Azarin wins NSF CAREER award

Dec. 17, 2018 - Assistant Professor Samira Azarin has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support her research on "Novel expansion strategies for biomanufacturing of natural killer cells." This prestigious award provides support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

With this grant, Azarin plans to develop new approaches for large-scale expansion of natural killer (NK) cells, a promising immune cell source for treating cancer. Current approaches to achieve significant expansion of NK cells rely on placing them in contact with feeder cells, typically derived from cancer cell lines, resulting in activation and growth of the NK cells as they kill the feeder cells. However, the use of these cancer-derived feeder cells leads to regulatory concerns. The goal of this work is to couple quantitative analysis of NK cell growth and metabolism with mechanistic studies of the effect of feeder cell stimulation on NK cell expansion in order to develop feeder-free strategies for large-scale manufacturing of NK cells. The tools developed in this work could also be applicable to other immune cell therapies, which collectively represent a promising new frontier in the battle against cancer. Additionally, this research program is integrated with the development of outreach and educational activities aimed at improving recruitment and retention of women and underrepresented minorities in chemical engineering.

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