Baylor Scientist Nationally Recognized for Research of Human Immune System

Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D., director of the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research (BIIR), was recently named as the recipient of the Dana Foundation Award in Human Immunology Research by the American Association of Immunologists (AAI). Dr. Banchereau was presented with the award at the 96th Annual Meeting of the AAI this month.  

Dr. Banchereau is internationally renowned for his study of the human immune system. His research focuses on manipulating dendritic cells (DCs)-the primary cells that direct the immune system-to potentially provide treatments for a range of diseases, including cancer; autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes; and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Using this dendritic cell technology, Dr. Banchereau also is seeking ways to manipulate the immune system to prevent rejection of transplanted organs.

Together with Karolina Palucka, M.D., PhD, and Joseph Fay, M.D., Dr. Banchereau's group has conducted several clinical trials to treat melanoma with a vaccine composed of a patient's own DCs. The DCs have been primed against melanoma in the lab and are given back to the patients in a series of injections under the skin.

In work with Virginia Pascual, M.D., he has identified an immune system protein (interleukin 1) that is responsible for a type of juvenile arthritis that has previously been difficult to treat. Knowing the culprit protein allowed them to find a treatment, which was already on the market for other conditions, that blocked interleukin 1. Most children responded to the treatment with complete remission of symptoms.

A different immune system protein (interferon alpha) is responsible for the severe symptoms in lupus patients. BIIR scientists are working with an international pharmaceutical company to develop a treatment that will block this protein, similar to how the treatment for the juvenile arthritis works.

With Damien Chaussabel, PhD, Dr. Banchereau has established the Center for Personalized Medicine. From a single tube of blood, scientists with the center can analyze the expression of over 46,000 gene transcripts. They have found that different diseases cause the immune system to respond in different ways, which means that this technology can be used to diagnose diseases and revolutionize health care.

"Under his leadership, BIIR has made significant advances in the field of human immunology research that has improved the lives of many people," says Michael Ramsay, M.D., president, Baylor Research Institute. "It was his vision to develop an entity where researchers could solely dedicate themselves to the study of human immunology basic research and the direct translation of those discoveries into clinical trials. We are so proud that he has been recognized for his contributions."

In 2008, Dr. Banchereau was appointed as director of the first INSERM unit in the United States, the French national institute for health and medical research. Through this unit, known as the Center for Human Vaccines, Dr. Banchereau is investigating two potential vaccines for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as vaccines against tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

Dr. Banchereau also serves as a professor in the Department of Gene and Cell Biology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He is one of the most cited immunologists in the world, having authored more than 280 original peer-reviewed publications and 174 book chapters and review articles.

"My goal, as it was when I joined Baylor, is to address the problems that exist in human immunology and to translate our findings into successful therapies and vaccines for patients. I am now interested in expanding the scope of the efforts to create around the country and the world Comprehensive Human Immunology Centers," states Dr. Banchereau.

Dallas-based Baylor Research Institute, an affiliate of Baylor Health Care System, promotes research that brings innovative treatments from the laboratory to the patient bedside. The Institute focuses on basic and translational science, clinical trials, health care effectiveness and quality of care research. Currently, investigators at Baylor are conducting 800 active research protocols spanning more than 20 medical specialties. Opened in 1996, Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, a component of BRI, focuses on developing new therapies to treat conditions that involve the immune system such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and organ transplantation.

For more information about the Baylor Research Institute, visit www.BaylorHealth.com. For more information about BIIR, visit www.biir.org.

CONTACT:
Ashley Howland
214-820-7540
Ashley.Howland@baylorhealth.edu

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