Richard A. Flavell, Ph.D., chair and Sterling Professor of Immunobiology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator, has received the 2012 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology.

The award was given by the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) jointly to a group of three scientists for their work to define the gene transcription factors that regulate differentiation of CD4+ T cells, a crucial component of the adaptive immune response. Flavell shares the award with Laurie H. Glimcher, M.D., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean and provost for medical affairs at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Kenneth M. Murphy, M.D., Ph.D., the Eugene Opie First Centennial Professor of Pathology and Immunology and HHMI investigator at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Flavell studies the molecular basis of T-cell differentiation. His research team has used genomic approaches to identify the genes that are selectively expressed in T-cell lineages, and has used gene targeting, transgenic mice, and retroviral technology to elucidate the function of these genes and their target sequences.

A member of the Institute of Medicine (see related story) and National Academy of Sciences, he also studies the mechanisms of programmed cell death using mice lacking death-effector molecules, and the molecular and cellular bases of autoimmune disease.

The CRI was established in 1953 to transform cancer patient care through the discovery and development of safe and effective immune system-based strategies to treat and eventually cure all cancers. The Coley Award is one of the CRI’s highest honors for those who have made seminal contributions to the fields of immunology and cancer immunotherapy. The award was presented at the CRI’s 26th Annual Awards gala on October 17 in New York City by James P. Allison, Ph.D., director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council.