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Richard Flavell to give Max Birnstiel Lecture

13 Sep 2022
Richard Flavell.

For the next Max Birnstiel Lecture, the IMP will welcome the immunobiologist Richard Flavell of the Yale University School of Medicine.

The Birnstiel Lecture series features highly distinguished speakers. In the series’ upcoming edition, the IMP will welcome Richard Flavell of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut (US). The lecture “Modelling human haematopoiesis, disease and even human organs in NextGEN humanised mice” will be given at the IMP lecture hall on 28 September 2022, at 11 a.m.

The lab of Richard Flavell studies cellular and molecular mechanisms of immune responses. They use transgenic and gene-targeted mice to study innate and adaptive immunity, T cell tolerance and activation in immunity and autoimmunity, apoptosis, and regulation of T cell differentiation. Flavell’s lab currently focuses their work on three major areas: T cell differentiation and its contribution to immune homeostasis, the biology of inflammasomes and intestinal microbiota, and humanised mouse models for the study of immunity.

Richard Flavell made crucial contributions to the discovery of introns in cellular genes: he showed that DNA methylation prevents gene expression. He was the first to develop and employ reverse genetics to study gene function in vivo. He has been instrumental in discovering the molecular basis of T-cell differentiation from precursor cells into differentiated subsets and provided the first example of gene regulation in trans via “kissing chromosomes”. Flavell’s laboratory also elucidated the mechanisms of immunoregulation that prevent autoimmunity and overaggressive responses to pathogens and discovered the role of several receptor families in the innate immune response, including Toll-like receptors and intracellular Nod-like receptor families (NLRs).  Most recently, Flavell’s lab established the connection between inflammasomes, microbial homeostasis, and chronic diseases. He showed that dysbiosis of the microbiota leads to IBD and metabolic syndrome, including obesity, fatty liver disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Richard Flavell is Sterling Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received his B.Sc. (Honors) in 1967 and Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1970 from the University of Hull (United Kingdom). He was a postdoctoral researcher with Piet Borst at the University of Amsterdam (1970-72), and with Charles Weissmann at the University of Zurich (1972/73). He then returned to the University of Amsterdam for an assistant professorship (1974-79), before becoming head of the laboratory of gene structure and expression at the National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London (1979-82). In 1982, Flavell transitioned to the private sector as President and Chief Scientific Officer of Biogen Research Corporation, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He took his present position at Yale in 1988.

Richard Flavell is a fellow of the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and member of the National Academy of Sciences, the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), and the National Academy of Medicine. Among many awards and honours he received are the “William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology” (2012), the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science (2013), and the Hans Bloemendal Medal (2017). He was granted honorary doctorates by the Universities of Hull (2016) and Zurich (2018).

Richard Flavell will be hosted by the IMP’s deputy director Meinrad Busslinger, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Flavell’s lab in 1981/82.