Faculty & Programs

Goal: $10 million

Institutional growth is about more than space and size. It is about our most precious resources, the scientists of Wistar. They are the talent behind the discoveries that improve health and medical care around the world. By increasing the number of laboratories from 30 to 42-45, the Building Wistar, Changing the World campaign helps us attain a critical mass of faculty positions, whose efforts will move us even closer to making scientific breakthroughs, specifically in cancer research and vaccine development.


Cancer Research: Discovery and Cure


Since 1972, Wistar has been a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center, a distinction given to only 68 of the approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States, and recently earned an NCI rating of “Exceptional.” This more than 40-year record of success has positioned Wistar firmly as a world leader in cancer research.

Multiple challenges. This year alone, 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and more than half a million men and women will die from cancer — all at a time when federal funding for research is declining, threatening to stall progress. Wistar scientists are determined to forge ahead and reduce these numbers, with alternative support from industry, philanthropy and other private sources.

Remarkable results. Over the last 20 years, discoveries made by Wistar scientists have helped prevent more than 760,000 deaths from cancer. They determined the crystal structure of telomerase, the enzyme that promotes the spread of 90% of all cancers; clarified the relationship between the immune system and the development of cancerous tumors; and tested promising new therapeutics in preclinical trials for prostate cancer with the potential to help more than 200,000 patients annually in the US.

Bold plans. The investments in new equipment and technologies in the Fox Tower will enable us to further deepen our understanding of the origins of cancer and create novel cancer therapies and vaccines. Wistar scientists are eager to use the new state-of-the-art tools to:

  • Study how the body’s own natural immune defenses can eliminate tumors.
  • Mine vast amounts of genetic data to understand how genetic abnormalities can allow cancer cells to grow and spread, providing valuable information for the design of new anti-cancer drugs.
  • Intensify efforts to help create new drugs that specifically target the cellular drivers of cancer growth and spread.
  • Support a comprehensive discovery team focusing on a cure for ovarian cancer.

Vaccine Development: Improving Health Around the World


The Wistar Institute’s half-century of achievement in vaccine development has saved countless lives in the US and around the world. Discoveries at Wistar have led to the creation of standard-of-care protections against rubella (German measles), rabies and rotavirus. Home to one of the most successful vaccine development research programs worldwide, Wistar is continuously breaking new ground on vaccine development.

From Spruce Street to Global Avenues. Vaccines developed at The Wistar Institute have dramatically changed science, treatments, and patients’ lives on a global scale. Wistar scientists helped to eradicate rubella (German measles) in the US, vastly reduced the cases of rubella in Europe and India, and created a pediatric vaccine against the disease that prevents millions of deaths worldwide.

More work to be done. Building on our history of accomplishment in vaccine development, we are focused on creating new or more effective vaccines for some of the most dangerous and widespread diseases in the world. Our scientists aim to:

  • Develop a vaccine for the treatment of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which can lead to cervical and head-and-neck cancers.
  • Advance a promising new vaccine against HIV with the potential to affect 40 million people living with HIV worldwide, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Develop a new vaccine against rabies, which still kills about 50,000 people annually, mostly children under the age of 14 in developing countries in Africa and Asia. The vaccine will be affordable, deliverable in a single dose, and better suited for the conditions found in these regions.
  • Develop new approaches for a Universal Flu Vaccine. Influenza is associated with 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths annually in the United States and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. Wistar researchers are working to create a vaccine that will work against all strains of influenza. Current flu vaccines have to be redesigned annually to account for evolving variations of the virus. A universal vaccine would eliminate this problem and protect against flu pandemics year after year.