Karen Mossman has been chosen to receive the 2024 ICIS Honorary Lifetime Membership Award

Karen L. Mossman, 2024 Honorary Member Award

Karen Mossman, PhD, McMaster University, Canada

Professor Mossman has been selected as the recipient of the 2024 ICIS Honorary Lifetime Membership Award in recognition for her scientific accomplishments that center around basic virology, interferon responses and how to exploit this fundamental knowledge for clinical benefit as well as her long time commitment to the scientific community and members of the ICIS.

Dr. Mossman will receive her award at the Opening Session at Cytokines 2024 / KAI 2024 in Seoul on Sunday, October 20th which starts at 1PM (earlier than usual). She is also an invited speaker in Symposium 10 Infection and Immunity on Monday, October 21st and will speak on: Differential innate antiviral signaling in human and bat cells

Karen Mossman, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Medicine who has served as Chair of the Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences (2013-2017), Associate Vice President Research (2017-2018) and Vice President Research (2018-2024) at McMaster University, Canada.  She completed her undergraduate Honors BSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics from the University of Guelph in 1992, her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1997 and her Post-doctoral Fellowship in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology in 2001, both at the University of Alberta. Dr. Mossman is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and was recognized by the Women’s Executive Network as a Top 100 – Canada’s Most Powerful Women. Dr. Mossman has published over 150 peer-reviewed scientific publications and has contributed as author and editor to numerous books, including virology textbooks. She was the recipient of the 2006 Christina Fleischmann Memorial Award from the International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research (ISICR).  She served on council and as treasurer of the ISICR and helped organize the inaugural meeting of the International Cytokine & Interferon Society meeting in San Francisco in 2013.

Dr. Mossman’s interest in interferons and cytokines started as a PhD student in the laboratory of Dr. Grant McFadden studying poxvirus immune evasion “virokines” and “viroceptors”, with a focus on viral proteins that bind and inhibit the effects of host interferon gamma. As a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. James Smiley, Dr. Mossman was the first to identify herpes simplex virus proteins that subvert the activity of type I interferons (ICP0 and ICP34.5). Additionally, while developing an in vitro model of herpes simplex virus latency, she inadvertently discovered that virus binding and entry induced an interferon-independent antiviral response characterized by the induction of a small subset of interferon-independent genes (ISGs). Over the years, her lab has shown that this response is dependent on the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) and that membrane perturbation is sufficient to trigger this response. She further showed that cells are exquisitely sensitive to incoming virus particles and can recognize incoming genomes (in the absence of replication) to as few as 10 particles per cell. More recently, her lab has begun investigating differences in the innate immune response of bat cells to viral stimuli to understand how these mammals can harbor multiple viral species without showing signs of disease. Using bioinformatics, her lab identified positively selected residues in IRF3, IRF7 and IRF9 and has shown that a single amino acid change in bat IRF3 renders bat cells more resistant to viral infection. At the start of the pandemic, her group helped isolate SARS-CoV-2 from Canadian patients which enabled COVID-related studies across the country. More recently, her lab published results showing selonsertib, an ASK1 inhibitor used clinically for liver fibrosis, has pan-antiviral activity, including against SARS-CoV-2.

Dr. Mossman’s studies of virus-host interactions led to the development of herpesvirus-based oncolytic viruses (OVs) for cancer immunotherapy, initially based on HSV-1 vectors lacking ICP0. Her early work focused heavily on how OVs induce immunogenic cell death and sensitize tumors to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy.  She is currently working with industry to develop Bovine herpesvirus type I as a clinical oncolytic virus vector. These studies are changing dogma within the field, both with data showing that virus replication is not required for BHV-1 efficacy and that BHV-1 retains activity when administered systemically even in the presence of a robust anti-BHV-1 neutralizing antibody response. Given the preference for cancers that harbor mutant KRAS, her BHV-1 translational studies focus on pancreatic, lung and colorectal cancers. To enable clinical translation, she is currently using HLA-matched humanized mouse models.

Dr. Mossman currently serves on several boards, including Human Health Therapeutics (National Research Council), ADEPT (Alberta Diagnostic Ecosystem Platform for Translation) and Conscience (non-profit focused on addressing market failure in drug development using open science). She was previously Chair of the Board of McMaster Innovation Park and board member of TRIUMF.  During the pandemic she co-chaired the Council of Ontario Universities COVID taskforce and served on the Research and Commercialization committee of the Ontario Life Sciences Council. She also helped form and sat on the board of McMaster HealthLabs, a not-for-profit that enabled evidence-based solutions to keep Canadians safe and support a strong economy during the pandemic.

Past ICIS Honorary Lifetime Membership Award Winners:

Dr Daniela Novick has been chosen to receive the 2023 ICIS Honorary Lifetime Membership Award in recognition of her ground breaking discoveries in cytokine biology which have impacted the field significantly as well as her contributions to clinical medicine

2020 Honorary Award
Professor Kouji Matsushima (C) is awarded the 2019 ICIS Honorary Lifetime Membership Award
2018 Honorary Lifetime Membership Award Winner, Dr. William Robert Fleischmann, Jr, (C)
(L) Ganes Sen receiving the 2017 Honorary Lifetime Membership Award
Dr. Howard Young (L) accepting the 2016 Honorary Membership award from President Tadatsugo Taniguchi.
author avatar