavirus-specific T-cells (CSTs) from healthy donors, and utilize CSTs as preventative therapy for patients undergoing bone marrow transplant in a phase I study.

Program: Translational Research Program
Project Term: July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2024
Piers Patten

Piers Patten, PhD

King's College London

United Kingdom

Understanding SARS-Cov-2 evolution in haemato-oncology patients

Through phenotypic and functional studies of immune cells, proteomic mapping of immune responses and genomic studies of variant strains, this project will assess the evolution of natural SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 vaccine responses in hemato-oncology patients. Integration of immunological profiles and genomic outcomes with clinical characteristics will inform future best patient management, especially for those patients at risk of prolonged infection with long term viral shedding.

Program: Translational Research Program
Project Term: September 1, 2021 - August 31, 2024
Balazs Halmos

Balazs Halmos, MD

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Bronx, New York
United States

Safety and efficacy of booster doses of BNT162b2 vaccine in immunocompromised patients with a cancer diagnosis

It is now well-established that COVID-19 in patients with cancer carries a higher morbidity and mortality, especially in patients with hematologic malignancies (Kuderer et al, Lee et al). Effective vaccines have been developed and authorized by the FDA to combat this pandemic (Pfizer NEJM, Moderna NEJM, J&J NEJM). However, emerging data suggests that despite these vaccines inducing high levels of immunity in the general population, patients with hematologic malignancies have lower rates of seroconversion for the SARS-CoV-2 Spike antibody (Thakkar et al Cancer cell, Dimpy Shah cancer cell, Sheeba Irshad cancer cell). Evidence has also suggested that specific therapies, such as anti-CD20 antibodies, BTK-inhibitors and stem cell transplantation have an association with lower rates of seroconversion (Thakkar et al Cancer cell, Thakkar et al Nature cancer, Herishanu at al blood 2021). Novel immunization strategies such as booster dosing are urgently needed to protect this high-risk patient population. We propose a study to administer a third dose of the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine to patients with cancer who have a negative SARS-CoV-2 Spike IgG at least 14 days after 2 doses of the BNT162b2 vaccine

Program: Special Grants
Project Term: August 1, 2021 - July 31, 2022
Ronald Levy

Ronald Levy, MD

Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University

Palo Alto, California
United States

Stanford study of COVID-19 vaccine responses in patients with B-cell lymphoma

We are conducting a study analyzing blood samples from B-NHL patients before and at timepoints after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for several aspects of immune system responses, compared to similarly-aged participants without lymphoma. These analyses aim to answer a few key questions: (1) Do B-NHL patients respond as well as healthy controls to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines?  (2) Does B-NHL subtype and/or treatment history, particularly the use of CD20-targeted therapies such as rituximab and BTK-targeted therapies such as ibrutinib, affect vaccine response? And (3) is it a good strategy to try to vaccinate patients before they start anti-lymphoma therapy, in cases where this is reasonable to do? An understanding of which B-NHL patients are most likely to have suboptimal responses to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and what in their response is lacking will help focus strategies for protecting these patients from a potentially fatal infection.

Program: Special Grants
Project Term: June 1, 2021 - December 31, 2021
Santosha Vardhana

Santosha Vardhana, PhD, MD

Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research

New York, New York
United States

T-cell profiling of hematologic malignancy patients undergoing COVID-19 vaccination

Early during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became rapidly apparent that patients with cancer, and in particular patients with blood cancers, were at particularly high risk of complications and death from COVID-19 infection.  Over the past 18 months, our group has identified distinct roles for B-cells and T-cells in short and long-term control of COVID-19.  In recent work, we have also established that patients with blood cancers often mount poor antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccination.  The nature of T-cell responses to COVID-19 vaccination, and the impact of both cancer type and treatment on the ability to mount T-cell responses to vaccination remains undefined. To answer this question, we have banked longitudinal samples from over 500 patients with blood cancers undergoing vaccination against COVID-19.  We will use a multiparametric approach, including flow cytometry, sequencing and identification of COVID-specific T-cell receptors, and sequencing of the viral genome to understand the T-cell response to vaccination in these patients and how breakthrough infections might occur in the context of T-cell failure.

Program: Special Grants
Project Term: June 1, 2021 - December 31, 2021