2013 Lady Barbara Colyton Award for Autoimmune Research for Dr. Nina Luning Prak

November 12, 2013

Nina Luning Prak, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, is the 2013 recipient of the Lady Barbara Colyton Award for Autoimmune Research, which recognizes outstanding research in the field of autoimmune diseases. Dr. Luning Prak, who works on the genetics of the antibody repertoire in autoimmunity, was selected as the sixteenth recipient of the 2013 Colyton Award as part of the annual Perelman School of Medicine Awards of Excellence.

Dr. Luning Prak has made significant contributions to the field of B cell autoimmunity. B cells produce antibodies that can inappropriately target the body in autoimmunity (such self-reactive antibodies are called autoantibodies). Ordinarily, B cells that express autoantibodies can revise the specificities of those antibodies by undergoing further gene rearrangement, a process called receptor editing. Her work reveals that receptor editing is an important mechanism of B cell tolerance and that it is defective in some patients with conditions such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Type 1 Diabetes. Understanding how the antibody repertoire is selected lies at the heart of the functional and clinical heterogeneity within diseases such as SLE. Being able to distinguish different disease variants in humans with autoimmunity will open new avenues for individualized therapy and prognostication. Her work has relevance not only for autoimmune conditions, but also for neoplastic disorders of B cells. It will also reveal insights into how the immune system functions in immune responses to medically relevant pathogens.

The Lady Barbara Colyton Autoimmune Research Award was created in January 2002 to recognize a faculty member, fellow or postdoctoral student who has been engaged in innovative discoveries and outstanding research. Among the prior awardees are department faculty members Yongwon Choi, PhD, who received the award in 2007, and Michael P. Cancro, PhD, who received the award in 2012. The award, which includes a $5,000 prize a $5,000 laboratory donation, was bestowed at the annual Awards of Excellence banquet on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.