ESAG Participants

Richard A. Flavell, Ph.D., FRS
Sterling Professor of Immunobiology; Chair, Department of Immunobiology; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Yale School of Medicine

Richard A. FlavellDr. Flavell is founding chair of the Department of Immunobiology at Yale and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. After obtaining a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of Hull in 1970, he carried out postdoctoral training at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Zurich. Working with Charles Weissmann in Zurich in 1974, he modified genes in a virus and studied the resulting phenotype - the first example of what scientists now call “reverse genetics.” Subsequently, as a faculty member at the University of Amsterdam, he demonstrated the presence of introns in mammalian genes. In 1982, Dr. Flavell left academics to serve as the chief scientific officer of Biogen, but returned to academia in 1988 to join the faculty at the Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Flavell’s research uses mouse genetics to study innate and adaptive immunity, T cell tolerance, apoptosis and autoimmunity, and the regulation of T cell differentiation. Among his recent discoveries is the finding that genes interact across chromosomes in T cells, where a master control gene on chromosome 11 may physically touch a gene on chromosome 10, inducing it to produce a protein that primes the cell to fight infection in a specific way. This finding has wide-ranging implications for diseases including autoimmune disorders and cancer. Most recently, he has established the connection between inflammasomes, microbial homeostasis and chronic diseases. He showed that dysbiosis of the microbiota leads to IBD and Metabolic Syndrome, including Obesity, Fatty Liver disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Flavell has received the FEBS Anniversary Prize (1980), Colworth Medal (1980), Darwin Trust Prize (1995), Rabbi Shai Sachnai Memorial Prize in Immunology and Cancer Research (2008), AAI Invitrogen Meritorious Career Award (2008), Andrew Lazarovitz Award (2011), the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immuology (2012) and most recently, the 2013 Vilcek Award, shared with Dr. Ruslan Medzhitov. He was elected to EMBO in 1978, the Royal Society in 1984, the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, the Institute of Medicine in 2006 and the first President of the newly formed International Cytokine and Interferon Society (ICIS) from 2014.

Peter Palese, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Microbiology, Professor, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Peter PalesePeter Palese is Professor of Microbiology and Chair of the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. His research is in the area of RNA-containing viruses with a special emphasis on influenza viruses. Specifically, he established the first genetic maps for influenza A, B, and C viruses, identified the function of several viral genes, and defined the mechanism of neuraminidase inhibitors (which are now FDA-approved antivirals). He was also a pioneer in the field of reverse genetics for negative strand RNA viruses, which allows the introduction of site-specific mutations into the genomes of these viruses. This technique is crucial for the study of the structure and function relationships of viral genes, for investigation of viral pathogenicity, and for development and manufacturing of novel vaccines. In addition, an improvement of the technique has been effectively used by him and his colleagues to reconstruct and study the pathogenicity of the highly virulent, but extinct, 1918 pandemic influenza virus. His recent work in collaboration with García-Sastre has revealed that most negative strand RNA viruses possess proteins with interferon antagonist activity, enabling them to counteract the antiviral response of the infected host. At present, he serves on the editorial board for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Peter Palese was president of the Harvey Society in 2004, president of the American Society for Virology in 2005, a recipient of the Robert Koch Prize in 2006, a recipient of the European Virology Award (EVA) in 2010, and a recipient of the 2012 Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award. He is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2000), a Member of the Institute of Medicine (2012) and he has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2014).


Rino Rappuoli, PhD

Rino Rappuoli, PhDRino Rappuoli is Global Head Research and Development at Novartis Vaccines and is based in Siena, Italy. He earned his PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of Siena and has served as visiting scientist at Rockefeller University in New York and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Prior to the present position he was head R&D of Sclavo and then head of vaccine research and Chief Scientific Officer of Chiron Corporation.

Several molecules he worked with became part of licensed vaccines. These include: CRM197 used in H.influenzae, N.meningitidis, and pneumococcus vaccines; PT9K/129G, a genetically detoxified pertussis toxin used for an acellular vaccine against pertussis; the first conjugate vaccine against meningococcus C and later against meningococcus ACYW; the MF59 adjuvant used in seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccines and the FHBP, NadA and NHBA antigens derived from the genome of meningococcus B that made possible the development of Bexsero.

He was elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). Awards conferred include: Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (1991), the Gold Medal by the Italian President (2005), the Albert B. Sabin Gold Medal (2009), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Human Virology in Maryland (2010), and the Excellence Award from the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (2011). In 2013 he was nominated third most influential person worldwide in the field of vaccines (Terrapin).

He has introduced several novel scientific concepts (genetic detoxification, 1987, cellular microbiology, 1996; reverse vaccinology, 2000; pangenome, 2005, structural vaccinology, 2008).

Emil Unanue, MD
Paul & Ellen Lacy Professor, Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine

Emil UnanueEmil Unanue is the Paul and Ellen Lacy Professor in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Washington University. He did post doctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute and then in London at the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill, with Ita Askonas. It was in London that his research interests developed in antigen processing and presentation. His work in this area continued during his time at Harvard Medical School where he was Professor of Immunopathology; and at Washington University School of Medicine where he headed the Department of Pathology and Immunology for 21 years. Unanue’s distinctions include the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the Gairdner award, and membership in the National Academy of Sciences. His major research work centers on establishing the cellular and biochemical basis of recognition of protein antigens by the immune system and on examining the role of histocompatibility molecules (the molecules encoded in the Major Histocompatibility Complex - MHC) in antigen presentation. In the early 1980s his group made two fundamental observations, that protein antigens are processed by antigen presenting cells (APC) and that MHC molecules are peptide binding molecules. These findings have allowed for the precise molecular understanding of T cell recognition and have opened the field for a rational analysis of immunogenicity. His laboratory continues investigations on the cellular and biochemical basis for the immunogenicity of protein antigens. Current investigations examine the presentation of self proteins in autoimmune diabetes.

Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD
Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation; Chief, Melanoma & Immunotherapeutics Service; Associate Director, Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy; Associate Member, Ludwig Cancer Research; Associate Professor of Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Jedd D. WolchokJedd Wolchok received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and both M.D and Ph.D. from New York University, where he also fulfilled his residency program. He completed his fellowship at MSKCC and remained on faculty with an appointment in the Melanoma/Sarcoma Service.

Dr. Wolchok is currently Chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service, Associate Attending Physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) with an expertise in the treatment of metastatic melanoma. His additional appointments include: Head of the Swim Across America Laboratory, one of the foremost immunotherapy and melanoma research groups in the country; Associate Director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy (LCCI); Director of Immunotherapy Clinical Trials; and most recently, he has been appointed the Associate Chair of Medicine and leads the Immunotherapeutics Service. Dr. Wolchok has therefore helped establish MSKCC as a leader in the discovery and treatment of cancers with novel immunotherapies. Dr. Wolchok was instrumental in the clinical development leading to the approval of ipilimumab for advanced melanoma. He also leads the MSKCC Immune Monitoring Facility, a world-renowned full-time core dedicated to the pre-clinical and clinical cellular, serological and pathological monitoring of clinical trials of new immunotherapeutic approaches. Currently, he is Principal Investigator of numerous ongoing clinical trials at MSKCC in the area of immunotherapy.

In 2011, Dr. Wolchok was named Director of the Cancer Vaccine Collaborative (CVC), a joint initiative between the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR). The CVC is an international academic clinical trials network dedicated to developing safe and effective therapeutic vaccines and other immunotherapies for cancer. The CVC has conducted nearly 50 early-phase clinical trials of different therapeutic cancer vaccines involving more than 950 patients with melanoma, lung, ovarian, prostate, breast, and other cancers.

Over the past 10 years, Dr. Wolchok has been an active mentor of medical and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and is the Director of the Summer Medical Student Program and co-Director of the Medical Oncology-Hematology Fellowship Program at MSKCC.

Dr. Wolchok’s awards include; Damon Runyon-Lilly Clinical Investigator Award, Julia Zelmanovich Young Alumni Award by New York University School of Medicine; Humanitarian Awards granted by the Melanoma Research Foundation and the Live, Love, Laugh Foundation and the Doctor of the Year by the Melanoma International Foundation; The Lloyd J. Old Chair in Clinical Investigation. He has been a member of both AACR and ASCO since 1997 and 1998, respectively and the SU2C Melanoma Dream Team. Dr. Wolchok is a nationally and internationally recognized guest speaker of the field immunotherapy.