With funds donated by Rodman Wanamaker, son of famed retailer John Wanamaker, Lankenau Hospital Research Institute (LHRI) was founded in 1927, with pioneering cancer researcher Dr. Stanley Reimann at the helm.
In 1952, the very first grant issued by the then-new National Science Foundation was awarded to internationally renowned LHRI researcher Sidney Weinhouse, a pioneer of cancer metabolism who debunked the influential but incorrect early hypothesis that cancer was caused by aberrant glucose metabolism.
In the 1950s, LHRI researchers Robert Briggs and Thomas King conducted the first successful transplantation of a nucleus from one cell to another, enabling the creation elsewhere of the first cloned animal, the sheep Dolly, and development of clinical methods used for in vitro fertilization in humans. This founding research enabled later work by others that was awarded a Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology.
In 1960, LHRI researcher David Hungerford co-discovered the first genetic abnormality in cancer, a defect found in most patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia, called the Philadelphia chromosome. This discovery heralded the genetics revolution in cancer that is today the mainstream of cancer research.
Among the many women who contributed to LHRI research, Beatrice Mintz developed in the 1960s the first mammal composed of genetically different cell populations, a breakthrough that led to the creation of the first transgenic species now widely used in research and agriculture.
During the 1960s, geneticist Baruch Blumberg discovered the hepatitis B virus, showed it can cause liver cancer, and developed a blood test to detect it—work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1976.
Starting in the 1970s, Lankenau's clinical scientists began to play an increasingly crucial role in cardiology research, particularly in many of the pivotal clinical trials of the most important medicines available today for managing cardiac arrhythmias. President of the American College of Cardiology Leonard Dreifus was a prominent figure at Lankenau into the 1990s.
In strengthening its scientific base, a new research building was constructed on Lankenau's campus in 1992 — now the home of the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR).
Since 2000, LIMR researchers have helped launch the modern era of immunotherapy treatments for cancer with the discovery and development of a new class of drugs called IDO inhibitors.
LIMR researchers created nanotechnologies for a precision medicine approach to tumor treatment, and they discovered revolutionary new therapeutic principles that offer the promise to treat autoimmune diseases together as a class.
Charles Antzelevitch, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at LIMR, received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the American College of Cardiology in 2020 for his groundbreaking research on abnormal heart rhythms.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several LIMR investigators on the basic research and clinical trials teams pivoted their work to develop therapies, diagnostics and vaccines. In this work, they collaborated with colleagues from around the world in academic and private research institutes, as well as with federal government officials.