The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has elected Rafi Ahmed, PhD,to its new class of 70 leading health scientists and 10 foreign associates.
Rafi Ahmed is director of the Emory Vaccine Center, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, a scientist at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and Charles Howard Candler Professor of Microbiology and Immunology in Emory University School of Medicine.
Election to the IOM is one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. New members are elected by current active members through a selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.
Rafi Ahmed, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is a world-renowned immunologist whose work has been highly influential in shaping our current understanding of immunological memory to viral infections. His seminal work has defined the cellular basis of T and B cell memory and these findings are now providing a framework for the rational design of new and more effective vaccines for prevention and treatment of disease.
Ahmed’s laboratory was also involved in developing a method of rapidly generating human monoclonal antibodies after vaccination or infection and demonstrating that humans can produce broadly cross-reactive antibodies that recognize multiple strains of influenza viruses. This research has led Ahmed and others closer to the goal of developing a universal flu vaccine.
Ahmed has made groundbreaking discoveries on T cell dysfunction during chronic viral infections. His work identified the underlying causes of T cell exhaustion and showed that blockade of the PD-1 inhibitory pathway can rejuvenate exhausted T cells and reduce viral load. This game-changing finding has been highly influential in the clinical development of PD-1 directed immunotherapy for the treatment of human chronic infections and cancer.
Under Ahmed’s continuing leadership, the Emory Vaccine Center is now one of the largest, most comprehensive academic vaccine research centers in the world, with more than 30 faculty and a research staff of nearly 250, laboratories in New Delhi as well as Atlanta, and more than $650 million in research funding over the past 18 years. The Vaccine Center’s research spans the entire spectrum from fundamental laboratory science, to nonhuman primate studies, to clinical trials through the Hope Clinic, to public policy initiatives.
Ahmed received his undergraduate degree from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, an additional bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Idaho State University, and a PhD from Harvard University in 1981. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation (1981-1984) and joined the faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine (1984-1995), rising from assistant to full professor.
In 1995 he joined Emory University School of Medicine and Yerkes National Primate Research Center as the founding director of the Emory Vaccine Center. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Indian National Academy of Sciences.