Emad Wafa

Emad Wafa, Ph.D. student, Pharmaceutics and Translational Therapeutics

Develops cancer vaccines

• Hometown:  Misurata, Libya
• Faculty mentor/advisor: Aliasger K. Salem, Professor, Pharmaceutical Sciences
• What is your degree program and expected graduate date? I am a Ph.D. candidate in Pharmaceutics and Translational Therapeutics with an expected graduation during Fall 2020.
• Please describe your research: My research focuses on designing and developing immunotherapies that promise to revolutionize how cancer is treated. Specifically, I am working on developing a therapeutic cancer nanovaccine platform (nanoparticles) loaded with pancreatic tumor proteins. Our goal is to stimulate the patient’s immune system to recognize and kill pancreatic tumor cells in a tumor-specific manner.
• In simple terms, why does this research matter? Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest and most aggressive cancers. With poor responses to the current chemotherapies, 80% of patients die within a year of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Therefore, there is a dire demand for more effective therapies to meet the urgent medical needs of pancreatic cancer patients. My work aims to develop a nanovaccine platform that can be introduced into the body to help patient’s immune system to target and destroy tumor cells.
• How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I began working with my mentor, Prof. Salem, and conducting cancer research during my first semester as a graduate student at the University of Iowa.
• How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? During my graduate studies, I have been actively participating in cancer research at Professor Salem’s Laboratory of Advanced Drug and Gene Delivery. This has increased my awareness of the cancer patients’ needs and inspired me to dedicate my time to developing immunotherapeutic vaccines to combat cancer. Being engaged in cancer research has acquainted me with broad experience and extensive knowledge necessary to understand how the immune system and tumor cells interact with each other.
• What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I care deeply about developing effective therapies to fight cancer. After graduation, I will be considering a postdoctoral research fellow or a career in cancer research in either the academic or industry setting where I can further hone and improve my skills as a research scientist and achieve my goals.

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