Jennifer Altomonte’s research group focuses on the development of novel oncolytic virus-based cancer immunotherapeutics. Oncolytic viruses (OVs) are replication-competent viruses that replicate specifically in cancer cells and cause direct and immune-mediated lytic effects. In particular, OVs are now being explored as a unique tool to modulate the immune-suppressive tumor microenvironment and turn “cold” tumors “hot”. They are under intense development as monotherapies, as well as strategic components of combination approaches with other immunotherapeutics, such as immune checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive cell therapies (i.e. CAR T-cells). In Jennifer’s lab, optimized OV vectors are engineered, utilizing various therapeutic transgenes to enhance cancer-directed immune responses. Furthermore, rationally designed combination approaches and tumor vaccine strategies are under investigation. Additional efforts are focused on the elucidation of the therapeutic mechanisms and modulatory activities of these approaches by characterizing changes in immune cell signatures within the tumor microenvironment, the lymphatic system, and the periphery, which drive systemic abscopal effects.
The group conducts highly translational research with a particular focus on the clinical development of viral therapies for tumors that are resistant to currently available therapeutics, with an emphasis on gastrointestinal tumors, such as heptocellular carcinoma and pancreatic cancer.
After studying microbiology and molecular biology at the Pennsylvania State University, I worked for 7 years at the Carl Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, where I first became passionate about oncolytic viruses. I moved to Munich in 2006 in order to carry out my doctorate at the Technical University of Munich, and I have stayed there ever since, eventually starting my own research group at the Klinikum rechts der Isar, which focuses on the development of novel oncolytic virus-based cancer immunotherapies. Exploring the many interactions of oncolytic viruses with the tumour microenvironment is an area of particular interest, and I am particularly passionate about developing novel combination approaches with other immunotherapies in the hopes of bringing new and effective treatments to patients with solid cancers.
Outside of the lab, I love cooking, baking, enjoying nature, and spending time with my husband and children.
I did my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Biology at the Technical University Munich. During my PhD I worked on signalling pathways involved in gastric carcinogenesis at the Institute of medical microbiology, immunology and hygiene (TUM). At the Altomonte lab, I’m investigating which mechanisms are involved in resistance to oncolytic virotherapy using cancer cell lines and patient derived organoids. I’m fascinated how immunotherapies have improved outcome of cancer patients in the past years and hope that we can help to increase the number of patients benefitting from immune-based cancer therapies.
Outside of the lab I’m part of a theatre group and I usually portray the funny but slightly stupid person, so that no one would think that I actually hold a PhD degree and work in science in real life.
I am a veterinarian and during my doctoral thesis I was able to gain my first insights into the field of preclinical research with a focus on the use of oncolytic viruses in immunotherapy. My focus is to gain insights into the immune response after treatment with oncolytic viruses using different mouse models. Furthermore, I am interested in improving the effect of oncolytic viruses by combining them with immune checkpoint inhibitors.
Outside the lab I like to travel with my camper van and spend time in nature
Favourite Immune cell: Cytotoxic T lymphocytes because of their specificity and effectivity to kill their target cells.
I studied Pharmaceutical Sciences at LMU and did my Master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. I joined the Altomonte lab in 2018 for doing my PhD research. My research focus is to characterize the type of cell death pathways induced by our fusogenic, oncolytic virus VSV-NDV. I am especially curious to discover how immunogenic the elicited cancer cell fusion is.
In my spare time, I really enjoy skateboarding and jazz music.
Veterinarian by training (Munich, LMU), I was fascinated by the world of research, which is why I am now working on pancreatic cancer. We are assessing the effects of our tailor-made viro- and combination therapies on this very aggressive disease. The analysis of the interplay between cell populations as a response to our viruses and the immune response shall help us adapt our strategy in the future.
My hobbies include physical activities, such as mountain hiking or bouldering, cooking (especially Chinese food and French pastries) or playing the classical guitar.
I am studying medicine at the Technical University of Munich and am currently in my fifth year. Within the field of immunology, I’m interested in dendritic cells – what activates them, drives them to specific phenotypes and how they interact with other immune cells, like T cells or Natural Killer cells.
In my spare time, I like to be outside and love to dance (especially to Spanish music).
I have a master´s degree in Biology from LMU Munich and am currently enrolled in the Medical Life Science and Technology PhD program. My project is about the improvement of a novel oncolytic virus immunotherapy through immune-stimulatory cytokines. To first prove this immune stimulation in vitro, I initially started working with NK cells, but adapted and extended these experiments to CD4+ T- Cells, CD8+ T-Cells and dendritic cells. Additionally, I´m working on human as well as on murine immune cells. As a next step, it will be very interesting to see how the virus in combination with the different cytokines will be able to activate different types of immune cells in vivo.
In my spare time, I like to play the piano.
European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant
Wilhelm Sander Stiftung
German Research Council (DFG) - SFB824
Tel.: +49 89 4140 6933
Division of Translational Gastrointestinal Immunology (TGI)
Klinikum rechts der Isar University Hospital of the Technical University Munich