Ken Cornetta, MD
, has been named the leader for the cell, gene and immune therapy pillar
of the Indiana University Grand Challenge Precision Health Initiative (PHI). Specifically, Cornetta serves as Director of Gene and Cell Therapy Resources for IU School of Medicine and the IU Precision Health Initiative. Cornetta is also Associate Director of the Brown Immunotherapy Center at IU School of Medicine.
“The goal of the cell, gene, and immune therapy pillar of Precision Health is to develop state of the art therapies for patients,” said Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD
, executive associate dean of research for IU School of Medicine and the principal investigator for the IU Grand Challenge Precision Health Initiative. “Ken has the experience and the support of his colleagues to succeed in this important role.”
Cornetta is a pioneer in the field and began working on the first clinical trial for gene therapy in 1989, which he did as a fellow at the National Institutes of Health. He says he learned a lot during those early trials, but technology needed to improve in order for scientists to make significant progress in this particular area of research.
In 1991, Cornetta built a lab at IU to develop clinical products for gene therapy trials. Since then, he and his associates have created more than 50 vectors, which are used like vehicles to deliver genes into a cell. The process initiates by injection or intravenously. If the treatment works, the new gene delivered by the vector makes a functioning protein.
Cornetta says he’s looking forward to joining the leadership team of PHI.
“We will leverage the capacity we have here, in terms of vector production and testing, to establish strategic collaborations to bring us up to the top tier in the gene therapy field,” said Cornetta.
Cornetta will also focus on recruiting more faculty and staff who can contribute to the vision of the Grand Challenge through technical and scientific expertise.
“I think a lot of the technology we’re using today will be replaced with gene editing, so we will be looking for talented researchers with that experience,” said Cornetta. “This will be a new aspect of the pillar to really look forward to.”
Cornetta sees many opportunities to incorporate gene therapy with the other pillar leaders and disease research teams within Precision Health. He and his associates will look for ways to identify predictive markers for immune therapy patients, build up the manufacturing capabilities of the IUSM vector facility and collaborate with gene editing scientists.
“We’ll be looking for innovative ways to use approaches such as regenerative medicine to modify cells to be even more effective,” said Cornetta.
In his new role, Cornetta will report to Dr. Shekhar, while the recruitment for the endowed chair of the Brown Center for Immunotherapy is ongoing.