2021 ICIS-BioLegend William E. Paul Award

K. Christopher Garcia, PhD, Younger Family Professor of Structural Biology, Departments of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and Structural Biology, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, USA.

Dr. Garcia has been chosen as the ICIS-BioLegend William E. Paul Award winner in recognition of his enormous contributions to understanding receptor-ligand interactions which is unparalleled in the area of cytokine and interferon research. This award is bestowed on Dr. Garcia for his unwavering commitment to visualizing the fascinating architectures of cytokine-receptor interaction, his pivotal role in all the major advances in understanding the structural basis for how cytokine receptors engage and signal in response to cytokine binding, and for his innovative use of protein engineering to translate this information into the development of new therapeutic strategies and molecules. His application of traditional principles of pharmacology used in small molecule drug discovery to cytokine systems has initiated a new field of cytokine pharmacology.

Christopher Garcia
K. Christopher Garcia, PhD, Younger Family Professor of Structural Biology, Departments of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and Structural Biology, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, USA.
"I knew Bill Paul well so its a special honor. In fact we did some structural and engineering work around IL-4 working with Bill (LaPorte et al., Cell 2008; Bates et al, Nat Chem Biol 2012). I cant think of anyone who loved cytokines more and we would spend hours at meetings talking about cytokines. This honor really makes me glad I took this path. Much to come still, I feel that we are in the midst of a renaissance in this field now that we are learning how better to use them therapeutically."
Christopher Garcia
Christopher Garcia
2021 ICIS-BioLegend William E. Paul Award Winner

Studies from the Garcia lab in the fields of structural biology, protein engineering, cell signaling, immunology, autoimmunity, have now matured to the point where they are the foundation for the development of new classes of drugs for cancer, autoimmune disease, and regenerative medicine. Dr. Garcia’s innovative interdisciplinary work is catapulting transformative advances across the realms of science, engineering, and medicine. His group has made seminal contributions toward elucidating the molecular details of protein engagement, with a particular emphasis on cytokine complexes, including all three classes of IFNs, IL-1, IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, IL-13, IL-15, IL-17, IL-22, IL-23, CNTF, and LIF. The findings from Dr. Garcia’s cytokine structure studies have led to new paradigms across disciplines, including neurobiology, immunology, and developmental biology. Empowered by these biophysical discoveries, the Garcia Lab has pioneered a new phase of cytokine research, wherein the lab applies molecular principles to engineer tunable proteins that exhibit biased or targeted behavior.

In summary, Dr. Garcia’s contributions to our understanding of cytokines and how they engage their receptors are truly outstanding, opening new fields for investigation with his innovative, and pioneering accomplishments that have advanced multiple fields. Dr, Garcia has made significant contributions that serve as a foundation for a new era of immunotherapy, cytokine biology, regenerative medicine and drug design.

Christopher Garcia, PhD is a Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, and of Structural Biology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from Tulane University, and his PhD in Biophysics from Johns Hopkins University. After two years of post-doctoral work at Genentech, Inc. under Dr. David Goeddel in the Dept. of Molecular Biology, where he learned the emerging technologies of protein engineering and recombinant protein expression, Dr. Garcia moved to a second post-doctoral fellowship at The Scripps Research Institute in the laboratory of Prof. Ian Wilson, where he succeeded in determining the first crystal structures of the T cell receptor and then its complex with peptide-MHC.  In 1999, Dr. Garcia started his lab at Stanford University School of Medicine in 1999 where he also became an Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Garcia was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, and the National Academy of Medicine in 2016.

Dr. Garcia’s interests reside at the cell surface, and his laboratory is investigating structural and functional aspects of cell surface receptor recognition and activation, in receptor-ligand systems with relevance to human health and disease. Structural information on receptor-ligand complexes is used to engineer variant proteins and/or surrogates to manipulate receptor signaling and cellular function, with an eye towards therapeutic applications. The receptor systems studied derive principally from the immune system (TCR/MHC, cytokines, chemokine GPCR), but additionally encompass several systems that are also important in neurobiology (Neurotrophins, Semaphorins) and development (Notch, Wnt). A focus is on “shared” pleiotropic receptors, to understand the biophysical basis by which different ligands are able to elicit unique intracellular responses and functional outcomes, and to exploit this information to engineer receptor-specific ligands Dr. Garcia has founded or co-founded several biotech companies that are attempting to clinically develop technologies from his lab, including ALXO (SIRP/CD7 antagonist), Synthekine (cytokine engineering), Surrozen (Wnt agonists), 3T (TCR antigen discovery), and Mozart (immune modulation by regulatory T cells).

Dr. Garcia will give a talk on “An emerging field of cytokine pharmacology” at Cytokines 2021 Hybrid: 9th Annual Meeting of the International Cytokine & Interferon Society, on Sunday, October 17, 2021 in Cardiff (with Virtual Meeting access).

This award is sponsored by a generous grant from BioLegend.

Past winners of the ICIS BioLegend William E. Paul award are as follows:

  • 2016 – Richard M. Locksley, MD, Director of the Sandler Asthma Basic Research Center (SABRE) and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2017 – Alan Sher, PhD, Chief, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, NIAID, Bethesda, USA
  • 2018 – Giorgio Trinchieri, MD, NIH, National Cancer Institute, Program Director, Cancer and Inflammation Program, NIH Distinguished Investigator, Head, Cancer Immunobiology Section
  • 2019 – Chen Dong, PhD, Professor and Director of the Institute for Immunology and Dean of the School of Medicine, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
  • 2020 – Sarah L. Gaffen, Ph.D. Gerald P. Rodnan Professor of Rheumatology Director of Basic Rheumatology Research University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology Pittsburgh, USA AND
  • 2020 – Vijay K. Kuchroo, DVM, PhD Samuel L. Wasserstrom Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School & Director, Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, USA

The ICIS-BioLegend William E. Paul Award represents the pinnacle of scientific achievement in cytokine research. The William E. Paul Award is bestowed upon a leading biomedical research scientist who has made outstanding contributions to cytokine research, either in a basic or applied field as demonstrated by publications, oral presentations and consistent scientific advancements in cytokine biology throughout their career, through the generosity of BioLegend. The awardee is selected by the ICIS Awards Committee based on nominations received from the international scientific community. The selection is based on strength and consistency throughout their career of cytokine research publications in peer reviewed journals, contributions to cytokine biology through the publication of reviews and book chapters, long term evidence of presenting their work on cytokine biology to the international community in oral presentations and leadership in the field as demonstrated by organization of cytokine biology meetings and chairing of sessions focused on cytokine biology at national/international meetings.