Research usually advances by inches forward, not leaps. Epiphanies that open new avenues of investigation are relatively rare. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Dr. Matthias Stephan experienced just such a flash of insight in the dark early hours of a Sunday morning several years ago. As several threads of knowledge coalesced into a unified idea, Stephan realized how, with a single device, he could bring the power of the immune system to bear against solid tumors like breast cancer.
Stephan is a pioneer in the field of immunobioengineering, working where “materials science meets immunology” to create unconventional solutions to treating cancer. Drawing from gene therapy, bioengineering and immunotherapy, Stephan is pinpointing the best tools in each discipline and finding new ways to combine them. In doing so, he is devising inventive strategies to circumvent the hurdles that prevent immunotherapy from being cost-effective, widely available and effective against many types of cancer.