Gabriel Victora, an immunologist who studies how antibodies defend against infection, has been named a 2017 MacArthur fellow, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today. One of the most prestigious funding programs in the world, the MacArthur fellows program awards $625,000 to exceptionally creative individuals as an investment in their potential. Victora investigates acquired, or adaptive, immunity and the mechanisms by which organisms’ antibody-based responses to infection are fine-tuned.
Victora, the Laurie and Peter Grauer Assistant Professor and head of the Laboratory of Lymphocyte Dynamics, studies the processes by which the immune system refines its response to infection. When a pathogen invades the body, the immune system responds by producing antibodies that are precisely targeted at the invader. Victora is interested in how these antibodies are generated, and how they can be used to create better vaccines and treatments for conditions such as allergies and autoimmune diseases.
Victora’s past work on germinal centers, where antibody-producing B cells multiply and mutate, has revealed the specific immune cells involved in ensuring that antibodies are diverse, allowing our immune systems to cope with rapidly evolving viruses. He has developed and refined a number of molecular and cellular imaging techniques in order to visualize this process, known as affinity maturation, in real time.
MacArthur fellows receive funding directly, and it comes with no restrictions or reporting requirements. Colloquially known as “genius grants,” they have been awarded to 965 people, including writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, and entrepreneurs, since 1981.