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Jean-Christophe Beltra, PhD

Parker Scholar


Trained as a Cancer Immunologist in France, Jean Christophe Beltra, PhD, rapidly became interested in CD8 T cells. He joined Dr. Hélène Decaluwe’s lab in Montreal, Canada, to obtain an international PhD. Supported by multiple doctoral fellowships, including from the American Association of Immunologists, his PhD work was among the first to find evidence of a key role for cytokines in the development of CD8 T cell exhaustion, a hypo-responsive state preventing optimal control of chronic viral infections and cancers.

Intimately convinced that CD8 T cell exhaustion was a much more complex process than previously appreciated, Beltra joined Dr. John Wherry’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 with the idea that a deeper understanding of this complexity may reveal novel therapeutic opportunities. Using state of the art transcriptional and epigenetic analytic approaches, Beltra found evidence of new subsets of exhausted CD8 T cells, revealing a coordinated, multi-stage developmental process to terminal exhaustion. This research demonstrated that exhausted CD8 T cells retain some degree of developmental flexibility that can be exploited therapeutically, notably in the context of PD-1/PD-L1 blockade.

As a Parker postdoctoral Scholar, his current project aims to identify new molecular pathways capable of counteracting the exhaustion program in CD8 T cells. Cytokine derived-signals appear to be key players in the process. Taking advantage of the leading expertise of the Wherry lab and multiple fruitful collaborations including within the PICI community, he is now using the most up-to-date immunology tools and computational approaches to understand how these powerful agents shape the developmental process of CD8 T cell exhaustion.

Together, he hopes this research will lead to the identification of biologically relevant combinatorial agents capable of synergizing with checkpoint blockade therapy to achieve curative and protective immunity in a higher number of patients with cancer.

Education & Training

  • 2017-present: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, Postdoctoral scholar, Immunology of CD8 T cells
  • 2017: University of Montreal, Qc, Canada, Ph.D., Immunology of CD8 T cells
  • 2010: University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (France), M.Sc., Immunology and Cancer
  • 2008: University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (France), B.Sc., Immunology and Microbiology

Awards & Honors

  • 2021: Parker Scholar Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2017: Dean’s honor for excellent Ph.D. defense, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal
  • 2016: American Association of Immunologists (AAI), Careers in Immunology Fellowship
  • 2014 & 2015: Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, Ph.D., Fellowship
  • 2014: UHC Ste Justine Foundation, Excellence Doctoral Fellowship
  • 2013: Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, Excellence Scholarship