Cleveland Clinic has appointed Jae Jung, Ph.D., chair of Lerner Research Institute’s Department of Cancer Biology. Jung will also serve as director of the new Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens Research, which will focus on public health threats ranging from the Zika virus to SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19).
Jung is an internationally renowned expert in virology and virus-induced cancers who has broken ground in the field of inflammation, immune-oncology and emerging pathogens.
As chair of Cancer Biology, he will lead the department’s work in understanding the biological underpinnings of cancer ranging from genetic and molecular pathways to disease manifestation. The department is home to leaders in the field of several cancer research areas including prostate cancer, glioblastoma and stem cells. He will closely collaborate with cancer researchers across Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Clinic, including the new Center for Immunotherapy and Precision Immuno-Oncology.
Jung’s cancer research focuses on virus-induced cancers, including Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common tumor in patients with AIDS. For his work in this disease area, the National Cancer Institute awarded him the prestigious Outstanding Investigator Award in 2016.
Jung will also lead the Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens Research, which is focused on broadening understanding of emerging pathogens. The center spans Lerner Research Institute and the Cleveland Clinic Florida Research and Innovation Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
“Jae Jung is a brilliant and global leader in research into the deep and complex intersections between the immune system and cancer,” said Serpil Erzurum, M.D., chair of Lerner Research Institute. “His work has defined how viruses induce cancers, which make up to 25% of cancers in the world. It is quite fortuitous at this time that we have recruited a world-class scientist in cancer and virus research, propelling our teams in Cleveland and Florida forward in both of these significant areas.”
Jung has several research projects related to coronaviruses, including vaccine and drug development and has developed one of the first preclinical models to study SARS-CoV-2 infection and transmission to lead to development of a COVID-19 vaccine. His vaccine work utilizes nanoparticles that compel the coronavirus to use its own surface protein to produce antibodies that block viral infection. The hope is that this approach will have fewer side effects than other vaccines, especially among the older population that is particularly susceptible to COVID-19.
Jung and a multi-disciplinary team of scientists and clinicians in Ohio and Florida are collaborating to uncover the mechanisms of infectious agents and virus-induced cancers. He will lead virology, immunology and oncology researchers working to make laboratory discoveries about how pathogens spread and cause disease and will collaborate with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Therapeutics Discovery. He recently received a $2.8 million grant from National Institutes of Health to develop a vaccine for a newly emerging tick-borne disease.
“Jae Jung is a foremost authority in virus-related cancer and immunology who will build and grow our research programs to advance science and ultimately improve care for our patients,” said Brian Bolwell, M.D., chairman of Taussig Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center. “He will bring together a team of experts to better understand the complexities of these cancers and emerging pathogens to develop critically needed treatments and vaccines.”
“I am excited to collaborate with Cleveland Clinic’s experts in immunotherapy, oncology and infectious disease to advance our knowledge of immunologic medicine,” said Jung. “Cleveland Clinic’s robust clinical and research infrastructure in Cleveland as well as at the new Florida Research and Innovation Center will enable us to develop innovative and novel approaches for new therapeutics and vaccines and make them available to people around the world.”
Jung joins Cleveland Clinic from the University of Southern California, where he was chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Institute of Emerging Pathogens and Immune Diseases. He earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of California, Davis. He completed post-doctoral training and was later promoted to professor at Harvard Medical School. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology.