Jean-Laurent Casanova, senior attending physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital and head of the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, has been named one of 27 new investigators with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the nonprofit medical research organization that gives its members stable financial support over a period of several years in order to move their research in creative new directions. Casanova’s appointment brings the total number of Rockefeller scientists supported by HHMI to 16.
The new investigators, who will begin their appointments in September, represent 19 institutions across the United States and were selected from a pool of 1,155 applicants. Though the investigators remain at their institutions, HHMI will provide a full salary, benefits and a research budget over their initial five-year appointment. The institute will also cover other expenses, including research space and the purchase of critical equipment. The investigators have the opportunity to renew their appointment for additional five-year terms, contingent on a successful scientific review.
“This is a highly deserved honor for Jean-Laurent, whose research on the genetics of pediatric infectious diseases has had a tremendous impact on fundamental immunology,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Rockefeller’s president. “As an HHMI investigator Jean-Laurent will have even greater opportunities to push the boundaries of immunological research, and the university looks forward to seeing the exciting initiatives his lab will take from here.”
Casanova’s research centers on identifying genetic mutations that predispose individuals to specific pathogens, in order to understand why some children get sick during the course of infection while others exposed to the same pathogen do not. Casanova was the first to establish that a predisposition to infectious diseases in children can be genetically determined.
Casanova received his M.D. from the University of Paris Descartes in 1987 and his Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Paris Pierre and Marie Curie in 1992. He was an international research scholar with HHMI from 2005 to 2008, and joined the faculty at Rockefeller as professor in 2008.
HHMI chose the new investigators after the applicants were narrowed down to 59 semifinalists, who were invited to give a brief research talk at the institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia in April.
Casanova will join a group of approximately 330 HHMI investigators across the country.