Autumn J. Schulze, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic molecular medicine researcher, is currently focused on developing new oncolytic picornaviruses — anticancer therapeutic agents that infect and lyse cancer cells — for clinical translation. Dr. Schulze's research program primarily studies RNA-based therapeutics including the formulation of oncolytic picornavirus therapeutics as "infectious" RNA.
Dr. Schulze's and her research team concentrate their efforts on:
- Understanding the basic biology of picornaviruses
- Identifying host-virus interactions that influence therapeutic efficacy
- Developing mechanisms of regulating these interactions
- Evaluating the impact of combination therapies — pharmacological, viral, and nonviral — on anti-cancer activity in vivo
Dr. Schulze's research lab uses a variety of molecular biology, biochemical and immunological experimental approaches to develop and characterize new therapeutics. Her team primarily uses murine mouse models for in vivo evaluation of new and combined therapies.
Dr. Schulze also directs the Viral Vector Production Laboratory, a resource established to enable Mayo Clinic investigators to translate promising virus-based therapies to human clinical trials. The laboratory develops large-scale virus production and purification procedures required for translating laboratory reagents for use in humans. The Viral Vector Production Laboratory operates a good manufacturing practices facility to produce viral products for phase 1 and 2 clinical trials.
Dr. Schulze's research laboratory
- Regulation of picornavirus tropism to enhance safety through microRNA-detargeting, internal ribosome entry site switching and manipulation of virulence elements
- Enhancement of potency of oncolytic picornaviruses through combination with picornavirus replicons encoding immunomodulatory genes, chemotherapeutics, immune checkpoint blockade therapies and mRNA-based therapeutics
- Development of nonviral delivery vehicles for RNA-based therapeutics
- Process development for clinical-grade infectious RNA production and purification
- Investigation of the impact of infectious RNA modification and purification processes on immunogenicity and therapeutic efficacy
- Elucidation of key interactions between viral biological elements, such as polycytidine tracts, and host cell proteins or RNA that impact viral pathogenesis and therapeutic efficacy
Viral Vector Production Laboratory
- Scaled production of new oncolytic virus-based therapeutics
- Scaled production of novel viral vectors for gene therapy and vaccination
Significance to patient care
The therapeutic potential of oncolytic viruses as anti-cancer treatments has been clearly demonstrated in various clinical investigations; however, the response rates are highly variable. Enhancing the overall efficacy of therapies is important, but it requires a thorough analysis of virus biology, toxicology and preclinical investigation in appropriate models to ensure safety and clinical relevancy.
Dr. Schulze and her research team's development of novel picornavirus therapies, as well as their enhancement of the potency of coxsackievirus A21, which is a virus with demonstrated clinical activity, will continue to drive the oncolytic viro-immunotherapy field forward toward the goal of curing patients and bringing about a better quality of life.
The Viral Vector Production Laboratory provides the expertise to translate virus-based therapeutic research at Mayo Clinic to testing in patients in early-phase clinical trials.
- Associate director, Virology and Gene Therapy Graduate Program, Mayo Clinic, 2021-present
- Director, Gene and Virus Therapy Shared Resource, Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic 2021-present
- Member, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, 2021-present
- Member, Manufacturing Quality and Compliance Subcommittee, Mayo Clinic, 2021-present
- Member, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, 2020-present
- Secretary, Associate Consultant Council, 2019-present
- Member, Student Life and Wellness Committee, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, 2018-present