Scientist from Illinois working to find cure for cancer

A former DePaul track star and Illinois native is now racing to find a cure for cancer.

Bryan Clay is a principal scientist with Pfizer, working in their cancer vaccine and immunotherapy division in California. He grew up downstate in Springfield and attended DePaul University and the University of Chicago.

"Chicago is such a great diverse city…and it got me accustomed to and collaborating with people from all different backgrounds… When you are here working at Pfizer, we have colleagues from all over the world," Clay said.


During his ten years at the pharmaceutical company, Clay has helped develop multiple types of vaccines that treat a variety of cancers.

"There's prostate cancer. There's breast cancer. There's a lot for melanoma," Clay said.

Some of the cancer vaccines he helped test are already on the market, like the human papilloma virus or HPV vaccine, which prevents the virus that can cause cervical cancer.

Ironically, Clay says, the same mRNA technology used in the COVID-19 vaccine is also a valuable tool in fighting cancer.

"Now that it's been shown that it can actually induce a strong immune response, and …that we can manufacture the mRNA immediate vaccines in a large scale… that definitely has moved the ability to use mRNA vaccines and possibly in cancer research…forward," he said.

Clay is hoping his work inspires young Chicagoans to take on big challenges to better the world.

"Don't be afraid to ask big questions…because for something, a disease like cancer, you have to think outside the box and try new things and always try to push the envelope further and move forward," Clay said.