Emerging Scientist Spotlight
Beau Webber, phd - Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Tell us about yourself in 2-4 sentences. For example, about your profession, area of expertise, how long you’ve been a researcher, etc. and a fun fact.
I began my research career as an undergrad about 15 years ago, leading into my PhD training under Bruce Blazar at the U of MN. My expertise encompasses the intersection of genome engineering, stem cells, and immuno-oncology. I recently finished my first full year as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology and Oncology, where my lab is focused on developing new cell-based cancer immunotherapies as well as “bottom-up” models of cancer using human pluripotent stem cells and genome engineering.
Fun fact: I was the 2003 Minnesota state high school diving champion.
Why did you choose to become a scientist that researches cures for childhood cancer?
Pediatric cancers are often rare and understudied. In many cases, treatment options have not appreciably changed in decades and can have substantial side-effects that impact long-term quality of life for young patients. The strong need for new therapies that can cure without debilitating side-effects motivates me to pursue childhood cancer research.
What motivates you to continue to research cures for childhood cancer?
I stay motivated for many of the same reasons that I chose to research childhood cancer in the first place. I am also very excited by the promise of immune-based therapies, particularly adoptive cell therapies using immune cells that have been genetically engineered to enhance function and specifically target cancer cells. The whole field is moving and innovating at an incredible pace and it gives me optimism that breakthroughs are closer than ever before.
How has receiving grant funds from the Children’s Cancer Research fund impacted your career?
The Emerging Scientist award was critical because it allowed me to expand my efforts generating stem cell-based “bottom-up” models of osteosarcoma to now include models of Ewing’s Sarcoma. The Ewing’s project is proving to be very exciting, and the data generated are already allowing me to secure further funding and submit highly competitive grant proposals. This would not have been possible without CCRF funding.
What did you think you were going to be when you were growing up?
According to my parents, when I was very young, I told them I wanted to grow up to be a Danish immigrant. Eventually I realized this was probably not a viable career option, and since I’ve always had a strong interest in science, technology, and the natural world, a career as a scientist was something I aspired to early on.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I enjoy spending time with my family and being outside. Also, fishing. I really like fishing.