May 1, 2019

Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg elected Distinguished Fellow by the American Association of Immunologists

LA JOLLA, CA—The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) has named La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg, a world expert in T cell biology, as an AAI 2019 Distinguished Fellow. He is among 52 immunologists, including five Nobel Laureates, selected for the inaugural class of fellows.

Election as a Distinguished Fellow is among the highest honors bestowed by AAI and recognizes members for distinguished careers and outstanding scientific contributions as well as their service to AAI and the immunology community. The fellows, many of whom Dr. Kronenberg considers to be longtime friends and colleagues, will be recognized at the AAI annual meeting, Immunology 2019, to be held May 9-13 in San Diego.

Dr. Mitchell Kronenberg

Dr. Kronenberg is best known for his extensive studies of a subset of specialized T cells known as invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells and their brethren, mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. Both cell types are an integral part of the innate immune response, which reacts almost immediately to foreign invaders.

Unlike conventional T cells, which belong to the adaptive arm of the immune response and take at least a few days before they are fully trained on a single, specific protein fragment or peptide antigen, MAIT and iNKT cells recognize molecular components common to many microbes. Dr. Kronenberg’s foundational research was crucial for deciphering which molecular structures in highly pathogenic bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae are recognized by these cells, and the role they play in protection from infection.

In a different area, Dr. Kronenberg’s pioneering studies focus on understanding the immune defense mechanisms at the body’s largest “interface” with the outside world, the intestines. In addition to forming a physical barrier separating us from many billions of resident microbes, known as the microbiome, the mucosal epithelium lining the intestine also carries out vital digestive functions. Therefore, any tissue damage induced by invading pathogens or excessive inflammation can jeopardize the integrity of this critical border, spread devastating infection and cause inflammatory bowel disease.

Dr. Kronenberg is particularly interested in the role of a membrane protein called HVEM, which is essential for the survival of resident T cells in the gut. In future research, he hopes to define how HVEM helps balance the functions of the immune system and the microbiome while avoiding destructive inflammation.

Dr. Kronenberg received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1983, and stayed on to complete his postdoctoral work before joining the faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine in 1986. At UCLA, he rose through the ranks to full professor. In 1997, he joined La Jolla Institute as Head of the Division of Developmental Immunology. In September 2003, Dr. Kronenberg was appointed President of La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI).

Under his inspirational leadership, LJI’s faculty doubled while the Institute’s operating budget tripled. Today, the Institute is not only ranked #5 in the world in the field of immunology based on its scientific impact but is also widely regarded as one of the best places to work in academia.

Over the years, Dr. Kronenberg has received many major awards, including a prestigious Merit Award for scientific achievement from the National Institutes of Health, the Distinguished Service Award by the American Association of Immunologists. He has also been a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Visiting Professor at Harvard University, delivered the Joseph S. Ingraham immunology lecture at the Indiana University School of Medicine and has been elected a fellow of the American Associations for the Advancement of Science as well as most admired CEO by the San Diego Business Journal. He is also one of the most highly cited immunologists in the world, a distinction held by less than half of one percent of all publishing scientific authors.

About La Jolla Institute for Immunology
The La Jolla Institute for Immunology is dedicated to understanding the intricacies and power of the immune system so that we may apply that knowledge to promote human health and prevent a wide range of diseases. Since its founding in 1988 as an independent, nonprofit research organization, the Institute has made numerous advances leading toward its goal: life without disease.