Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D.
Professor of Molecular Cellular and Developmental BiologyYale School of Medicine
Professor Akiko Iwasaki has made major discoveries in innate anti-viral and mucosal immunity that have resulted in paradigm shifts in the understanding of the immune response to pathogens as well as in vaccine design. Her research focuses on the mechanisms of immune defense against viruses at mucosal surfaces, which are a major site of entry for infectious agents. The knowledge gained in her lab can be used to design more effective vaccines or microbicides to prevent transmission of viral and bacterial pathogens.
Professor Iwasaki’s research group developed a new vaccine strategy, termed “Prime and Pull”, that can be used to treat those infected with virus, unlike many vaccines that are given preventatively. This method is currently under phase 2 clinical trials for the treatment of high grade cervical lesions caused by infection human papillomavirus (HPV).
Professor Iwasaki received her Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Toronto and completed her postdoctoral training with the National Institutes of Health before joining Yale’s faculty in 2000. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in Biomedical Sciences, the Wyeth Lederle Young Investigator Award, the BD Biosciences Investigator Award, and the Seymour & Vivian Milstein Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research. Professor Iwasaki has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator since 2014, a prestigious honor that provides the researcher long-term, flexible funding that gives them to freedom to explore new avenues of research. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2018, and to the National Academy of Medicine in 2019. Dr. Iwasaki is also well known for her Twitter advocacy on women and underrepresented minority in the science and medicine fields.
Currently, Professor Iwasaki is directing translational immunology team to investigate the role of immune response in COVID-19 disease outcome. She also co-directs the IMPACT (Implementing medical and public health actions against coronavirus in Connecticut) team to generate an extensive biorepository for specimens collected from patients and health care workers, as well as implementing viral testing in both groups.