Olivera (Olja) J. Finn, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Immunology and Surgery and Founding Chair of the Department of Immunology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Dr. Finn is University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Professor of Immunology and Surgery and Founding Chair of the Department of Immunology, the position she held from 2001 to 2013. She was Program Leader of the Cancer Immunology Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute from 1991 to 2014. 

After receiving her PhD in Immunology at Stanford University in 1980, and completing her postdoctoral training there in 1982, Dr. Finn moved to Duke University and in 1991 to the University of Pittsburgh.  She gained prominence through her original focus on transplantation biology and later through her basic and applied research focused on tumor antigens and the development of cancer vaccines.  She has an extensive track record of research accomplishments reported in over 250 peer-reviewed papers and numerous reviews and book chapters.  She is the discoverer of the MUC1 tumor antigen and has published extensively and continuously for the last 25 years on her basic and preclinical work on the development and evaluation of MUC1 cancer vaccines.  She has been a co-investigator on a dozen clinical trials of various MUC1 vaccines in pancreatic, colon, breast, prostate and lung cancer. Dr. Finn and her team also identified cyclin B1 as a tumor antigen and published several papers on its excellent potential as a cancer vaccine.  Her current efforts are on the development of preventative cancer vaccines. 

Dr. Finn is an active member of the American Association of Immunologists where she served seven years as Council member and one year as President.  She also served two terms as Councilor of the International Union of Immunology Societies (IUIS) and is currently Chair of the IUIS Committee on Gender Equality and Career Development.  She is also member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and Past Chair of the Steering Committee of the AACR Cancer Immunology (CIMM) Working Group. She has served on NCI study sections and was a member of the NCI Board of Councilors.  She has trained 25 PhD and MD/PhD students in her laboratory and over 70 postdoctoral fellows, many of whom hold important positions in academic institutions or biomedical companies. She received twice the Mentor of the Year Award from the University of Pittsburgh. In 2016, Dr. Finn was the recipient of the AAI Life Time Achievement Award as well as NCI Outstanding Investigator Award.  In 2017 she was honored with the AACR CIR Lloyd Old Cancer Immunology Prize.