Immunologist Dr. Carl Nathan Wins Sanofi – Institut Pasteur Award

Dr. Carl Nathan. Credit: John Abbott

Dr. Carl Nathan, chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been awarded the Sanofi – Institut Pasteur Senior International Scientist Award for Biomedical Research in Microbiology and Infection.

The Sanofi – Institut Pasteur Award is a joint honor created in 2012 by healthcare company Sanofi and the Institut Pasteur, an internationally renowned biomedical research center. The award recognizes scientists for their past or ongoing research demonstrating significant scientific progress in the life sciences. Dr. Nathan received the award Dec. 12 in Paris, France. The Sanofi – Institut Pasteur Award carries a €150,000 cash prize in support of research in the awardee’s laboratory.

“I am most grateful for all of the people I’ve worked with over the years,” said Dr. Nathan, the R.A. Rees Pritchett Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Chemical Biology and Translational Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, adding, “this kind of award is always for a group effort.”

Dr. Nathan began his research career as a medical student at Harvard University and oncology fellow at Yale University. His early work focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms by which macrophages kill foreign organisms in the body, crucial knowledge that helped form what scientists now know about innate immunity. His research findings since have contributed invaluable information to our understanding of how the immune system works in infectious diseases and cancer. Today, Dr. Nathan is one of the world’s leading authorities on tuberculosis and an outspoken advocate for the need for rapid development of new antibiotics.

A move to his first laboratory at The Rockefeller University convinced Dr. Nathan that interdisciplinary, collaborative biomedical research was the best way to make significant advances and develop young scientists. His work since — including in the Nathan Lab at Weill Cornell Medicine, established in 1986 — has always followed this model. He pursued this model beyond his own lab when he helped found the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (a partnership between The Rockefeller University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medicine, with pharmaceutical company Takeda) in order to accelerate the pace of drug discovery and development beyond what a single lab or single institution could accomplish.

Dr. Nathan works closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s TB Drug Accelerator program and he is the principal investigator of the NIH-funded Tri-Institutional TB Research Unit. From 1995 to 1997, he served as senior associate dean for research and acting dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. He has chaired the Department of Microbiology and Immunology since 1998. Dr. Nathan recently completed a two-year term as dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences from 2017–2019.

“What a privilege it has been for me, to be able to say, ‘I want to do this experiment,’ and then do it,” Dr. Nathan said. “I recognize what an exceptional privilege that is and I'm thankful for it.”

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