Dr. Flavell is founding chair of the Department of Immunobiology at Yale and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. After obtaining a Ph.D. degree in biochemistry from the University of Hull in 1970, he carried out postdoctoral training at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Zurich.
Working with Charles Weissmann in Zurich in 1974, he modified genes in a virus and studied the resulting phenotype – the first example of what scientists now call “reverse genetics.” Subsequently, as a faculty member at the University of Amsterdam, he demonstrated the presence of introns in mammalian genes. In 1982, Dr. Flavell left academics to serve as the chief scientific officer of Biogen, but returned to academia in 1988 to join the faculty at the Yale School of Medicine.
Dr. Flavell’s research uses mouse genetics to study innate and adaptive immunity, T cell tolerance, apoptosis and autoimmunity, and the regulation of T cell differentiation. Among his most recent discoveries is the finding that genes interact across chromosomes in T cells, where a master control gene on chromosome 11 may physically touch a gene on chromosome 10, inducing it to produce a protein that primes the cell to fight infection in a specific way. This finding has wide-ranging implications for diseases including autoimmune disorders and cancer. Most recently, he has established the connection between inflammasomes, microbial homeostasis and chronic diseases. He showed that dysbiosis of the microbiota leads to IBD and Metabolic Syndrome, including Obesity, Fatty Liver disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Flavell has received the FEBS Anniversary Prize (1980), Colworth Medal (1980), Darwin Trust Prize (1995), Rabbi Shai Sachnai Memorial Prize in Immunology and Cancer Research (2008), AAI Invitrogen Meritorious Career Award (2008), Andrew Lazarovitz Award (2011), the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology (2012) and most recently, the 2013 Vilcek Award, shared with Dr. Ruslan Medzhitov. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1984, the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, the Institute of Medicine in 2006 and the first President of the newly formed International Cytokine and Interferon Society (ICIS) from 2014.