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Viruses, Vaccines, and Emerging Health Threats

Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Vaccine Research Center
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


Tuesday, November 16, 2004 • 7 pm
Masur Auditorium • NIH Clinical Center
Photo of Gary J. Nabel

In accepting the position of Director of the Vaccine Research Center (VRC), Gary J. Nabel, accepted the challenge issued by President Clinton to commit to developing a vaccine against AIDS. "I'm honored and excited by the opportunity," says Dr. Nabel. Dr. Nabel officially joined the National Institutes of Health on April 11, 1999. He came from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he was the Henry Sewall professor of Internal Medicine and professor of Biological Chemistry, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Dr. Nabel is well known as a molecular virologist and immunologist for his work in the fields of HIV, cancer, and Ebola virus research. Dr. Nabel's laboratory has studied mechanisms by which cells coordinately regulate the expression of genes during viral infection and development. His early work defined NF-kB as the key cellular protein that acts as a switch to stimulate HIV transcription during T cell activation. These studies defined one of the important determinants of HIV latency. Since then, the laboratory has examined the molecular basis of HIV transcriptional activation. His lab cloned members of this regulatory pathway and defined domains of NF-kB that interact with other proteins, such as transcriptional coactivators p300 and CBP, and Sp1. Protein-protein and/or protein/DNA interactions that regulate transcription have been defined. Dr. Nabel's laboratory has also shown that there is a relationship between NF-kB activation and cell cycle progression, demonstrating that NF-kB transcriptional activation is linked to cell cycle control.

Dr. Nabel's interest in viral gene expression and vaccines has involved other emerging viruses. In late 1997, Dr. Nabel led a group of researchers who demonstrated in guinea pigs that a DNA-based vaccine could generate protective immune responses in Ebola virus. He and his colleagues were also the first to use direct gene transfer to introduce therapeutic proteins into patients with melanoma, showing the feasibility and safety of this approach. Most notably, Dr. Nabel helped to develop a competitive inhibitor of the HIV Rev protein, which is required for HIV replication, and introduced this gene, Rev M10, into T cells of infected individuals in the first HIV gene therapy trial.

Dr. Nabel graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1975. He then entered the university's M.D.-Ph.D. program, completing his Ph.D. in 1980 and his M.D. two years later. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of David Baltimore at the Whitehead Institute, MIT.

In 1987, Dr. Nabel became an assistant professor of Internal Medicine and assistant professor of Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In addition to his faculty positions, Dr. Nabel was the director of the Center for Gene Therapy and co-director of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the University of Michigan. He has served on several NIH advisory committees, including the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases AIDS Research Advisory Committee, which he chaired from 1996-97.

In recognition of his expertise at the forefront of virology, immunology, gene therapy and molecular biology, Dr. Nabel was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1998. His honors include the James Tolbert Shipley Prize for Research for Harvard Medical School in 1982, the Midwest American Federation for Clinical Research Young Investigator Award in 1992, and the ASBMB-Amgen Scientific Achievement Award in 1996. Dr. Nabel currently is associate editor of the Journal of Virology and the Journal of Clinical Investigation and serves on the editorial boards of several other journals.

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