E. John Wherry, PhD

PHILADELPHIA - E. John Wherry, PhD, has been appointed the new chair of the department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, effective July 1. Wherry is the Richard and Barbara Schiffrin President’s Distinguished Professor in the department of Microbiology and an international leader in the study of T cell exhaustion, which prevents optimal control of infections and can hamper anti-tumor immune responses.

He is currently director of the Institute for Immunology, co-leader of the Abramson Cancer Center’s Immunobiology Program, and co-director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Penn. In each of these leadership roles, he has fostered cross-disciplinary collaborations to accelerate discoveries and apply findings within the basic sciences to clinically translatable approaches.

Wherry’s research focuses on T cell exhaustion in chronic infections and cancer and on the mechanisms by which immunoregulatory “checkpoint” pathways, such as PD-1, control T cell exhaustion. His work has advanced our understanding of how gene expression changes affect this exhaustion, which has led to strategies to improve the effectiveness of T cell targeting immunotherapies.

He has received numerous distinctions for his consistent and significant contributions to infectious disease and cancer immunology research. He has been recognized as one of the most highly cited investigators in his field by Thomson/ISI and was named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian magazine (2007). He received the Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute (2016) and the Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award from Stand Up To Cancer (2018). Wherry serves on numerous scientific advisory and editorial boards, including The Journal of Experimental Medicine, PLoS Pathogens, Cancer Immunology Research, The Journal of Immunology and The Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

Wherry earned his doctorate in Immunology from Thomas Jefferson University in 2000 and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University (2003). He was appointed an assistant professor in the Immunology Program at The Wistar Institute (2005) and joined the Penn department of Microbiology in 2010. 

The department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics ranks first in the nation among pharmacology departments for NIH funding. The department is closely involved with the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (ITMAT), home to the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) and in the leadership of the Penn Genomics Institute. Wherry’s appointment will create further bridges to many departments and centers by focusing on inflammation, leading to new high impact research in pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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