2017 ICIS-BioLegend William E. Paul Award for Excellence in Cytokine Research
2017 ICIS-BioLegend William E. Paul Award for Excellence in Cytokine Research

Sponsored by:

Alan Sher, Ph.D., Chief, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, NIAID, Bethesda, USA

Dr. Sher receives the 2017 ICIS-Biolegend William E. Paul Award for dening the role of Th1/Th2 cytokines in parasite infection models. At the same time Sher and his colleagues helped dene the regulatory pathways which prevent immunopathology in polarized anti-parasitic responses and in particular elucidating the role of Interleukin-10 induction in that process.

This new award is given to an investigator that has made significant contributions to cytokine and interferon research throughout their career. Through the generosity of BioLegend the award consists of $2500 and a crystal block with the 3 D structure of IL-4, the cytokine most associated with Dr. Paul’s research.

Dr. Sher received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of California, San Diego, working with Dr. Melvin Cohn at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He performed his postdoctoral training in the Division of Parasitology at the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London. In 1980, after several years as a research associate and then assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School, Sher joined NIAID as a section head in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases and from 2002- 2017 served as Chief of that department.

Although initially trained as a basic immunologist, Dr. Sher has devoted most of his career to the study of immunity and immune regulation in parasitic and mycobacterial infections. His group played a pioneering role in defining the effector functions of Th1 and Th2 subsets in the response to parasites later linking them to innate signals triggered by these pathogens in dendritic cells. At the same time Sher and his colleagues helped define the regulatory pathways which prevent immunopathology in polarized anti-parasitic responses and in particular elucidating the role of Interleukin-10 induction in that process. In more recent work, the Sher lab has focused on cytokine and eicosanoid pathways regulating host resistance to Mycobacterium tuberculosis along with other strategies for host directed therapy of this major pathogen and participated in related clinical collaborations in India, Brazil and South Africa.

Dr. Sher is an elected member of the AAAS, the American Academy of Microbiology and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and is a recipient of the Bonazinga Award (Society for Leukocyte Biology), the Bailey K. Ashford Medal (American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene), the USPHS Superior Service Award and the NIH Director’s Mentoring Award. He holds adjunct faculty positions at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Abstract from Dr. Sher’s presentation at Cytokines 2017 in Kanazawa:

Learning cytokine function from the host-pathogen encounter
Alan Sher
NIH / NIAID, Bethesda, United States

The discovery of essential roles for cytokines in host defense against pathogens has been one of the major drivers of research in the general field of cytokine biology. In addition to generating new therapeutic interventions in infectious disease, this work has led to important insights into the organization of the immune system. Indeed, the production of specific cytokines mediating control of defined phylogenetic classes of microbial invaders, has become a major functional criterion in the definition of both T lymphocyte and myeloid subsets. At the same time the elucidation of the regulatory activities of cytokines in protecting against infection driven immunopathology has contributed to our understanding of the functions of the same mediators in tissue repair and homeostasis. While identifying a plethora of potential targets for disease intervention, research on the host-pathogen interaction has at the same time uncovered a complex web in which cytokines can serve as either “friend” or “foe” depending on the context of their activities. Deciphering this web and its underlying principles has become a major challenge in the development of new cytokine-based therapies. In my talk, I will discuss some of the contributions of our laboratory in the use of parasite and mycobacterial infection models to understanding cytokine function and highlight fundamental questions and debates that my colleagues and I have encountered during our three decade journey in the field.

This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, NIH.