Jeffrey V. Ravetch, head of the Leonard Wagner Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Immunology at Rockefeller University, has been given the 2012 Sanofi – Institut Pasteur Award for discovering mechanisms by which antibodies carry out their diverse biological functions. He is one of four scientists to be honored with the award, which recognizes researchers for their past or ongoing studies advancing understanding of the life sciences. Each will receive 120,000 euros, or about $147,000.
Sanofi, a global pharmaceutical company based in France, and the Institut Pasteur, an internationally renowned biomedical research center, created the awards this year to encourage scientific excellence in the service of health. The prizes support research projects in four areas: tropical and neglected diseases, innovative vaccines, new approaches to drug resistance and therapeutic approaches to senescence: immunobiology, neurobiology and regenerative medicine.
In granting the award, the selection committee cited Ravetch’s work in furthering our understanding of how antibodies function and leading to the improvement and the generation of therapeutic molecules. Ravetch dissects the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the generation of antibody specificity and the translation of that specificity into cellular responses. By identifying the genetic components that cause immune system cells to respond to specific antibodies, he hopes to gain a better understanding of how a functioning immune system protects organisms from invaders, and how a dysfunctional immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.
Ravetch graduated from Yale University in 1973 and received his Ph.D. in 1978 from The Rockefeller University, where he studied under Norton Zinder and Peter Model. He received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in 1979 and completed his postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health with Philip Leder. In 1982 Ravetch joined the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and in 1984 also became a guest investigator in Rockefeller’s Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology. He was appointed professor at Rockefeller in 1996 and named Theresa and Eugene M. Lang Professor in 1997.
Ravetch received the Canada Gairdner International Award in 2012, the Coley Award from the Cancer Research Institute in 2007, the American Association of Immunologists-Huang Foundation Meritorious Career Award in 2005, the Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize for Arthritis Research in 2004 and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Award in Molecular Parasitology in 1986. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.