Cytokines 2015

The Seymor and Vivian Milstein Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research

Alberto Mantovani, Ph.D.

Scientific Director
Istituto Clinico Humanitas
President, Fondazione Humanitas per la Ricerca
Professor of General Pathology
School of Medicine
Humanitas University, Italy

Alberto Mantovani has been actively involved in the fostering of science and scientific policy in Italy at various levels, with a focus on Immunology, Vaccines, Public Health, and Biomedicine, taking public stands on several issues including quackery whenever appropriate. He regularly contributes to the most authoritative Italian daily newspapers (eg Corriere della Sera; Il Sole 24 Ore) and magazines (Espresso and Panorama). He wrote a book (I Guardiani della Vita, Dalai Editore, 2011) on Immunology and Health targeted to lay public and contributed to scientific (eg SuperQuark; TGR Leonardo; Radiotre Scienza) and general radio and television programs. To promote science awareness and policy he cofounded the association “ Gruppo2003” of Italian highly cited scientists ( and together with astrophysicist Tommaso Maccacaro founded the website


For several years now, bibliometric analyses have indicated that he is the most quoted italian scientist. He has over 69.00 citations. A recent ranking indicates that he is the most quoted Italian scientist working in Italy (;) and one of the 10 most quoted immunologists worldwide (H-index ISI 117; Scopus 134; Google Scholar 154) Top_scientists_in_the_world___the_Via_academy_compilation.aspx

Honorary Life Membership

Eleanor Fish, Ph.D.

Toronto General Research Institute

Eleanor Fish is a long-standing member of the ICIS, having joined the ISICR in 1982. Since then she has been active on a number of Society Committees, including Nomenclature, Membership and, most recently as co-Chair of the Awards Committee. Eleanor has been on the Organizing Committee of a number of our annual meetings – co-hosting the Toronto and Chicago Meetings – and assisting with the Jerusalem, Cleveland, Cairns, Shanghai, Montreal, Geneva, Vienna and most recently, the Melbourne Meeting in 2014. Eleanor was elected President of ISICR in 2008 and received the Seymour & Vivian Milstein award in 2010. Eleanor has served on the ISICR and ICS councils.

Eleanor received her undergraduate B.Sc. degree in Biological Chemistry from the University of Manchester, England, and her Master of Philosophy in Virology from King’s College, University of London, England. She received her Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto, Canada. She is currently Professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto, is a Senior Scientists in the Toronto General Research Institute, Toronto and Director of the Arthritis & Autoimmunity Research Centre at the University Health Network, Toronto. She is Associate Chair of International Initiatives & Collaborations in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto. She is an Adjunct Scientist at Women’s College Hospital, Toronto and Visiting Professor in the Department of Immunology at Moi University, Kenya.

Eleanor is the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Women’s Health & Immunobiology, a McLaughlin Scholar and was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Microbiologists. In 2012, she received the Canadian Society for Immunology Investigator Award, in recognition of her excellence in research throughout her career and her mentorship and in 2015 the Canadian Society for Immunology Cinader Award. The Cinader award is the premier scientific award provided by the CSI. The prize is awarded to an Immunologist working in Canada who is an exceptional researcher and also has something extra. Her nomination cites not only her outstanding research contributions but the depth and breadth of her contributions to the community through training, leadership, collaboration and international activities.

She is currently on the editorial boards for the Journal of Interferon and Cytokine Research, Viruses, and Arthritis & Rheumatology. Her work has been published in many scientific journals, including the Journal of Immunology, Experimental Hematology, Circulation, Blood, Nature, PNAS, JAMA, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Journal of Virology, Journal of Leukocyte Biology, Nature Immunology, Trends in Immunology, Journal of IFN and Cytokine Research and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

A focus of Eleanor’s research is the investigation of host-pathogen interactions at the cellular and molecular level, specifically in the context of viruses and interferons. During the 2003 outbreak of SARS in Toronto, she initiated studies to investigate the therapeutic potential of interferon in SARS patients. Encouraging results have directed her group’s efforts toward examining interferon activity against a number of emerging infectious diseases, such as avian H5N1 and pandemic H1N1 influenza viruses. Most recently, her studies have focused on investigating the therapeutic effectiveness of interferon treatment for Ebola virus disease, with a clinical trial ongoing in Guinea. Eleanor is a member of a WHO Working Group to evaluate the therapeutic effectiveness of different vaccine and antiviral interventions against Ebola virus. Another focus of her work relates to understanding the immune mechanisms that drive autoimmunity, related to rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Most recently, Eleanor has initiated research studies in breast cancer, within the context of understanding how chemokine-driven alterations to metabolism influence the growth and metastasis of breast tumors.

Another facet related to Eleanor’s research activities involves global outreach, specifically to resource poor regions. For many years, as Visiting Professor, she has been involved in curriculum development and mentoring both Faculty and students in the Department of Immunology at Moi University in Kenya. This extends now to the ongoing development of basic science courses with relevance for trainee MDs, nurses and dentists. She has made these courses available to different institutions across Kenya. In addition, she has established an international initiative – Beyond Science Initiative – that sees undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Toronto communicating with students around the globe as mentors as well as activists in the area of social justice; To foster partnerships among the next generation of global scientific leaders who will appreciate cultural sensitivities and global responsibilities.

 The Milstein Young Investigator Award

Dusan Bogunovic, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dept. of Microbiology

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

New York, NY

Dr. Dusan Bogunovic obtained his PhD at NYU School of Medicine, NY, NY, USA in Molecular Oncology and Immunology. During my PhD training, he examined examined the function of Toll-Like Receptor (TLR) agonists on dendritic cells and the role of immune system in advanced melanoma. He delineated the pathways involved in observed suppression of inflammation when the two TLRs were co-ligated, and demonstrated the functional relevance of this finding in T cell lineage commitment. Subsequently, his postdoctoral training took place at the Rockefeller University, NY, NY, USA where he discovered null mutations in ISG15 in patients who suffered from mycobacterial disease and had persistent Type I IFN inflammation. He showed essential roles for both free extracellular and free intracellular ISG15. In 2014, He accepted a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in the Microbiology Department of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The Bogunovic lab focuses on the study of human immunogenetics, dissecting pathways negatively regulating inflammation, and defining the role for ISGylation in humans.


Daniel J. Gough

Centre for Cancer Research

Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Clayton,  Australia

Dr. Gough is a biochemist and cancer biologist and group leader of the STAT Cancer Biology lab at the Hudson Institute and Monash University. He was awarded a Ph.D from the University of Melbourne for work on novel interferon signaling pathways eliciting an anti-viral state. This work identified a critical role for the AP-1 subunit c-Jun in the constitutive secretion of a priming concentration of IFN-beta which maintains STAT1 protein expression and anti-viral protection.

Dr. Gough moved to New York University to undertake post-doctoral training in Professor David E. Levy’s laboratory (Lewis A. Schneider Professor and Associate Dean for Collaborative Science). Dr. Gough developed his interest in STAT3 cancer biology in Professor Levy’s laboratory it was here that we found that the transcription factor STAT3 translocates into the mitochondria. This mitochondrial pool of STAT3 does not alter the transcription of STAT3-target genes, however it regulates metabolic activities which are required for transformation by the Ras oncogenes. Mitochondrial STAT3 augments the activity of the electron transport chain, lactate dehydrogenase, and ATP production.

Dr. Gough returned to Australia in September 2012 to start his laboratory at Monash University. His research program is supported by grants and a fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.


Shuvojit Banerjee

Lerner Research Inst

Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Dept of Cancer Biology

Cleveland, OH

Dr. Shuvojit Banerjee received his PhD in Biotechnology from the Dr.B.C.Guha Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Calcutta (India) in 2008. He then went to the Lerner Research Institute in the Cleveland clinic to perform postdoctoral research in the laboratories of Drs. Charles Foster and Robert Silverman.  He was appointed a Research Associate in the Department of Cancer Biology, Lerner Research Institute in 2014.  His current research involves investigation into studies on OAS (2’-5’oligoadenylate synthetase) – RNase L:  one of the principal mediators of the innate immune response and thus critically important for human health.  In a recent development, he has found that RNase L cleaves self or viral (non-self) RNA to generate small RNA products that can act as activators of host immune response. His project involves the identification of those RNaseL cleaved self or viral RNAs employing new generation RNA sequencing which is essential to host defense against a wide range of viruses and several diseases including cancer. He is also studying how cellular and viral components regulate OAS-RNase L pathway both in viral infection and in tumor microenvironment.  Dr. Banerjee has been the recipient of a Milstein Travel Award and a Cleveland Clinic Innovator Award.


Aoi Akitsu

Tokyo University of Science

Univ of Tokyo Inst of Medical Science

Noda-shi, Chiba


Dr. Aoi Akitsu is an immunologist and a postdoctoral fellow at Tokyo University of Science, Japan. Her research has been focused on the cellular and molecular mechanism of the development of autoimmune diseases. She has been in Prof. Y. Iwakura’s lab throughout her research career.

She received her Ph. D from University of Tokyo for work on the pathogenesis of IL-17-producing innate-like cells, such as gd T cells and innate lymphoid cells, in autoimmune diseases. She found that IL-17-producing gd T cells play a crucial role in the development of arthritis in IL-1Ra KO mice, a good model for rheumatoid arthritis. She also found that activated CD4+ T cells directed gd T cell infiltration into joints, in a chemokine-dependent manner. These findings provide significant conceptual advances into the pathogenic mechanisms in which the cross talk between adaptive and innate immunity causes the development of autoimmune diseases in a coordinated manner.

In addition, she has found that Rag2 KO-IL-1Ra KO mice spontaneously develop colitis with a high mortality. She has demonstrated that excess IL-1 signaling and IL-1-induced IL-17 production, which is induced by innate lymphoid cells, have important roles in the pathogenesis of colitis in these mice in which Treg cells are absent.

While she was Ph.D. student, based on her accomplishments, she was accepted as a research fellow supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

The Christina Fleischmann Award to Young Women Investigators

The rules for this ICIS award are the same as for the Milstein Young Investigator Award (see above) except for gender and the candidate must have received a Ph.D or M.D. degree within the previous 10 years. This award is made possible through the generosity of the Fleischmann Foundation and is dedicated to the memory of ISICR member and outstanding interferon research scientist Christina Fleischmann. This award is open to young women investigators working in cytokine, chemokine and interferon biology.

Heekyong (Rachel) Bae, Ph.D.

Cancer and Inflammation Program

Center for Cancer Research


Frederick, MD

Dr. Heekyong (Rachel) Bae received her BS from Seoul National University, South Korea and completed her PhD studying the immunotoxicity of mycotoxins at Michigan State University in 2009. She started postdoctoral training in cancer research at the University of Michigan Medical School and continued it at the National Cancer Institute, NIH in 2011. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Howard Young, and her studies focus on the role of Interferon gamma on autoimmunity and cancer. She is particularly interested in the innate immune response involved with the development of autoimmune diseases such as lupus and autoimmune cholangitis.

The Sidney & Joan Pestka Graduate and Post-Graduate Awards for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research Sponsored by PBL InterferonSource

The Sidney & Joan Pestka Graduate and Post-Graduate Awards are targeted to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who have begun to make an impact in interferon and cytokine research. Candidates must be actively working in interferon/cytokine research.  The award includes a $3500 cash award, $1500 travel grant, a $2500 PBL Assay Science product credit for each awardee, and a complimentary one-year ICIS membership.

Graduate Award

Jan Pencik

Ludwig Boltzmann Inst for Cancer Research (LBI-CR)

Vienna, Austria

Jan Pencik is originally from Brno, Czech republic (the city where Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, invented his famous 'Mendelian's laws'). He obtained his Master Degree in Biochemistry from the Faculty of Science, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, working on the molecular mechanisms controlling cell cycle in mouse and human embryonic stem cells. Right after graduation, he joined the lab of Prof. Stephan Nussberger (Stuttgart, Germany) to study mitochondrial proteins and their cellular signaling networks. 

He was then accepted as a doctoral student in molecular Signal Transduction at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria under the mentorship of Prof. Lukas Kenner at Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research, Clinical Institute for Pathology at the Medical University of Vienna & Laboratory Animal Pathology, the University for Veterinary Medicine Vienna.

While working with Prof. Lukas Kenner, he became interested in the crosstalk of JAK/STAT signaling with the ARF-MDM2-p-53 tumor suppressor pathway. His recent work has characterized a novel role for IL-6/STAT3 signaling and ARF in regulating senescence, cancer and metastic progression. Analyses of patient samples indicated that STAT3 and ARF are useful as prognostic markers for high risk prostate cancers. This study was recently published by Nature Communications (doi: 10.1038/ncomms8736) and was selected as an important research highlight by Nature Urology (doi:10.1038/nrurol.2015.205). He is currently finalizing his PhD thesis, which will be presented in autumn 2015.

Pestka Post-Graduate Award

Abhishek Garg

University of PittsburghPittsburgh, PA

Abhishek Garg was born in India and graduated from Panjab University. He received his PhD in Immunology in 2014, under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Gaffen at the University of Pittsburgh. His graduate research involved characterizing novel mechanisms of feedback inhibition of IL-17 receptor signal transduction. He described the function of a deubiquitinase protein, A20, as an important regulator of receptor proximal events in IL-17 signaling. For this work, he received the Outstanding Scholar Award by the ICS in 2012 and Stephen L. Philips Scientific Achievement Award at the University of Pittsburgh in 2013. He is continuing to investigate inhibitory mechanisms of IL-17 signaling pathway as a postdoc in the Gaffen lab. His recent work describes that MCPIP1/Regnase-1, an endoribonuclease, is an essential component in restraining IL-17 induced pathology in autoimmunity. MCPIP1 degrades several transcripts in this pathway; thereby dampening IL-17-mediated inflammation.

The Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award

The Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award will be presented at the ICIS meeting in Bamberg. The award, that includes a crystal award and cash prize, honors Herb Tabor, who served for 40 years as the distinguished Editor in Chief of The JBC, and recognizes a young investigator who exemplifies Herb Tabor’s values of creativity and scientific excellence. The award will be made to a meeting participant based on the excellence of their abstract and other application materials. Postdoctoral researchers and junior faculty members who have not yet received tenure are eligible.

Roza I. Nurieva

Assistant Prtofessor

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dept. of Immunology

Houston, TX

Anderson Cancer Center. She received her Ph.D. in 2000 from the Gabrichevsky Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Moscow, Russia. Her postdoctoral fellowship, which was supported by the Arthritis Foundation, was with Dr. Chen Dong at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her postdoctoral research focused on understanding the role of costimulatory molecules in regulating T helper cell activation, differentiation, and function, resulting in publication in Immunity and PNAS.

Following completion of her postdoctoral training, in 2005 Dr. Nurieva joined the Immunology Department at MD Anderson Cancer Center as an Instructor and in 2008 she was promoted to Assistant Professor (non-tenure track).  Dr. Nurieva has made a number of major contributions to the T helper cell research field, including seminal findings regarding how the E3 ubiquitine ligase Grail regulates T cell activation and tolerance. Another key contribution she has made is in regard to the elucidation of the developmental regulation of Th17 cells and its function in inflammation. In addition to Th17 cells, she has contributed to the identification of a new T helper lineage, follicular helper T cells and to the characterization of the transcriptional requirement for their development and function. Her findings were published in Nature, Science and Immunity.

In light of Dr. Nurieva’s excellent scientific expertise and significant contribution in the immunology field, in 2011 she was promoted to a tenure-track Assistant Professor position. As an independent scientist, Dr. Nurieva’s main research goal is to understand the molecular basis of T cell mediated immune responses with focus on the regulation of cytokine expression and how abnormal immune regulation leads to autoimmunity and inflammation. Recently, she contributed in the identification and characterization of factors that control expression of Th2-related cytokines. Particularly, she has determined that E3 ubiquitine ligase Grail controls Th2 development and Th2-mediated allergic inflammation by targeting STAT6 for degradation. In addition, she determined the transcriptional regulation of IL-4 expression in Tfh cells. Importantly, she demonstrated that IL-4-expressing Tfh cells could trigger allergic inflammation. Outcome of these studies will help us to better understand our immune system and potentially will lead to the development of novel targeted treatments for immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.

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