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Projects

The Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research

Recognizing the importance of cultivating new generations of scientists, Michelson Medical Research Foundation partnered with the Human Vaccines Project on the Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research. Launched in 2018, the prize rewards young investigators from around the world who use disruptive concepts and inventive processes to significantly advance human immunology and vaccine and immunotherapy discovery research for major global diseases.

At the foundation’s annual Conference on the Future of Vaccine Development, Michelson Medical Research Foundation honors the winners of the Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research and provides them with a forum for presenting their projects. The event also features engaging expert panels to discuss the latest work in vaccine development.

These prizes give young scientists the freedom to think outside the box. Our collaboration with the Human Vaccines Project in establishing the Michelson Prizes will help unravel the complexity of the human immune system to accelerate development of vaccines and therapies for some of the world’s most threatening diseases.
–Gary Michelson, MD
co-founder,
Michelson Medical Research Foundation
We are honored to be collaborating with the Michelson Medical Research Foundation to implement the visionary commitment of Gary and Alya Michelson of supporting the next generation of scientific leaders on the frontiers of human immunology and vaccine research.
–Wayne Koff, PhD
President and CEO,
Human Vaccines Project

Meet the current and past recipients of the 

Michelson Prize for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research.

Danika Hill, PhD

Research Fellow

Department of Immunology and Pathology | Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Dr. Hill is using strep A bacteria to identify the specific antigens that trigger the immunity protections of our bodily fluids. Her innovative strategy potentially opens avenues to improved vaccines for numerous infectious diseases and more effective immunotherapies for cancer.

 

“The Michelson Prize comes at a critical point in my career,” Dr. Hill says. “With the prize I’ll be able to apply some cutting-edge techniques to study hundreds of thousands of cells in molecular detail.” 

Michael Birnbaum, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of Biological Engineering | MIT

Dr. Birnbaum studies “elite controllers”—those rare individuals with HIV who can go for long periods without antiretroviral therapy—to identify optimal vaccine targets for stopping the virus. While currently focused on HIV, his method can be applied to a range of diseases, from infections to cancer.

 

“The support provided by this award will let us work faster than would be possible otherwise. We will be trying many of our best ideas at once to press this technology into service, in a time where better tools to study infectious disease are clearly needed,” Dr. Birnbaum says.

 

2019 Awardees

Murad Mamedov, PhD

Postdoctoral scholar, microbiology and immunology

School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Mamedov is using gene-editing technologies to create a new platform for understanding an important set of immune cells that may provide the keys to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of infectious and noncommunicable diseases such as cancer.

Kamal Mandal, PhD

Postdoctoral scholar, laboratory medicine

School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Mandal is developing new technologies that identify the shape of proteins that could provide new targets for cancer immunotherapy, with potential applications to other diseases.

Avinash Das Sahu, PhD

Postdoctoral fellow

Department of Data Sciences, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. Sahu is building novel artificial intelligence, deep-learning frameworks to devise new therapeutic strategies for cancer immunotherapy, with potential applications to human immunology.

2018 Awardees

Patricia Therese Illing, PhD

Research fellow, biochemistry
and molecular biology

Monash University

Dr. Illing’s work involves a new approach for identifying influenza-specific peptide antigens with implications for the development of vaccines against both seasonal and pandemic influenza strains. The Michelson Prize provided resources to expand her investigations into how viral antigens are recognized by the human immune system.

Laura Kate Mackay, PhD

Laboratory head and senior lecturer

Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne

Dr. Mandal is developing new technologies that identify the shape of proteins that could provide new targets for cancer immunotherapy, with potential applications to other diseases.

Ansuman Satpathy, MD, PhD

Assistant professor

Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Dr. Satpathy’s research focuses on combining the disciplines of genomics and human immunology. He aims to identify key gene regulatory mechanisms that trigger protective immunity following vaccination using novel epigenomic sequencing technologies applied directly to patient samples. The Michelson Prize has allowed him to advance both 3-D and single-cell epigenetic technologies for human immunology and vaccine research.

Partners

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USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience

Drawing on the University of Southern California’s tradition of research excellence, the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience unites scientists and engineers from across the university to promote biomedical innovation and tackle today’s most pressing medical challenges.

Within the walls of the 190,000-square-foot USC Michelson Center on the USC University Park Campus, interdisciplinary collaborators are developing new lifesaving devices and therapeutics—from ways to short-circuit cancer’s development to reducing maternal mortality in childbirth.

Also located within the center are the Bridge Institute, whose goal is to converge knowledge for radical progress in improving the human condition, and the Agilent Center of Excellence in Biomolecular Characterization, a partnership between USC and Agilent to pursue fundamental discoveries in life sciences research.

Gary Michelson shares USC’s commitment to cross-disciplinary discovery and donated $50 million to launch the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience and its programs.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) promotes the highest ethical standards in medical research and education, advances scientific and technological innovations, and works to eliminate animal experimentation. Today, due in large part to a decades-long campaign by PCRM, 97% of medical schools in the U.S. have replaced the use of animals for medical education with superior and humane alternatives, including human-patient simulators. PCRM also advocates for eliminating the use of animals for product-safety testing.

Past Partners

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Michelson Post-Injury Glial Scarring Initiative

Sabin Vaccine Institute

Michelson Neglected Disease Vaccine Initiative and Michelson Fund for NTDs Global Awareness

Institute for Protein Design

at the University of Washington: Protein Design Initiative

Other Divisions of 
Michelson Philanthropies

Media Contact

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© 2020 Gary K. Michelson