Dr. Weiner’s research focus is in the area of Molecular Immunology. His group has focused extensively on the development of gene-based vaccines, immune therapies and molecular interventions for the treatment of human and animal disease. His laboratory is one of the founders of the field of DNA vaccines, and importantly, was the first to move DNA vaccines to human clinical studies establishing their initial safety and immunogenicity opening up this area for clinical development. First study in HIV immune therapy conducted in 1995, and first immune therapy for cancer (CTCL) in 1995. The first DNA trial in normal healthy HIV+ patients occurred in 1997.
Other clinical trials of DNA, conducted in collaboration with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) are: HVTN 070, study of DNA vaccine against HIB including cytokine genes, and HVTN 080, study of DNA vaccine for HIV by adaptive electroporation with IL12. In 2009, collaboration with a biotechnology company resulted in VGX 3100, a study of a DNA vaccine for cervical cancer and immune therapy.
His group was the first to show that a DNA based approach could impact an HIV model challenge in nonhuman primates. Based on these accomplishments Dr. Weiner contributed to the initial ‘Points to Consider’ guidance document for the FDA on moving gene based approaches through the Clinic. He has created many new technologies for treatment of human disease and has been awarded more than 50 patents on his laboratory’s work. His lab is instrumental in the recent resurgence of interest in the DNA vaccine field due to the lab and collaborators developing new vectors and delivery approaches that improved their immune potency in humans. He is very active in teaching and training of students and fellows and junior faculty. He chairs the popular Gene Therapy and Vaccines Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and co directs the Tumor Virology Program of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.