Skip to Main Content

History of Immunobiology at Yale

Dr. Richard Flavell

The Department of Immunobiology was established in the summer of 1988 with the appointment of Dr. Richard A. Flavell as its founding Chairperson. It was one of the first University Departments in the country devoted specifically to the study of the immune system. Prior to Dr. Flavell's arrival, Immunology research at Yale was housed within the Department of Microbiology, and subsequently in the Department of Pathology, where it was organized as the Division of Immunology headed by the late Dr. Richard K. Gershon. Dr. Gershon, whose research focused on regulation of the immune response, developed a sizable division within the Department of Pathology between 1977 and 1983. A key component in this growth was the establishment of a formal program of training in immunology at the pre- and post-doctoral levels, which continues to this day. A second important stimulus was the strong support received by several members of the Section from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. At the time of Dr. Gershon's untimely death, a committee was appointed that recommended the establishment of an autonomous Department of Immunobiology. This was in large part due to the efforts of the late Charles A. Janeway Jr., who played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Department of Immunobiology.

The Section of Human and Translational Immunology was established within the Department in 2006. Led by co-directors Kevan Herold and Jordan Pober, HTI has had a major impact on the scope and direction of immunology at Yale. HTI has facilitated the exposure of Immunobiology trainees to the immunology of human disease, enhanced interactions with clinical departments, and led to the development of multiple new training opportunities, including new courses.

The present-day Department of Immunobiology consists of 19 primary faculty and 11 secondary faculty members. The department retains strong support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute with three HHMI-funded investigators, and occupies The Anlyan Center (TAC) with many of its primary and secondary faculty located in contiguous laboratories on the 5th and 6th floors. Additional faculty are located in adjacent and nearby buildings. The Department of Immunobiology is tightly integrated with other departments and programs working on arthritis and autoimmunity, asthma and lung diseases, diabetes and bone diseases, infectious diseases and vascular biology, the microbiome and cancer. A style of highly collaborative and interactive research and training, established during the tenure of Dr. Gershon and fostered by Charlie Janeway Jr., remains the central culture of the department.

Richard Flavell served as chairperson of the Department for nearly 28 years, stepping down in 2016. Under his guidance, the Department expanded tremendously, contributed innumerable important advances in immunology and biology, established an exceptionally interactive and friendly research environment, and developed a reputation as one of the premiere centers for immunology research and training in the world. Dr. David Schatz has been chairperson since 2016.