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Each week, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy will highlight the bold work of researchers who have received funding from the Eshelman Institute for Innovation (EII). The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. To learn more about the EII’s impact, visit

Meet: Carter Cao

Project: A Companion Diagnostics for Checkpoint Immunotherapy: Beyond Static Biomarkers

Funded Amount: $50,000.00

About project: A companion diagnostics we are developing in this project is based on the dynamic properties of cytokine secretion by peripheral T-cells. This diagnostics would fundamentally change current time-frozen static diagnostic approaches to more dynamic characterization of immune functions and its potential responsive status to checkpoint immunotherapy.

“This project has showed us a new approach of companion diagnosis for immunotherapy, which is to use the secretion dynamics of T cell from peripheral blood,” said Cao. “We are now in the process of evaluating a broad range of cytokine secretion to seek more robust and clinically translational metrics for diagnosis of patients who respond to checkpoint blockades.”

Researchers on project: Yanguang Cao, Can Liu

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