URMC Researcher Receives Prestigious International Award

October 19, 2007

A researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center has won the 2008 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for his contribution to the field of immunology.

The prize, which includes with a cash award of 100,000 euros, has been awarded to Tim Mosmann, Ph.D., director of the David H. Smith Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology at the Medical Center.  The Scientific Council of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation, a German organization gives the award each year to recognize achievement in Ehrlich's fields: immunology, oncology, haematology and microbiology.

Ehrlich (1854-1915) was a German Scientist who won the 1908 Nobel Prize in medicine. He predicted that autoimmune diseases would be discovered, developed the first modern chemotherapy and coined the term "chemotherapy." Awarded since 1952, the prize is financed by the German Federal Ministry of Health, companies and the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies. The award ceremony will take place in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 14, 2008.

Mosmann received the award in recognition of his discovery of the Th1/Th2 Model of the human immune system, a major step toward unraveling the system’s complexities. To be effective, the immune system must “decide” which cells and chemicals need to be ramped up to best destroy the invader at hand, be it bacterium, virus or worm. In 1986, Mosmann, led a team that first described a new concept for how the immune system might make such choices: the Th1/Th2 Model.  Published studies since the have shown on the model continues to define new biochemicals with a role in the immune system, and to suggest new treatment approaches for diseases from asthma to parasitic infections.

Part of the immune system is adaptive, pumping out vast numbers of immune cells on the hope that one will be the right shape to link up with, and become activated by, any invader encountered. When one of those immune cells recognizes an invader, it expands into an army of clones specifically selected to attack that organism. One workhorse of the adaptive system is the helper T cell, a white blood cell that secretes protein messengers called cytokines to accelerate the immune response. 

According to Mosmann’s model, T cells differentiate into two major sets of helper T cells, Type 1 (Th1) and Type 2 (Th2), each defined by the cytokines they produce. Each profile is more effective at attacking certain invaders, with Th1 responses, for example, better against bacteria that live inside cells. Th2 cytokines include interleukin-4 (IL-4), interleukin-5 (IL-5) and interleukin 13 (IL-13), all of which are useful in immune responses against worms.

"Through his work, Tim Mosmann has been instrumental in furthering our understanding of how immune defenses function in infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases such as allergies, and chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis," said Joachim Kalden, director emeritus of Medical Clinic 3, Erlangen University Hospital, Germany, and member of the Board of the Paul Ehrlich Foundation. "The knowledge gained in this way has provided a basis for the development of new treatment options."

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