Renowned immunologists and vascular biologists, Drs. Klaus Ley and Catherine “Lynn” Hedrick of California’s La Jolla Institute for Immunology have been named co-directors of the new Center for Immunology at Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia, an initiative that will dramatically expand research to better harness the power of the immune system to prevent and treat disease.
“Our immune system is essential to our health and well-being, but it is also a factor in most disease states, from heart disease and cancer to rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and COVID-19. said Dr. David Hess, Dean of the MCG. “These growing efforts in immunology will allow the Georgia Public School of Medicine to better answer the big questions that affect our health, like why most patients don’t get the resounding response to immunotherapy that President Jimmy Carter called for. made to his metastatic melanoma a few years ago, and how to keep our immune system protecting us from disease rather than contributing to it, especially as we age.
The scientists, who will both be distinguished investigators from the Georgia Research Alliance, will join the MCG faculty on October 1 and have already begun the strategic and aggressive recruitment of 20 additional scientists with expertise in the field of cutting-edge immunology to help answer these types of big questions. , said Hess. They will also collaborate with MCG scientists already working in the field, such as Dr. Gang Zhou, who is working to improve the impact of immunotherapy, and Dr. David Munn, who is exploring the therapeutic potential of inhibiting a natural enzyme called IDO, which tumors exploit to protect themselves from the immune response.
“It’s a tremendous victory for Georgia to recruit researchers of the caliber of Lynn Hedrick and Klaus Ley,” said Susan Shows, president of the Georgia Research Alliance. “Together, they will build an ambitious research enterprise that attracts significant public and private funding, creates valuable workforce opportunities, and further enriches our state’s reputation for boldly pursuing answers to real needs. “
“Part of the motivation for us is to give back and provide basically what we can, which is the expertise in immunology, to hire the best 20 people we can to build an immunology institute that will eventually by becoming world-class,” Ley said.
Work at the new center will result in better care for people, such as monoclonal antibodies, cell therapies and new diagnostics, Ley says, and eventually train the next generation of immunologists by providing a curriculum in immunology in collaboration with The Graduate School at Augusta University.
Hedrick and Ley rank among the top 0.1% of researchers in the world who publish studies on monocytes, front-line immune responders to infections and other invaders like cancer. Hedrick’s lab has found unique populations of these monocytes in cancer, heart disease and COVID-19 patients, some of which are uniquely adept at attacking viruses and others that kill metastasized cancer cells, work which were published in the journal Science. His research paper identifying monocyte populations in healthy individuals and patients with cardiovascular disease was the most cited paper of 2021 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis and vascular biology. She recently received a full mark in the renewal of a large-scale project grant to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute that further explores immune cell interactions in atherosclerosis and cancer.
Hedrick, who will also serve as director of the Cancer Immunology, Inflammation, and Tolerance Program at the Georgia Cancer Center, joined the La Jolla faculty in 2009 from the University of Virginia, where she was Harrison Professor Emeritus of molecular physiology and biological physics. . She received the Special Recognition Award in Vascular Biology from the American Heart Association in 2013 and chaired the Gordon Research Conference on Atherosclerosis in 2019. One of her favorite aspects of her job is mentoring young scientists, and she has received the Outstanding Mentor of Women Award from the American Heart Association in 2015. Hedrick chairs the Program Project Grant Review Parent Committee of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. She is also a section editor for The Journal of Immunology.
Ley’s lab explored how monocytes can also contribute to disease, by sticking to the lining of blood vessel walls and allowing the development of atherosclerosis. Ley’s related work includes exploring how genetics and diet drive certain regulatory T cells, key drivers of the immune response that typically reduce inflammation, instead of accelerating chronic inflammation that can lead diseased and narrowed arteries. His work focuses on how the front-line, or innate immune response, as well as the adaptive immune response, which is acquired, more specific immunity resulting from exposures to invaders like bacteria and viruses, both contribute to atherosclerosis, with the ultimate goal of producing a vaccine. that can prevent or reduce this leading cause of heart attack and stroke. His latest article in the journal Science details how immune cells called macrophages in mouse aorta express olfactory receptors that can “sniff out” a compound called octanal, which can trigger inflammation. There is evidence that humans with cardiovascular disease have higher octane levels, findings that point to a new point of intervention.
Ley was director of the University of Virginia Cardiovascular Research Center before moving to La Jolla in 2007. He is a longtime member of the American Heart Association Council on Basic Cardiovascular Science and Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology Council and the AHA honored him. with a Distinguished Scientist Award in 2016. He received the Landis Award, the highest honor from the Microcirculatory Society in 2017 and received a Pioneers in Cardiology Lifetime Achievement Award from the University Heart Center, Graz, Austria in 2020. He chaired the Gordon Atherosclerosis Research Conference in 2015.
As GRA Eminent Scholars, Hedrick and Ley will hold endowed chairs funded by state dollars and private matching funds, and join a 72-member academy of highly acclaimed scientists recruited from research universities across the state. .
The LaJolla Institute for Immunology is an independent, nonprofit research organization founded in 1988 by a coalition of academic and industry leaders.