Hillman Announces New Director for Cell Therapy Laboratory

January 25, 2021

Yen-Michael Hsu, M.D., Ph.D.

The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center today announced that Yen-Michael Hsu, M.D., Ph.D., will serve as the new as Director of the Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory at (IMCPL). He is also appointed as associate professor of hematology and oncology in the Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He has been awarded a Hillman Fellowship for Innovative Cancer Research to support his research.

Hsu, a board-certified pathologist specialized in laboratory medicine, assumes his role from Theresa Whiteside, Ph.D., who directed the IMCPL for nearly three decades.

The IMCPL is a critical resource at UPMC and Pitt, responsible for the generation of therapeutic cellular products or “living drugs” to treat cancer and other diseases, monitoring immune function in patients treated with these therapies, and banking patient tissues for basic and clinical research. The IMCPL is also part of Pitt and UPMC’s COVID-19 research efforts, manufacturing the PittCoVacc that is delivered through a fingertip-sized patch and has shown promise in animal models.

“Michael has a demonstrated record of successfully leading cellular therapy laboratories at some of the leading institutions in the world and we are excited to have him join Hillman,” said Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., director of UPMC Hillman. “As a physician and a scientist he brings the experience and the expertise to match our long-term vision for Hillman to become a nationally renowned hub for cellular therapies.”

Hsu’s appointment comes as UPMC Hillman plans a significant expansion to the IMCPL to support a steadily increasing demand for cell therapies. The facility will be the only one of its kind in the region and will manufacture cell therapies for cancer and other diseases.

“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to come to Hillman and lead this ambitious effort to develop the next generation of cell therapies.” said Hsu.“Cellular therapies have proven remarkably effective at treating cancer but there is still a lot of work to be done to make them accessible to more patients. That’s a challenge I very much look forward to.”

Hsu will partner with physicians, scientists and industry collaborators to translate cutting-edge science into consistent, high-quality cellular therapies to benefit patients. A trained immunologist, he will also focus on research to optimize or develop new protocols to improve every step of the cellular manufacturing process, helping get treatments to more patients, faster.

Prior to his appointment at Hillman, Hsu established and served as the founding medical director of the first cGMP cellular therapy laboratory at Weill Cornell Medicine for six years and led the successful certification effort to make New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center an early treatment center for the first CAR-T therapies developed by Novartis and Kite.

Hsu received his M.D. and Ph.D., from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston/MD Anderson Cancer Center and completed his residency in clinical pathology at the Washington University School of Medicine/Barnes Jewish Hospital. He then completed a fellowship in transfusion medicine and cellular therapy at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.