Three immunology researchers share 2017’s Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis, for which the prize money is 6 million Swedish krona.
The Royal Science Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 2017 Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis to Shimon Sakaguchi, Osaka University, Japan, Fred Ramsdell, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, San Francisco, CA, USA and Alexander Rudensky, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA,
“for their discoveries relating to regulatory T cells, which counteract harmful immune reactions in arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.”
The research being rewarded deals with the discovery of regulatory T cells, cells that can be regarded as our immune system’s security guards. They put a brake on cells that are overzealous and attack the body’s own tissue.There are hopes that their discoveries will lead the way to new, highly effective treatment methods for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, MS and type 1 diabetes.
A great number of clinical trials are now being conducted globally, with research teams testing various ways of using regulatory T cells to subdue the immune system’s attacks that cause autoimmune diseases. The long-term vision is that of a breakthrough in the treatment of polyarthritis and other autoimmune syndromes, which could be treated more effectively than they are today.
The Crafoord Prize is awarded as a partnership between the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Crafoord Foundation in Lund. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible for deciding upon the Crafoord Laureates. The prize is awarded in one discipline each year, according to a set schedule for Mathematics and Astronomy, Geosciences, and Biosciences. The prize for Polyarthritis is awarded only when a special committee has demonstrated that scientific progress in this field has been such that an award is justified. The prize amount is 6 million Swedish krona to be shared equally between the Laureates.
The award ceremony will be held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 18 May 2017, in the presence of H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria. The Crafoord Days are 15-18 May 2017 in Stockholm and Lund.
Shimon Sakaguchi, Professor at Osaka University, Japan. Discovered and documented the occurrence of regulatory T cells by systematically investigating cells that develop in the thymus of young mice, in a series of experiments from 1985 onwards. Born 1951.
Fred Ramsdell, Head of Research at Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, San Francisco, CA, USA. Identified the faulty gene in some mice and children that are born with IPEX, a severe autoimmune disease, in 2001. This gene, FOXP3, has proven to be vital in the development of regulatory T cells. Born 1961.
Alexander Rudensky, Professor, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA. Knocked out the FOXP3 gene in mice in 2003, so they were unable to form regulatory T cells and thus suffered from severe autoimmune diseases. At about the same time, Sakaguchi and Ramsdell independently presented evidence that FOXP3 governs the formation of regulatory T cells and, at a stroke, a dynamic new field of research arose. Born 1956.