Steve Jonas - Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
Photo credit: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

UCLA researcher Steven J. Jonas M.D., Ph.D. has been awarded a 2017 Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) Young Investigator Grant to support his work to develop nanotechnologies to improve cellular immunotherapies for pediatric cancer patients. Jonas is currently a Clinical Fellow in the UCLA Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research Center Training Program. The Broad Stem Cell Research Center Clinical Fellows program, funded by The Broad Foundations, provides clinician-scientists working in the stem cell field with the tools necessary to translate their research discoveries to the practice of medicine.

In the clinic, Jonas is training in the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology. In the laboratory, Jonas is training with Professor Paul S. Weiss, a UC Presidential Chair and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Materials Science & Engineering, and member of the California NanoSystems Institute.

 “One of the truly awe-inspiring things about being a physician-scientist at an institution like UCLA is that I have the opportunity to start my day helping to guide the care of children battling cancer and then walk across the street to my laboratory where I have the privilege to interact with and to lead an interdisciplinary team of world-class physicians, nanoscientists, chemists, engineers, biologists and students focused on discovering innovative solutions to conquering pediatric cancer,” Jonas said.

Weiss’ interdisciplinary research group focuses on the ultimate limits of miniaturization, exploring the atomic-scale chemical, physical, optical, mechanical, and electronic properties of surfaces, interfaces and supramolecular assemblies. Within this group, Jonas leads a team that is working to develop and apply innovative nanotechnologies and microfluidic platforms to deliver gene-modification instructions to immune cells to teach the cells to target a patient’s cancer directly. These tools will enable the more rapid and broader deployment of next-generation cellular immunotherapies to pediatric cancer patients in need.

This year, ALSF awarded Young Investigator Grants to 18 early-career childhood cancer researchers with outstanding track records and promising ideas in the field of pediatric oncology. The Young Investigator Grant is designed to enable young researchers to pursue cutting-edge projects at leading hospitals and institutions across the country with critical startup funding, totaling $150,000 over the course of three years.

“This generous support from ALSF empowers these extraordinary interdisciplinary interactions and our group’s efforts to develop technologies aimed at accelerating the clinical translation and the broader deployment of next-generation cellular immunotherapies,” Jonas continued. 

To accelerate this work, Weiss and Jonas’ group will be participating in the Alex’s Million Miles Challenge, a run/walk/bike-a-thon over the month of September to raise awareness for and to support childhood cancer research. To learn more about how you can join the team or make a contribution to fight childhood cancer, visit the UCLA Nano Transformers fundraising page. The first $25,000 raised by the team will be matched 1:1 through the generosity of the ALSF to support the team’s ongoing research efforts directly.

Media Contact: 

Mirabai Vogt-James
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