Susan Kaech is the 2024 ICIS Mentorship Award Winner

2024 Mentorship Award: Susan Kaech is a Salk Institute Professor, Director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, and holder of the NOMIS Chair.
Susan M. Kaech, Ph.D., Professor and Director, NOMIS Center for Immunobiology & Microbial Pathogenesis
Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Susan Kaech is the 2024 ICIS Mentorship Award Winner in recognition not only of her cutting-edge research and seminal discoveries and scientific accomplishment, but for her ardent sponsorship and relentless championship of the junior faculty she has helped in the establishment and success of their own independent research programs. She is known as a “forever-mentor” who cares more about her trainees (and often those completely unrelated to her lab) than she does about her own career, strongly supporting people in her lab long after they have left the lab.

Susan Kaech
is a Salk Institute Professor, Director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, and holder of the NOMIS Chair.  Prior to this she was a Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor at Yale University in the Department of Immunobiology (2004–2018).  Dr. Kaech did her postdoctoral work with Dr. Rafi Ahmed at Emory University (1999–2004) and received her PhD in Developmental Biology at Stanford University. She received her BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Washington.

Dr. Kaech aims to understand how memory T cells are produced during infection and vaccination, how they function and why in some particular cases, they fail to induce long-term immunity. Her lab has been a leader in using genetic and molecular tools to identify the genes and signaling molecules involved in generating two specific types of memory T cells, CD4 and CD8, from precursor cells during both acute and chronic viral infections. Her lab has made several notable discoveries in elucidating how and when memory T cells form following infection or vaccination.

Dr. Kaech is also interested in how T cells and macrophages are metabolically regulated, and how their differentiation and function can be altered by nutrient availability during infection and in tumors. In particular, she seeks to learn how T cell behavior is suppressed by tumors, in order to create better therapies for cancer using the body’s own immune system—an innovative and rapidly moving field called cancer immunotherapy. Lastly, her lab is working to better understand how T cell operate in the brain and their interactions with nerves and other brain-resident cells.

Dr. Kaech has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Damon Runyon–Walter Winchell Cancer Research Fellowship (1999), the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences (2003), the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) (2007) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist (2009) and was elected as an AAAS Fellow in 2020. She was also elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (AAAS) in 2023, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2024 and serves on AAI council, which serves as the largest and most influential organization to advance the knowledge of immunology and immunological research in the country.

Dr. Kaech also serves on the advisory boards of the Pew-Stewart Scholars for Cancer Research, Cancer Research Institute, MidWinter Immunology Conference, Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology at Ohio State University, Gladstone Institute, Vanderbilt Institute for infection, immunology and inflammation (VI4), as well as EvolveImmune Therapeutics, Simcha Therapeutics, Arvinas, Affini-T, and is an academic editor of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.


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