Rockefeller researcher nabs Feinstein’s molecular prize

Very receptive: Veteran molecular geneticist Jeffrey Ravetch is the winner of the 2017 Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine.

Advanced molecular-genetics studies have earned a Rockefeller University researcher accolades from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and a fat check.

While Feinstein Institute scientists are often the ones collecting the research prizes, this time the institute is dishing it out, naming Jeffrey Ravetch – head of the Leonard Wagner Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Immunology at The Rockefeller University in New York City – the recipient of the fifth-annual Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine.

Awarded by the Feinstein Institute Press’ peer-reviewed journal Molecular Medicine, the Ross Prize is awarded to scientists who have made a “demonstrable impact in the understanding of human diseases pathogenesis and/or treatment” and promise to make “even greater contributions” to the molecular-medicine field, according to the institute.

The prize – specifically, its $50,000 award – is made possible by Feinstein Institute board members Robin and Jack Ross.

Ravetch’s research focuses on identifying the genetic components that cause immune-system cells to respond to specific antibodies. His mission: to better understand how a functioning immune system protects against invaders and how a dysfunctional immune system attacks its own host, specifically by studying a family of protein receptors called Fc receptors.

Over three decades of study, Ravetch and his team have defined these receptors and demonstrated their “essential role in immune response,” according to the Feinstein Institute.

“I am honored to receive the Ross Prize and join the distinguished group of researchers who have received this recognition,” Ravetch said in a statement. “I hope my work continues to have impact on the development of innovative treatments for human diseases.”

Feinstein Institute President and CEO Kevin Tracey dubbed Ravetch a sort of molecular detective, crediting the researcher with “solving the medical mystery of how antibodies can both activate and inhibit the immune response.”

“His discoveries have provided the fundamental knowledge that enables scientists to engineer antibodies to treat a variety of autoimmune conditions,” Tracey noted.

The Ross Prize is scheduled to be formally presented to Ravetch June 5 at the New York Academy of Sciences in Manhattan, followed by lectures from the prize-winner and other eminent researchers. Ravetch’s presentation is expected to delve into his discoveries regarding the biology of Fc receptors.

Past recipients of the Ross Award include Harvard School of Dental Medicine anesthesiology professor Charles Serhan, director of the Center for Experimental Therapeutics and Reperfusion Injury at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts, and John O’Shea, scientific director at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

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