UTA names immunology expert and entrepreneur Jon Weidanz associate vice president for research
The University of Texas at Arlington has appointed Dr. Jon Weidanz, founding chairman of the department of immunotherapeutics and biotechnology in the School of Pharmacy at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, as associate vice president for research and professor of biology.
Dr. Weidanz has more than 20 years of experience in biotechnology research with emphasis in immunology, immunotherapy and immunodiagnostic product development, especially related to oncology and the development of products to diagnose and treat cancer. His work is supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and the American Heart Association.
Within TTUHSC, he also founded and served as executive director and chief scientist of Experimmune, a public private partnership and immunology-focused contract research organization designed to provide third-party validation services, product development and due diligence to support TTUHSC, small to large biotechnology companies, big pharmaceutical companies and investment groups. Experimmune has generated significant revenue in its first two years.
In addition, Dr. Weidanz is a seasoned entrepreneur and has founded several private biotechnology companies in the field of immunotherapy.
At UTA, Dr. Weidanz will report to Dr. Duane Dimos, vice president of research, and will play a leadership role in expanding research programs in the life sciences and health-related fields. His first day is January 13.
“I look forward to having a key role in strategic development, pursuing funding opportunities to support the diverse work of the university and constructing partnerships and collaborations that further the goals of UTA,” Dr. Weidanz said. “I envision playing a key leadership role as both a senior administrator and researcher in the University's campaign toward achieving national and international research recognition.”
As chairman of the department of immunotherapeutics and biotechnology at TTUHSC, Dr. Weidanz provided the critical leadership to establish and strengthen research programs and mentor faculty. He received the distinction of University Distinguished Professor as well as was honored with the President's Excellence in Teaching Award and the Chancellor's Council Distinguished Teaching Award for his innovative classroom instruction at TTUHSC. In particular, he was recognized for his active learning strategies and successful implementation of clinical case study discussion sessions in didactic courses.
Dr. Weidanz’s research has focused on immuno-oncology, therapies and treatments aimed at harnessing a patient’s immune system to combat cancer, including using soluble T cell receptors and T cell receptor mimicking antibodies for targeting tumors. Additionally, he engineered T-cell receptor molecules that recruit and activate immune cells to kill tumor cells. He has also been active in the field of vaccine research and development. He holds more than 40 issued, pending and provisional patents for his work, with five patents out-licensed to third parties for commercial development, and has received more than $45 million in grants, contracts and investment support.
Dr. Dimos said Dr. Weidanz’s tremendous experience and leadership in health science will rapidly accelerate UTA’s research profile in alignment with the Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.
“His experience in the corporate world is also extremely valuable to us as we look to expand our commercialization capacities, assist faculty and student innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives and attract venture capital and businesses to UTA,” said Dr. Dimos, who joined the University in April to expand the University’s research and entrepreneurial enterprise and foster commercialization of UTA intellectual property.
As a leading researcher in immunology, immunotherapy, and immunodiagnostics, Dr. Weidanz will receive support through The University of Texas System Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention, or STARS, program. The program provides additional startup funding needed to attract scholars with exceptional records of research, teaching and creative activity.
Dr. Morteza Khaledi, dean of the UTA College of Science, said, “Dr. Weidanz is clearly an accomplished professor and researcher with a strong track record of scholarship in his field. We are excited to have him join the College of Science and know he will add to the critical mass of our college and biology program as we do more in the area of health sciences.”
Dr. Weidanz is also currently serving as associate dean of the TTUHSC Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences, director of the TTUHSC graduate program in biotechnology and adjunct professor in the department of internal medicine of the TTUHSC School of Medicine.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from West Virginia University, followed by a master’s in public health and doctorate in molecular biology and immunology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.