Ed and Jennifer St. John share a passion: to transform lives through philanthropy. Their philosophy stems from their respected upbringings, each coming from a family that instilled the importance of giving back to others. It is a lesson that has long been an influence throughout both of their lives.
The couple made a transformational gift to name the Edward and Jennifer St. John Stem Cell Laboratory, a space that supports the innovative cell therapy research of Aaron Rapoport, MD and his team of expert investigators. The St. Johns’ incredible commitment fulfills their philanthropic vision and will undoubtedly inspire advancements in cancer care, research, and discovery.
“We are well into the 21st century and cancer still causes so much suffering and loss,” says Jennifer, an Emmy award-winning television journalist and former news anchor who spent more than 26 years at WBFF Fox 45. “The research that will be done in this laboratory can help mitigate and potentially end that suffering and loss. It’s very meaningful to us.” Ed, founder and chairman of St. John Properties, has long been a champion of the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) and remains a steadfast supporter of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Ed’s friendship with the Greenebaum family inspired his initial involvement with UMGCCC more than two decades ago. Since then, he has known many people who have undergone cancer treatments at UMGCCC. He continually is impressed by the care they receive and inspired by the innovations that occur within the same hospital walls, especially in cell therapy research.
Dr. Rapoport and his team have conducted several clinical trials of adoptive T-cell therapy, a process that genetically engineers a person’s immune cells to attack their cancer cells. It has shown remarkable success in treating patients with multiple myeloma. They have now developed the next generation of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy using a tagged antibody approach—a process invented at the University of Maryland. It has shown promise in treating blood cancers and other types of cancers as well.
“I am amazed by the potential to not only treat cancer, but to one day cure it,” Ed explains. “This is not just local research; it is worldwide research. You can’t just go to any hospital and get this advanced treatment, but you can get it at the University of Maryland.”
Securing funding for this type of investigative research can be difficult and private philanthropy plays a pivotal role in jumpstarting new innovations.
"These breakthroughs don’t happen without philanthropy, and we feel very strongly that this research needs to be supported,” Jennifer says. “Seeing the work that’s being done and the hope that this research is providing, we hope that others will step up and realize that this can help make a difference in our world.”
In addition to cancer, the Edward and Jennifer St. John Stem Cell Laboratory is being used in other areas of medicine, including investigations into a promising new therapy for AIDS.
“We take great pride in supporting the lifesaving and life-altering work being done by expert researchers and clinicians at UMGCCC, who are working together to prevent, detect, and treat cancer and other diseases,” Ed says.