Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Sumit Chanda, Sanford Burnham Prebys

Meet Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., director and professor of the Immunity and Pathogenesis Program in the Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases Center at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. Earlier this year, he received one of 12 Padres Pedal grants awarded with our 2016 donation, along with Dan Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D., of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health.

The research project is titled: “Identification of Genes Critical for the Production of T-cells from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells for Development of “Off-the-Shelf” T-cells Immunotherapies”.

We caught up with Dr. Chanda to discuss his research project, talk about the importance of private funding for researchers, and asked him if he had any words for our Padres Pedal community.

Pedal: What has it meant to your research to have been awarded a Padres Pedal the Cause Research Grant?

Dr. Chanda: This award has enabled our lab to expand into an exciting new field where we feel we can make a significant contribution towards designing novel therapies. The promise of engineering immune cells to fight cancer is an exciting opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of patients. This field has been hampered because these cells are difficult to generate. This grant has allowed us to work with a stem cell expert, Dr. Dan Kaufman of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. We are now combining our expertise in systems biology approaches with his knowledge of how immune cells develop, to find new and more efficient ways to make cancer-fighting immune cells.


Pedal: What can you tell us about the progress of your project?

Dr. Chanda: So far we have collected a number of cell lines and techniques that will enable us to start proof of concept studies towards engineering cells. Transitioning into this new field is exciting, but challenging, and would be impossible without the support of this grant.


Pedal: In an ideal world, how would success in your research help improve the lives of cancer patients?

Dr. Chanda: The aim of the project is to better understand the path that stem cells take to become immune cells that are adept at destroying cancer. If our project is successful, it will enable researchers and drug companies to more efficiently derive particularly potent subsets of white blood cells that can then be engineered to target many types of cancers.


Pedal: How important is private funding through Padres Pedal to the research you and your colleagues conduct at Sanford Burnham Prebys?

Dr. Chanda: This award is critical for this project. It is very difficult to attract government funding for pioneering projects like this that are specifically designed to illuminate new avenues of future research. The money has also allowed us to collaborate with experts in the stem cell field. Private funding is an essential component of early innovation that has the potential to transform the way we approach treatment of diseases.


Pedal: Are there any words you like to share with Padres Pedal riders, donors and volunteers?

Dr. Chanda: We are truly grateful for the support of the riders, donors, and volunteers. Without their selfless contributions, this research would not have been possible. Programs like Padres Pedal the Cause, and the people who make it happen, are critical to moving science forward and bringing new hope for patients.


Learn more about Dr. Chanda’s work at the Sanford Burnham Prebys website! 

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