Candidate for President-Elect – 2021 ICIS Leadership Election

Sarah L. Gaffen, PhD
Gerald P. Rodnan Professor of Rheumatology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Division of Rheumatology & Clinical Immunology
Pittsburgh, USA
Web site:
Twitter: @SLG1717

Platform Statement:

I have been an active member of ICIS or its predecessor organizations for over 20 years, and it would be a privilege to serve as President-Elect. I have devoted my career to defining the molecular basis of cytokine function and biology, and my lab primarily focuses on Th17-family cytokines, IL-17 signal transduction, and their roles in autoimmunity and fungal immunity. The ICIS has always played an instrumental part of my professional life, providing visibility early in my career with speaking opportunities, a Young Investigator Prize, editorship at the ICIS journal Cytokine, as well as prizes and travel awards for my trainees. This culminated recently with the honor of receiving the 2020 ICIS/BioLegend William E Paul Award. ICIS provided me with a myriad of opportunities to interact with the outstanding scientists in our field, resulting in long-term collaborations – not to mention many treasured friendships. In that regard, the highlight of my year is the annual ICIS meeting.

I have served with the ICIS in numerous capacities over the years, serving on and chairing the Membership Committee (2009-12) and ICIS Secretary (2014-17). About a decade ago, Dr. Karen Mossman and I established the Trainee Networking Social Event in order to help students, postdocs and junior faculty get to know their peers in an informal and dedicated forum; this event has been held at every meeting since. In 2013 I organized the inaugural ICIS joint meeting in San Francisco (with co-Chairs Drs. Warren Leonard, Karen Mossman and Robert Schreiber), and I have served on the organizing committees of many of our other meetings, including the 2020 Virtual meeting originally intended for Seattle. I am currently a Councilor and I co-chair the ICIS Awards Committee.

I would be honored to bring my \ experience and dedication with the ICIS to build on the successes our Society has enjoyed. If elected, one of my major efforts would be to promote initiatives to bring the next generation of cytokine/interferon biologists into leadership roles, as “new blood” is essential sustain the long-term interests of the ICIS with fresh ideas, perspectives and energy. I also strongly believe in the importance of increasing diversity at all levels: geographical, racial, gender, cultural and career stage, to name some. In all these ways I would like to “pay it forward” so that others will benefit from ICIS as I have done.


Dr. Sarah Gaffen is the Gerald P. Rodnan Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, where she is the Director of Basic Rheumatology Research. Dr. Gaffen directs a research program focused on the IL-17 superfamily of cytokine receptors. Dr. Gaffen’s lab was among the first to study signaling mechanisms mediated by this novel family of cytokines, and over the years her team has identified many novel mechanisms by which this receptor mediates signal transduction. Treatment of autoimmune diseases has been revolutionized by biologic drugs that neutralize cytokines, in recent years including the Th17/IL-17 pathway. Dr. Gaffen’s work also focuses on molecular signaling mechanisms of autoimmunity and the consequences of anti-cytokine therapy on susceptibility to infections. In that regard, her group was the first to connect IL-17 to oral mucosal infection with the commensal fungus Candida albicans.

Dr. Gaffen received a BS from Carnegie Mellon University and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and completed postdoctoral studies at the University of California at San Francisco and the Gladstone Institute of Virology & Immunology. She has held faculty positions at the State University of New York at Buffalo and has been at the University of Pittsburgh since 2008. Dr. Gaffen has authored more than 130 scientific papers and has been continuously funded by the NIH since 2002. She holds an NIH MERIT award, a Councilor of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society, and was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.