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Inspiring woman in science: Yvonne Chen does life-saving cutting-edge cancer research

Yvonne Chen, Cancer Researcher

To help get more girls interested in STEM, let’s spotlight inspiring women in science! A great example is Yvonne Chen, who is doing life-saving research. She is co-founder of ImmPACT Bio, which is based in Camarillo, California. The biotech company recently received positive results in its Phase 1 clinical study in relapsed/refractory B-cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (R/R B-cell NHL).

Yvonne will be at the upcoming LABEST biotech conference in LA. UCLA is hosting this event on Thursday, May 25, 2023.

Interview with Yvonne Chen

Yvonne co-founded ImmPACT Bio. Why? With the express purpose to “bring promising new therapies to patients in need,” she explained to me. I wanted to find out more! Thanks to Yvonne for taking the time for this interview.

Yvonne, what inspired you to launch ImmPACT Bio?

My research group developed a new chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy that we believed could bring benefit to patients. With encouragement and support from senior colleagues, we decided to take the technology to the clinic.

In planning the clinical trial, I quickly realized that the financial resources required to fully evaluate this therapy and eventually make it accessible to a large number of patients are beyond what one could gather academically, hence the impetus to start a company.

Are you focusing on certain types of cancer? How can your research help with finding a cure

Our ongoing clinical trial is focused on treating patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma using T cells that express a CD19/CD20 bispecific CAR. CD19 CAR-T cell therapy has shown remarkable efficacy for patients with B-cell leukemia and lymphoma, but accumulating clinical data have made clear that antigen escape—i.e., when tumors escape from therapy by losing the target antigen, in this case CD19—is a major problem.

My research group developed the CD19/CD20 bispecific CAR to reduce the probability of antigen escape, as the tumor will now need to lose two different antigens—both CD19 and CD20—in order to successfully evade detection by the bispecific CAR-T cells. The clinical data so far show very promising efficacy as well as safety of this CD19/CD20 CAR-T cell therapy.

Our research group is continuing to develop next-generation CAR-T cell therapies for both hematological and solid tumors. We are preparing to launch a new trial to treat patients with multiple myeloma with a BCMA/CS1 bispecific CAR-T cell therapy, and also have therapies for solid tumors, such as glioblastoma in development.

*Please note, the response above describes work by my academic lab, not plans for ImmPACT Bio.

Your work is impressive! What is your long-term goal with ImmPACT Bio?

To bring promising new therapies to patients in need. We hope to develop therapies for a variety of diseases, both within and beyond cancer.

I’m curious if you have ever felt “less than” or undermined as a woman in STEM?

I have benefited from the decades of women who came before me and fought for a place in STEM, such that I can honestly say I went through years of training as a chemical engineer and never felt “less than” because of my gender.

I now work as an academic researcher surrounded and supported by great colleagues. Are there days when I feel I could have said or done things differently if I were a man? Absolutely. However, I think being different doesn’t have to mean being “less than,” and it has been helpful to focus instead on what I want to accomplish, how I can best achieve those goals, and how to also support others in that process to help everyone succeed.

Support is essential. Are you planning to keep your company based in LA?

Yes. LA has a great ecosystem with strong academic institutions, a vibrant workforce, and a growing number of biotech companies. It’s also a wonderful place to live!

LABEST event at UCLA

See Yvonne Chen at LABEST on May 25

This is going to be quite the event! Major players in the biotech field, including Yvonne Chen, will gather at UCLA for the LABEST event. LABEST stands for Los Angeles Bioscience Ecosystem Summit.

The event will feature leading biotech companies, researchers, and universities. Register online for LABEST 2023 here.


Top photo: Meet Yvonne Chen of ImmPACT Bio. Photo courtesy of Yvonne.

18 thoughts on “Inspiring woman in science: Yvonne Chen does life-saving cutting-edge cancer research”

  1. Christy, what an impressive interview with Yvonne Chen. She is definitely changing the conversation in biotechnology. I love how we are seeing more girls who are engaging in STEM. Thanks for sharing Yvonne’s dedicated work and career. 😍💖😘🙏🏼🤗

    1. Oh bless you my dear friend. 🙏🏼 Seeing such an increase in diverse representation throughout the field of STEM is so amazing. Thanks for sharing her story. 😍💖🥰

    2. Oh Dimples, you are such a wonderful supporter, encourager and inspiration to all of us. Continue to expose us to issues women so desperately need to be aware of. Enjoy the rest of your week! 🤗💐🥰💖😊

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