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Dan R. Littman, MD, PhD, Receives Inaugural Ross Prize from Molecular Medicine

NYU Langone Medical Center announced today that Dan R. Littman, MD, PhD, the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Molecular Immunology, a professor of pathology and microbiology, and a faculty member in the Molecular Pathogenesis program in the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, is the recipient of the first annual Ross Prize for Molecular Medicine, issued by the Feinstein Institute’s peer-reviewed journal Molecular Medicine. The Ross Award, which includes a $50,000 prize, is awarded to mid-career scientists who have made a demonstrable impact in the understanding of human diseases pathogenesis and/or treatment, and who hold significant promise for making even greater contributions to the general field of molecular medicine.

The award will be formally presented to Dr. Littman on June 24 at the New York Academy of Science in Manhattan, followed by an academic lecture by Dr. Littman and several other preeminent researchers.

A renowned immunologist and molecular biologist, Dr. Littman has made seminal contributions to numerous fields including understanding the molecular basis of immune recognition, HIV pathogenesis, T-cell differentiation and selection and most recently, the role of commensal bacteria in immune system development and regulation.

Dr. Littman is a leader in applying molecular biology and mouse genetics to study specification of T lymphocyte lineages and the differentiation of inflammatory T helper cells. Early in his career Dr. Littman isolated the genes for the CD4 and CD8 co-receptors and determined how their expression is regulated and their signaling influences selection of helper and cytotoxic cells. His group subsequently went on to demonstrate that CD4 and CCR5 collaborate as co-receptors for HIV, leading to therapeutic targeting of CCR5 in AIDS, and the demonstration that HIV evades host innate responses by failing to replicate in dendritic cells. In recent work, Dr. Littman discovered that the nuclear receptor ROR-gamma-t regulates differentiation of Th17 cells and lymphoid tissue inducer cells, and identified compounds that inhibit its activity and may be effective for autoimmune disease therapy. He identified a commensal gut bacterium that selectively induces Th17 cells and promotes autoimmunity in mice, which may be relevant for human diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, thought to be influenced by imbalanced microbiota.

Dr. Littman is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, a member in the National Academy of the Sciences and the prestigious Institute of Medicine, and is a fellow in both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology.

The Ross Award was made possible by the generosity of Feinstein Institute board members Robin and Jack Ross.

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