2019 Michelson Prize winners push the next frontiers of human immunology


Credit: UCSF, courtesy of the Human Vaccines Project

June 13, 2019 – The Michelson Medical Research Foundation and the Human Vaccines Project are awarding the 2019 Michelson Prizes to three young scientists, who will each receive $150,000 for their novel approaches toward deciphering how the human immune system fights disease.

“The Michelson Prizes were established to enable early-career scientists to pursue disruptive, high-risk, and innovative ideas that have the potential for high impact across disease areas and that likely would not be funded by traditional grant mechanisms,” says Gary Michelson, M.D., founder of the Michelson Medical Research Foundation. “This year’s winners truly represent the next generation of innovative scientists, building the toolkit by which humanity can pursue longer and healthier lives.”

This year’s winners include:

  • Murad Mamedov, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), for his project entitled “Mapping γδ T Cell Receptor Ligands.” He 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 non-communicable diseases such as cancer.
  • Kamal Mandal, UCSF, for his project entitled “‘Structural surfaceomics” an approach to identify cancer-specific cell surface protein conformations for immunotherapeutic targeting.” He 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, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, for his project entitled “Identification of cancer drugs that boost immunotherapy response.” He is building novel artificial-intelligence (AI) deep-learning frameworks to devise new therapeutic strategies for cancer immunotherapy, with potential applications in human immunology.

“We are seeing a paradigm shift in human immunology, as the convergence of computational, AI, and machine learning tools combine with advances in genomics and immunobiology to offer an unprecedented opportunity for innovation,” says Wayne Koff, CEO of the Human Vaccines Project. “This year’s Michelson Prize winners reflect this shift, bringing ideas that could truly transform how we fight major global diseases.”

Now in its second year, the Michelson Prizes recognize researchers under the age of 35 who are conducting research on the next frontiers of human immunology, using technological advances from genomics, computational biology, and machine learning to work to transform the future of human health. This year’s winners were selected from a global competition that included more than 150 applications spanning 35 countries. The Prize recipients will receive their awards on June 18, 2019, at the University of California, Los Angeles, where they will also participate in a Human Vaccines Project sponsored symposium, The Future of Vaccine and Immunotherapy Development: Towards an Artificial Intelligence Driven Model of the Human Immune System.


Applications for the 2020 Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research will open in September 2019. To learn more, please visit http://www.humanvaccinesproject.org/michelsonprizes/.

About the Michelson Medical Research Foundation

The Michelson Medical Research Foundation (MMRF) is funded by philanthropists Gary and Alya Michelson. For more information, visit: michelsonmedical.org

About the Human Vaccines Project

The Human Vaccines Project is a bold public-private initiative that aims to decode the human immune system to make the next leap forward in human health. Pioneering a new era in health, the Project will enable the creation of next-generation vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies across diseases. Learn more: http://www.humanvaccinesproject.org

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