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CLIONA ROONEY, PH.D.

Professor
Molecular Virology and Microbiology
Department of Pediatrics, Immunology
Section of Hematology-Oncology
Baylor College of Medicine

Cliona Rooney, PhD, is a Professor in the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy (CAGT), the Department of Pediatrics, the Department of Molecular Virology Microbiology and the Department of Pathology-Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine. Her scientific training is in viral immunology and since 1992 she has exploited this expertise for the treatment of virus-associated diseases and malignancies. She first developed clinical protocols for the prevention and treatment of EBV-associated lymphomas that occur after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) then extended this successful therapy to other viral infections of stem cell transplant recipients and to EBV-positive malignancies that occur in immunocompetent individuals. She has a particular interest in strategies that render T cells genetically resistant to inhibition by the tumor microenvironment, such as a dominant-negative TGF-beta receptor and a constitutively active IL-7 receptor. To add a safety switch for genetically enhanced T-cells, she developed a caspase 9 suicide gene that was inducible by dimerization and that has proved successful in clinical trials both at BCM and at other Institutions. To overcome the lack of in vivo proliferation of T-cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for tumor antigens, she has evaluated the use of virus-specific T cells (VSTs) as hosts for CARs, so that CAR-VST activation and expansion can be induced by endogenous viruses, viral vaccines or oncolytic viruses. She is the Director of the T-cell manufacturing group of the CAGT GMP facility and has been a principal investigator on over 20 clinical protocols involving cellular therapies and co-investigator on over 40, having been involved in their conception, development, clinical translation and clinical application. She serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of Marker Therapeutics, AlloVir and CellGenix and is the author of over 300 scientific publications. Dr. Rooney received her Ph.D. in Immunology from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom in 1981, and performed postdoctoral studies at the University of Bristol, the University of Birmingham (UK) and Yale University (USA).