Dr. Littman is the Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Professor of Molecular Immunology at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine of New York University School of Medicine, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Following undergraduate studies on the structure of microtubules in Marc Kirschner’s laboratory at Princeton University, he completed the M.D./Ph.D. program at Washington University in St. Louis, working with Benjamin Schwartz and Susan Cullen on the function of histocompatibility molecules in antigen presentation. His postdoctoral research was done in Richard Axel’s laboratory at Columbia University. Dr. Littman was Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco, before joining NYU in 1995.
Dr. Littman has been a leader in applying molecular and genetics tools to study specification of T lymphocyte lineages, the differentiation of inflammatory T helper cells, and the mechanism of HIV entry into cells. Dr. Littman isolated the genes for the CD4 and CD8 co-receptors and determined how their expression is regulated and their signaling influences selection of helper and cytotoxic cells. He discovered that the nuclear receptor RORt regulates differentiation of Th17 cells and lymphoid tissue inducer cells, and identified compounds that inhibit its activity and may be effective for autoimmune disease therapy. He identified a commensal gut bacterium that selectively induces Th17 cells and promotes autoimmunity in mice, which may be relevant for human diseases, e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, thought to be influenced by imbalanced microbiota. Dr. Littman’s group also characterized CD4 and CCR5 as receptors for HIV and showed how HIV evades host innate responses by failing to replicate in dendritic cells. His work is being translated into therapies for multiple diseases. Dr. Littman is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the recipient of the New York City Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology, the AAI-Invitrogen Meritorious Career Award, the inaugural Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine, the Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science, and the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute.
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