8. University of Pennsylvania

This is a photo of the Clinical Research Building of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA
University of Pennsylvania (Hazmat2)

Rank: 8

Nature Index score: 687.75

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) has over the years become synonymous with a revolutionary new way of treating cancer: CAR-T.

From the work of Carl June, M.D., the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies—probably the most famous oncology researcher in the world—and his colleagues at Penn, the organization teamed up with Novartis on a seven-year journey that saw the first approval of a CAR-T drug, now known as Kymriah in certain blood cancers.

RELATED: Novartis crosses FDA finish line with monumental CAR-T leukemia approval

Penn and Novartis joined forces in 2012, a year after a team of physicians and scientists from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center published breakthrough results in several chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients treated with personalized versions of their own immune cells.

What they helped create was a new way of treating blood cancers that for some, could help cure a disease that was once a death sentence.

And what’s more, in Philadelphia alone—now known as the “Cellicon Valley,” as a result of Penn’s successes—there are more than 30 new companies with more than 3,000 new jobs combined, representing $2 billion of investment in cell and gene therapy.

While its work with Novartis came to an end last year, the two are still doing a limited partnership. But Penn wants to kick-start CAR-T 2.0, including development of next-generation CAR-T treatments in both solid tumors and blood cancers.

RELATED: University of Pennsylvania researchers nab grant for CAR-T prostate cancer test

And of course, like its peers, Penn has also been heavily involved in COVID-19 research. Back in July, it published a new paper in Science showing it had discovered three distinct immune responses to the SARS-CoV2 infection.

This could, it said, help predict the trajectory of disease in severe COVID-19 patients and “may ultimately inform how to best treat them.”

8. University of Pennsylvania