David Van Valen (PhD '11), assistant professor of biology and biological engineering, has been named one of five members of the 2021 class of Pew–Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research. The scholarship, awarded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust, provides four years of funding to "accelerate discovery and advance progress to a cure for cancer."
Research in Van Valen's laboratory aims to understand how living systems store, process, and transfer information, and to unravel how this information processing is altered in human disease states. With the Pew–Stewart scholarship, Van Valen plans to develop computational methods to interpret new spatial datasets with single-cell resolution and predict how patients will respond to cancer immunotherapy.
"Targeting cancer with our immune system has been a tremendous breakthrough for cancer patients, but the response and adverse event rates prevent many patients from achieving remission," says Van Valen. "New spatial datasets hold the key to both predicting responses to better guide therapy as well as developing better therapies, but interpreting these new data is challenging. With the support of the Pew Charitable Trust and the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust, we will develop new deep-learning algorithms for interpreting multiplexed imaging data of solid tumors and predicting patient responses to immunotherapies."
Van Valen joined the Caltech faculty in 2018. As part of the UCLA–Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), he received his PhD from Caltech in 2011 and his MD from UCLA in 2013. Van Valen was named a Rita Allen Foundation Scholar in 2020.
Other Caltech faculty previously selected as Pew–Stewart Scholars include Rebecca Voorhees, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering and Heritage Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Investigator; and Mitchell Guttman, professor of biology and HMRI Investigator.