The Wistar Institute Welcomes Immunologist Scott Hensley

The Wistar Institute Welcomes Immunologist Scott Hensley

June 20, 2010

PHILADELPHIA – (June 21, 2010) – Scott Hensley, Ph.D., an expert on seasonal influenza, has been appointed assistant professor in The Wistar Institute's Immunology Program. Hensley comes to Wistar from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

"We are pleased to welcome Scott to The Wistar Institute, where he will join us in our efforts to create a universal flu vaccine," said Wistar President and CEO Russel E. Kaufman, M.D. "He is an emerging leader in vaccine research and he will be an asset to our institution."

Hensley has distinguished himself in immunology circles for his work on antigenic drift, the evolutionary changes in the outer coating of the influenza virus that allows the flu to change from year to year, making an annual influenza vaccine necessary. Each year, seasonal influenza contributes to more than 36,000 deaths in the United States alone.

The Hensley laboratory will continue this work by studying the molecular mechanisms that allow antigenic drift to occur, as well as describing how the human immune system generates antibodies to influenza. Hensley hopes to combine these two paths in order to create a vaccine that will generate antibodies that will attack targets that are less likely to mutate from season to season, which may make annual flu shots a thing of the past.

"Scott is an excellent addition to our program, as his expertise and research goals are so well aligned with ours," said Hildegund C. J. Ertl, M.D., professor, leader of Wistar's Immunology Program, and director of Wistar's Vaccine Center. "A universal influenza vaccine could potentially save countless lives, and I believe that the team we have assembled, with its distinct yet complementary approaches, has a great chance of making such a vaccine a reality."

In addition, his research will also include an analysis of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza strain and its descendents. The goal of these studies is to identify antigenically distinct variants before they spread globally in the human population. This line of research will also answer lingering questions about how past exposures to strains of H1N1 may have protected some older Americans from the disease.

Hensley received his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 and his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Delaware in 2000.

The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today's Discoveries – Tomorrow's Cures. On the Web at www.wistar.org.