Yale immunologist studying host responses to infection named 2005 Searle Scholar

05/17/05



John D. MacMicking
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New Haven, Conn. -- John D. MacMicking, an assistant professor recently recruited to the Section of Microbial Pathogenesis at Yale School of Medicine, has been named as a 2005 Searle Scholar and will receive $240,000 during the next three years to support his research program on novel host defense pathways to infection.

MacMicking studies aspects of the interferon pathway that bridge the processes of innate and acquired immunity which are crucial for controlling infection of macrophages and dendritic cells by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of TB.

MacMicking's selection was based on his demonstrated innovative research that has the potential for making significant and extended contributions to the complex innate immune response of higher organisms.

"Currently our research focuses on group of newly identified host proteins called Immune-related GTPases that are elicited in response to infection. These GTPases appear critical for preventing the pathogen from establishing a safe and nutrient-rich niche used for microbial growth," said MacMicking "The details of how these new proteins remodel the intracellular environment are still being worked out -- it's a fascinating challenge."

His research uses a combination of mammalian and mycobacterial genetics along with cell biology, immunology and protein crystallography to study these processes. It should lead to a better understanding of the biological relationship between eukaryote and prokaryote while providing a basis for rational TB vaccine or drug design in the future.

"What makes the Searle award so special is that it gives investigators the freedom to pursue larger questions within the biomedical and chemical sciences, questions that are for the most part conceptually driven," said MacMicking. The Searle award will bring new researchers to the group and pay for newer research technologies for the lab.

Funds for the awards come from trusts established by John G. and Frances C. Searle. Mr. Searle was President of G.D. Searle & Co., of Skokie, Illinois, a research-based pharmaceutical company. The 393 Searle Scholars have shared over $69,780,000 in grants since the program began in 1981. This year, 15 scholars were chosen from 193 applications by recently appointed assistant professors at 122 universities and research institutions nationwide. Nominated applicants come from all branches of the biomedical and chemical sciences.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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