News Release
E. John Wherry
E. John Wherry, PhD

PHILADELPHIA – Renowned immunologist E. John Wherry, PhD, and distinguished pediatric oncologist John M. Maris, MD, have been named as members of the 2024 class of fellows of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy. Each year, the AACR Academy recognizes and honors esteemed scientists whose major contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer. Wherry, the Richard and Barbara Schiffrin President's Distinguished Professor and chair of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was recognized for unparalleled research discoveries that have defined the genetic and epigenetic control mechanisms governing T-cell exhaustion, and for elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying PD-1 pathway blockade, resulting in the clinical development of various immunotherapies, including several FDA-approved immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies for multiple cancer indications. Maris, the Giulio D’Angio Endowed Chair in Neuroblastoma Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and a professor of Pediatrics in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was recognized for paramount pediatric cancer research resulting in the discovery of the genetic basis of neuroblastoma, explanation of its molecular pathogenesis, development of novel methods for immunotherapy target discovery, and establishment of anti-tumor peptide-centric chimeric antigen receptors across multiple human leukocyte antigen alleles in neuroblastoma, overcoming the challenge of targeting intracellular proteins.

The mission of the AACR Academy is to recognize and honor distinguished scientists whose scientific contributions have propelled significant innovation and progress against cancer. Fellows of the AACR Academy serve as a global brain trust of top contributors to cancer science and medicine who help advance the mission of the AACR to prevent and cure all cancers through research, education, communication, collaboration, science policy and advocacy, and funding for cancer research.

John M. Maris
John M. Maris, MD

Wherry is the co-leader of the Immunobiology Program at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center and is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking achievements in basic, translational, and clinical immunology that have influenced and changed the field’s understanding of cancer immunobiology and immunotherapy. His work defined the concept of T cell exhaustion, a hallmark of the biology of cancer and chronic infections, and found that exhausted T cells are a key target of PD-1 checkpoint blockade in cancer. These discoveries have provided insight into which patients will most likely respond to cancer immunotherapy.

Wherry also serves as the director of the Institute for Immunology and founding director of the Institute of Immunology and Immune Health at Penn Medicine, where he is leading efforts to define and monitor individual “immune health” fingerprints that can provide insight for interception, diagnosis, and treatment for cancer and other diseases. These efforts revealed distinct immunotypes in patients with COVID-19 – including those with cancer – that could help predict disease and guide treatment.

Wherry has published more than 330 papers and reviews in professional journals, including Cell, Immunity, Nature, Science, and more. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2023 and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2023 AACR-Cancer Research Institute Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, the 2018 Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award from Stand Up To Cancer, and the 2016 Frederick W. Alt Award for New Discoveries in Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute.

Maris is a world-renowned expert in the field of childhood cancer who has made significant contributions towards both fundamental pathogenesis and innovative new treatments. He is a practicing pediatric oncologist who consults on children from around the world after standard treatments have failed them, and leads several large international consortia focused on improving outcomes for children with cancer. This includes the Stand-Up-to Cancer-St. Baldrick’s Foundation “Dream Team” that was recognized with the prestigious 2021 AACR Team Science Award and one of the two Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot efforts focused on childhood cancers.

Maris holds a National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award, leads a large multi-institutional NCI Program Project grant with a clinical trial consortia, and has published over 450 scientific manuscripts in professional journals including Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature Medicine, and Cancer Cell. He has also been elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and awarded the Frank A. Oski Memorial Lectureship from the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, and the Leonard Berwick Memorial Teaching Award and the William Osler Patient Oriented Research Award, both from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

All Fellows are nominated and elected through an annual, multi-step peer review process that involves a rigorous assessment of each candidate’s scientific accomplishments in cancer research and cancer-related sciences. The AACR will formally induct Wherry, Maris and other fellows during its Annual Meeting, to be held April 5-10 in San Diego.


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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