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Jean-Laurent Casanova honored with Belgium’s highest scientific prize

Jean-Laurent Casanova, professor and head of the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases at Rockefeller University, has received the 2011 InBev-Baillet Latour Health Prize for his pioneering work on the identification of genes that predispose for human infectious disease. He received the award at a ceremony at the Palais des Académies in Brussels, Belgium.

With a value of 250,000 euros, the InBev-Baillet Latour Health Prize, which recognizes the practical application of basic research, is the mostimportant scientific prize awarded in Belgium.

Casanova studies the genetics of human predisposition to pediatric infectious diseases, particularly mycobacterial diseases, invasive pneumococcal diseases and herpes simplex encephalitis. He is interested in identifying Mendelian “holes” in the immune defense of otherwise healthy children who are susceptible to specific infectious diseases, work that has profound implications for and has resulted in a paradigm shift in human clinical medicine and fundamental immunology. Casanova was the first to establish that a predisposition to infectious diseases in children can actually be genetically determined.

Casanova received his M.D. from the University of Paris René Descartes in 1987 and his Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Paris Pierre and Marie Curie in 1992, after being trained at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Lausanne. Following a residency in pediatrics in Paris, he completed a clinical fellowship in the pediatric immunology-hematology unit of the Necker Medical School in Paris. In 1999 he was appointed a professor of pediatrics at Necker, where, with Laurent Abel, he cofounded and codirected the Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases. He was appointed professor at Rockefeller in 2008.

Casanova was an international research scholar with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 2005 to 2008 and is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. Casanova is the recipient of the 2008 Richard Lounsbery Award from the French and American Academies of Sciences and a Professor Lucien Dautrebande Pathophysiology Foundation Prize from the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine in 2004. Casanova received an honorary doctorate from the University of Zürich in 2009, and he received the 2009 Oswald Avery Award from the Infectious Diseases Society of America.