Seymour and Vivian Milstein Award for Excellence in cytokine and interferon research


BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 17, 2016–The International Cytokine and Interferon Society (ICIS) announced today that the Seymour and Vivian Milstein Award has been given to 3 premier scientists who have translated basic research findings into clinical benefit for thousands of patients. Carl Nathan, M.D. , John O'Shea M.D., and Jan Vilcek, M.D.,Ph.D will share the 2016 Seymour and Vivian Milstein Award for Excellence in Cytokine and Interferon Research ("The Milstein Award"). The 28nd "Milstein Award" ceremony will be held at the 2016 annual meeting of the ICIS on Sunday, October 16, in San Francisco. The Milstein Award recognizes achievements by biomedical research scientists who have made outstanding contributions to cytokine and interferon research, either in a basic or applied field.

Interferons and cytokines are involved in all biological processes and play a critical role in the development and progression of many diseases including cancer, viral diseases, and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Indeed, interferon has been called "evolution's first and perhaps most important invention for…survival…"1

This year's Milstein Award laureates are:

  • Dr. Carl Nathan, R.A. Rees Pritchett Professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College and co-chair of the Program in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis at Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University, has performed pioneering work in immunology, microbiology, infectious disease and global health. His work on how the immune system responds to infection by Mycobacterium tuberculosis stands-out in particular, as he has defined how cytokines play a pivotal role in this disease. Dr. Nathan's outstanding scientific achievements have led to numerous paradigm-shifts in understanding the immune response to infection and his research will continue to shape our therapeutic approaches in this area. His work has been recognized by numerous honors and awards, including membership in the US National Academy of Sciences.
  • Dr. John O'Shea, Scientific Director, National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, has performed outstanding research on how cytokines transmit signals to the cell interior of T cells and innate lymphocytes so as to evoke and direct subsequent immune responses. This work has led to a better understanding of the effects of mutations in these signaling pathway genes on immune function. Among the first to clone the protein kinase JAK3, O'Shea identified its crucial role in cytokine signaling and, based in large part on this work, pharmacological Jak inhibitors have been developed as a new class of immunomodulatory drugs. He has received numerous awards, including the Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize for Research in Arthritis: the U.S. Public Health Service Physician Researcher of the Year Award and the Paul Bunn Award in Infectious Disease.
  • Dr. Jan Vilcek, Research Professor, Department of Microbiology & Professor Emeritus of Microbiology, Department of Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine, originally demonstrated that interferons (IFNs) protect cells from infection with isolated viral RNA, proving that the site of interferon action is intracellular. He was the first to show that IFNα and IFNβ are encoded by distinct genes, a concept that caused a reevaluation of how the host responds to viral infection. Subsequently, he focused his research on another cytokine, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), where he made outstanding achievements and contributions in understanding the effects of TNF? on the host immune response. These studies led him to develop an antibody, now named Remicade/infliximab, that has improved the lives of thousands of individuals who suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and other autoimmune diseases. For this work, he has received numerous awards and honors, including the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation.


For 28 years, the Milstein Awards have represented the pinnacle of scientific achievement in interferon and cytokine research and are conferred each year by the International Cytokine and Interferon Society at a special event during its annual meeting. "The Milstein family believes it is important to continue to recognize scientists who make exceptional contributions to basic and clinical research in cytokines and interferons. Drs. Nathan, O'Shea, and Vilcek are scientists who exemplify the spirit of this award through their translation of basic research to clinical benefit to hundreds of thousands of patients," said Dr. Tadatsugu Taniguchi, President of the ICIS.

The Milstein family — Vivian, her late husband Seymour, their son Philip and their daughter Connie — are well-known philanthropists in the United States and abroad. For more than 50 years they have provided essential support for institutions and organizations at a time when funds from government agencies have been drying up.

Seymour Milstein's early insights into the critical importance of interferons led him to Sidney Pestka, M.D., one of the scientists at the forefront of interferon research. Seymour Milstein's interest in fostering continued investigations in this emerging field, and the Milstein family's tradition of support for organizations dedicated to patient care and scientific research, motivated him and his wife Vivian to establish The Milstein Awards in 1988, two years after interferon was first approved for the treatment of hairy cell leukemia.

Since that time, it has been widely recognized that interferons and the larger class of cytokines play critical roles in the development and progression of many major diseases including cancer, viral diseases such as hepatitis and influenza, and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and lupus. Most importantly, in the context of the Milstein Award's scope, the three most recent honorees have contributed tremendously to the treatment of disease and improvement of human health, exemplifying the goals of the Milstein Awards.

The Milstein family also supports The Milstein Young Investigator Awards to recognize the work of individuals who have made an impact on interferon and cytokine research early in their careers, and The Milstein Travel Awards to give those who may not otherwise be able to attend the Annual Meeting of the ICIS an opportunity to share the most current cytokine and interferon knowledge with peers around from the world.

About ICIS

The International Cytokine and Interferon Society, based in Bethesda, Md., is a non-profit organization devoted to cytokine, interferon, and chemokine research in the fields of cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and pre-clinical and clinical drug development. The ICIS provides a forum for sharing knowledge and encourages investigations that will lead to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases that impact humanity. ICIS members' research has led to significant breakthroughs in understanding and treating cancer, inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, viral diseases such as hepatitis and influenza, and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.

Contact: Lisa Hetherington [email protected]

1 J. E. Darnell Jr., Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY (Interferon: The 50th Anniversary, 2007)

Media Contact

Lisa Hetherington
[email protected]

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