EN-ACTI2NG, A TRAINING PROGRAM FOR PhD STUDENTS AIMED AT IMPROVING TUMOR-SPECIFIC IMMUNE RECEPTORS
The EN-ACTI2NG (European Network on Anti-Cancer Immuno-Therapy Improvement by modification of CAR and TCR Interactions and Nanoscale Geometry) Initial Training Network, funded by the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions program, emanates from the recent clinical evidence that T cells expressing engineered tumor-specific immune receptors can eradicate certain tumors that do not respond to conventional treatment. This important therapeutic approach (considered by the journal Science ‘Scientific Breakthrough of the Year’ in December 2013) is still in a very early phase of development and currently requires a well-trained workforce to address challenges such as development of tumor-specific receptors for a wider array of tumors, improvement in efficiency of these receptors, a better safety profile with regard to on- and off-target toxicity and more efficient transfer of basic research findings to the clinic.
The EN-ACTI2NG program aims
1) to train PhD students with expertise in development of new and improved T cell-mediated cancer immuno-therapies;
2) to endow the students with the ability to establish efficient communication between the academic and industrial research environments and between scientists and the general public;
3) to improve T cell mediated immuno-therapy against cancer by the identification and development of new cancer-specific immune receptors and enhancing their function by identifying and modifying their molecular mechanism of action.
To reach these objectives we designed individual research projects for the students ranging from biophysical analysis of immune receptors, via molecular modification of their structure and testing their tumor killing capacity in vitro and in vivo to development of microfluidic devices that provide new means of analysis and selection of immune receptor-bearing cells. Each student will have the unique opportunity to experience these complementary approaches within specific secondments in research laboratories, clinics and companies. This will further stimulate synergistic interaction between the projects, enabling the generation of innovative results that could otherwise not be achieved. Extensive training in research-specific skills, career development and a continuous training in communication skills will help the students to become facilitators of transformation of scientific innovation into products with social and economic value. All students will have the possibility to enroll in doctoral programs of the hosting or associated institutions in order to obtain a PhD degree.