Jean-Laurent Casanova, professor and head of the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases at The Rockefeller University, has been named a 2014 Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award winner for his paradigm-shifting discovery of the role of single-gene mutations in infectious diseases, leading to novel treatments for certain pediatric diseases.
The Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Awards recognize investigators for past or ongoing work demonstrating real scientific progress in the life sciences. Two international awards were made this year: the Senior Award and the Mid-career Award. As this year’s Mid-career Award winner, Casanova will receive approximately $35,000 and his laboratory will receive about $65,000. The awardees will be honored at a ceremony on November 13 in Paris, France. Etienne Pays, a parasitologist from Université libre de Bruxelles, is the Senior Award winner.
In his pioneering research, Casanova and his colleagues discovered “holes” in the immune systems of otherwise healthy children that make them susceptible to specific, sometimes life-threatening infectious diseases. These holes are caused by congenital mutations in a single gene and are responsible for susceptibility to certain infections including mycobacterial diseases, herpes simplex virus encephalitis, invasive pneumococcal disease, chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis and Kaposi sarcoma.
The practical implementations of these findings include molecular diagnosis and genetic counseling for the patients and their families as well as the development of targeted therapies with recombinant cytokines aimed at restoring a deficient immune response.
Casanova has been at Rockefeller since 2008 and has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 2014. In recent years, Casanova’s research has been recognized with numerous awards. He was the recipient of the Professor Lucien Dautrebande Pathophysiology Foundation Prize in 2004, the Richard Lounsbery Award in 2008, the InBev Baillet-Latour Health Prize in 2011, the Ilse and Helmut Wachter Foundation Award in 2012 and the Robert Koch Prize in 2014.
The prize is given jointly by Sanofi and the Institut Pasteur. Sanofi, a global pharmaceutical company based in France, and the Institut Pasteur, an internationally renowned biomedical research center, created the awards in 2012 to promote scientific excellence in the service of health. This year, the prizes went to scientists who investigate tropical and neglected diseases, immunology, drug resistance and/or neurobiology.
Casanova is the second Rockefeller University faculty member to receive the Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award. Jeffrey V. Ravetch won it in 2012.