A renowned immunologist known for pioneering studies of processes that underlie the body’s response to viruses, bacteria, cancer cells and tissue/organ damage in autoimmune diseases, Dr. Paolo Casali, M.D. will join the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in January. Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, announced Dr. Casali’s recruitment on Tuesday, September 24.
Dr. Casali will be appointed as chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the UTHSC San Antonio School of Medicine and will occupy the Zachry Foundation Distinguished Chair in Microbiology and Immunology. “I am delighted that Dr. Casali has accepted our offer to join the School of Medicine in San Antonio,” Dr. González says in a UTHSC San Antonio release. “He was the top candidate revealed by an extensive national search, and our students will greatly benefit from his training and research program in the field of immunology.”
Dr. Casali is the Donald Bren Professor of Medicine, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of California, Irvine School (UCI) of Medicine. Born in Italy, Dr. Casali received his degree in medicine and surgery (magna cum laude) from the University of Milan, where he then became a resident in internal medicine and obtained a specialty in clinical immunology and allergy as well as microbiology and virology. Dr. Casali pursued postgraduate work in immunology at the Medical School of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, along with assignments as a field officer in Ethiopia by the World Health Organization.
At the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Casali is credited with building the renowned Institute for Immunology and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded immunology training graduate program. Prior to joining the University of California, Dr. Casali was a tenured professor at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York. For the past 25 years, Dr. Casali has conducted pioneering research on the molecular mechanisms used by immune cells called B-lymphocytes (B cells) to produce antibodies. “His groundbreaking work in human B cells and antibodies in the 1980s and ’90s was instrumental in the development of the first human monoclonal antibodies that neutralize rabies virus as well as the creation of a human monoclonal antibody to TNF-a (tumor necrosis factor-alpha), which is commercially available and used to cure important autoimmune diseases,” Dr. González said.
The Casali Lab at UCI focuses on researching the mechanisms underlying maturation of antibody and autoantibody responses, with emphasis on somatic hypermutation (SHM) and class switch DNA recombination (CSR) of the immunoglobulin (Ig) genes in B lymphocytes.They aim to identify novel elements that regulate these processes, define biochemical properties and functions of those elements, characterize their physiological and/or pathological roles and, eventually, manipulate immunity and control autoimmunity, allergy, inflammation and cancer.
Throughout his career Dr. Casali has served as a member of many NIH review panels and study sections, and received many formal acknowledgments of his scientific accomplishments. In 2009, Dr. Casali was elected a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science in recognition of his achievements in the field of molecular immunology.
Since 2002 Dr. Casali has served as editor-in-chief of Autoimmunity, an international peer-reviewed journal that publishes clinical and basic science articles on immunology, genetics, and the molecular biology of immunity and autoimmunity. Dr. Casali’s research has been funded without interruption by the NIH for almost three decades as well as by private foundations. His work has been published in high-profile journals such as Science, Nature Immunology, Immunity, Cell and The Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Dr. Casali succeeds Joel Baseman, Ph.D., who is stepping down as chair of the department after more than three decades of distinguished work. Dr. Baseman will remain in his valued role as researcher, teacher and mentor, and as head of the Center for Airway Inflammation Research, Dr. González said.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health funding. UT Medicine San Antonio’s Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC), one of only four sites in Texas to be recognized as a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, is also known for its world-class cancer care and its Phase 1 clinical trial programs. The CTRC’s Institute for Drug Development and our faculty have been involved in the development of several cancer drugs that are now approved by the FDA. UT Medicine San Antonio’s clinical enterprise is vigorous and its Medical Arts & Research Center, or the “MARC”, it is a state-of-the-art home that houses more than 200 different doctors from the School of Medicine faculty. San Antonio is the 7th largest city in America, and claims to have the most modern hospital facilities in the country. UT Medicine San Antonio’s primary teaching partner – University Health System – was named best hospital in San Antonio in 2011 by US News & World Report. The adjacent University Hospital, staffed by UT Medicine San Antonio faculty, recently opened the first Cardiovascular Hybrid Suite in South Texas, supports the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, a state-of-the-art neurosurgery group, and a nationally-known transplant center.