Dr. Glen Barber Receives Prestigious Research Award from Columbia University
The Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize recognizes outstanding researchers in biology or biochemistry.
Glen Barber, Ph.D., the Eugenia J. Dodson Chair in Cancer Research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been awarded the prestigious Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize by Columbia University for his contributions to biology and biochemistry research.
Since 1967, the award has recognized outstanding researchers in biology or biochemistry. Dr. Barber, who is also chair of the Department of Cell Biology at the Miller School, has focused throughout his career on advancements in immunology.
“This award is a tremendous honor for which I am both humbled and grateful,” Dr. Barber said. “I will accept it on behalf of many colleagues, past and present, whose contributions have been invaluable to our collective success. I am also fortunate to be the first recipient of this prize at the University of Miami. The list of previous recipients of this award is quite remarkable, many of whom later went on to win the Nobel Prize.”
In addition to the recognition, Dr. Barber will receive $10,000.
Advancements and Discoveries in Immunology
Much of Dr. Barber’s research focuses on innate immunity, which is essential for sensing microbial infection and activating host defense countermeasures. His work has shown these responses are essential for protection against disease, including cancer, but can also cause inflammation if overstimulated.
In 2008, Dr. Barber and his laboratory made the novel discovery of the cytosolic DNA-activated immune pathway and STING (stimulator of interferon genes). STING is a pivotal pathway controlling immune responses to infections and inflammation that also plays a vitally important role in triggering anti-tumor T-cell activity.
“Since STING’s discovery, we have developed new clinical trials, based on our research, to treat cancer,” Dr. Barber said. “In parallel studies, I have also pioneered the use of viruses as cancer therapeutics. We are now in the stage where pharmaceutical companies are developing drugs to control STING for the inflammation and immuno-oncology markets.”
Continuing Clinical Trials and Research Efforts
Dr. Barber plans to design additional clinical trials to discover more about how STING is controlled and to use the findings to create new therapies. The lab recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration and $2 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute to examine novel STING activators that Dr. Barber’s lab designed to treat leukemia and other cancers. In addition, Dr. Barber has received notice of other NCI awards. This future funding will be used for clinical trials to test a new vaccine/immunotherapeutic his lab designed to prevent leukemia. Other translational efforts are underway.