In the early 1980’s, Tim Mosmann, Ph.D., Director of the David H. Smith Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology, and his then-colleague Robert L. Coffman, Ph.D., were studying a group of white blood cells called helper T cells or TH cells, which communicate with other cells to activate the immune system. They discovered that TH cells fall into two distinct groups: TH1 cells, designed to eliminate bacteria and viruses; and TH2 cells, which are more effective against extracellular organisms, like worms and other parasites.
According to Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate and Chair of Biomedical Research at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the discovery “caused an immediate rethinking of the mechanisms underlying good and bad aspects of the specific host response to pathogens and in debilitating allergic conditions…and led to a spectrum of novel findings and further insights that continue to influence the field.”
For this work, Mosmann and Coffman, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at Dynavax, have been awarded the 2013 Novartis Prize for Basic Immunology, given every three years for breakthrough contributions to the fields of basic and clinical immunology. Mosmann has won several other prestigious prizes for this work, including the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, the Avery-Landsteiner Prize from the German Society for Immunology and the William B. Coley Award from the Cancer Research Institute.
Read more about Mosmann’s work and his latest prize here.