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Three professors, authorities in genetics and immunology, receive Sterling honor

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2003 - Winter


Three faculty members at the School of Medicine have been named to Sterling chairs, one of the university’s highest tributes.

Richard A. Flavell, Ph.D., known for his pioneering research on gene structure and critical genes of the immune system, has been appointed Sterling Professor of Immunology. Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., the newly designated Sterling Professor of Genetics, has identified genes that can make people susceptible to cardiovascular disease, renal disease and osteoporosis. Ira Mellman, Ph.D., the new Sterling Professor of Cell Biology, is studying how individual cells organize their internal components to accomplish higher-order functions relevant to cancer and the body’s natural immunity to cancer.

Flavell’s laboratory is trying to understand how the immune system recognizes and responds to infectious agents and why it sometimes attacks the body’s own cells. Since 1988, Flavell has served as chair of the Section of Immunobiology at the School of Medicine and as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. \

Lifton received the 2002 Basic Research Prize from the American Heart Association for his discovery of mutations that cause hypertension and low blood pressure, findings that have established the central role of the kidney in blood pressure regulation and allowed Lifton and colleagues to identify new therapeutic targets. He is chair of the Department of Genetics and has been an HHMI investigator since 1994.

Mellman is exploring fundamental questions of membrane traffic-how molecules find each other and their intended sites of residence inside cells. His research team has focused on two areas: identifying the molecular mechanisms responsible for directing membrane components to their correct locations in epithelial cells, neurons and lymphocytes; and determining how the immune system processes antigens, agents that induce the formation of protective responses to foreign invaders as well as to cancer cells. A member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research since 1999, Mellman chairs the Department of Cell Biology at Yale.

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