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Charles Dinarello Named University Distinguished Professor

The Infectious Diseases Division is delighted to announce that our faculty member Charles Dinarello has received the University of Colorado’s highest distinction, University Distinguished Professor:
 Dr. Dinarello's remarkable career includes the following list of key accomplishments:
  • Discovery, cloning and characterization of the first member of a major class of central regulators of the inflammation and the immune system (the Interleukins, of which there are now at least 100 distinct genes ).
  • 1,014 publications  as of September 2015 (712 original research articles, 302 reviews editorials and book chapters).
  • 8 honorary degrees conferred by universities in 7 countries.
  • 16 major scientific prizes for his contributions to science and medicine, conferred by award committees spread over 7 countries, inlcuding the Paul Ehrlich Prize, the Novartis Prize in Clinical Immunology, and the Crafoord Prize, which he received from the King of Sweden in Stockholm.
  • Election to U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1998.
  • Listed by Institute for Scientific Information as the fourth-most cited scientist in the world in a two decade period (1983-2002) and as one of the 400-most influential biomedical researchers among over one million considered between 1996-2011, and the only one from Colorado.
  • Recently nominated for the Lasker and Nobel Prizes for his singular discoveries and contributions to cytokine biology.
  • Training of over 50 investigators, many of whom are now recognized experts in their fields.
  • All of the above was supported by a single National Institutes of Health R01 Grant (“Pathogenesis of Fever in Humans”), which he has renewed continuously for 35 years.
Charles Dinarello graduated from Boston University in 1965 and then received his M.D. degree from Yale University in 1969, which was followed by residency and chief residency in pediatrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1971 he went to the NIH, where he initiated the trailblazing scientific career that he has pursued since. He became an NIH Senior Investigator by 1975. At the time, in the early 1970s, the causes of fever and indeed the bases of inflammation and host response to infection at the cellular and systemic levels were essentially scientific black boxes. In a creative tour de force over the next 15 years, he discovered, purified, cloned the cDNA for, and characterized the essential biology of “human leucocytic pyrogen,” a.k.a, “the fever molecule,” which was later named Interleukin-1 (IL-1). As you know, IL-1 is now recognized as a central physiological actor in the mammalian response to infection, including triggering fever, the accompanying “flu-like symptoms,” and a cascade of crucial immune system repsonses. His vision that cytokines such as IL-1 would have pleiotropic effects rather than single or narrow end-organ effects was prescient.
His cloning of the IL-1 cDNA had multiple follow-on effects for the field. To mention just a few, it first of all made it possible to identify the receptor for this cytokine. The cytoplasmic domain of the IL‑1 receptor was subsequently found to reside withing the Toll protein of Drosophila, which opened a new field of investigation. It was further established that the functional cytoplasmic domain of the Toll-like Receptors (TLR) for microbial products is the same as the functional domain of the IL‑1 receptor. This domain (Toll-IL‑1 receptor domain, or TIR) connected the biology of IL‑1 to TLR responses, most of which are inflammatory and strongly resemble IL‑1 responses.  
In 1981, he also identified a specific inhibitor of IL‑1 (the IL‑1 receptor antagonist known today as anakinra). Anakinra is used to treat chronic inflammatory diseases that are not responsive to corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents or TNF antagonists. 
His productivity has been extraordinary by any standard: he has published over 1,000 peer-reviewed articles. Three fourths of the papers -- over 700 -- are primary research articles that report original scientific data. His work has had substantive impact in many areas, including inflammation, sepsis, immunology (both innate and adaptive systems), HIV-1 research, programmed cell death, autophagy, biologies of many subsequently identified cytokines, autoimmunity, heart disease, liver disease, the role of alpha-1-antrypsin in inflammation and transplnated organ rejection, the physiology of pregnancy, and aging science. 
Dr. Dinarello left the NIH in 1977 and after sojourns on the faculties at Tufts and MIT, he was recruited here to the University of Colorado School in 1996 as Professor of Medicine and Immunology. His career here was energetic and consistently prolific and he continues to publish original work at the highest levels. For example, in 2014 he published papers in PLoS Pathogens, PNAS, and Nature Communications (the latter on Interleukin-37, the function of which his laboratory first defined in a 2010 Nature Immunology paper). All the while he has has shown depth and persistence, continuing to further the science of IL-1, the IL-1 family and related cytokines, while making significant contributions in other areas. 
Remarkably, the NIH R01 grant he first obtained 35 years ago for his work on IL-1 is still active and it has essentially been the prinicipal support for his entire scientific oeuvre during these three and a half decades of unparalleled scientific productivity. It is fair to say that in Charles Dinarello’s R01 AI015614 (“Pathogenesis of Fever in Humans”), the NIH has likely funded its single most productive R01 grant ever. He has trained over 50 investigators, many of whom have gone on to highly productive scientific careers.
He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1998.  In addition, he was made a foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences in 2010. (He has also maintained a productive second laboratory in Holland, at Radboud University, for a number of years, which has further contributed to his worldwide impact on the education and training of young scientists). He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Weizmann Institute (Israel) and Ben Gurion University (Israel) and former Vice President of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and President of the International Cytokine Society.  He has received honorary degrees from the University of Marseille (France), the Weizmann Institute (Israel), the University of Frankfurt (Germany) and Roosevelt University (USA), Albany Medical College (USA), Radboud University (Netherlands) and Trinity College (Ireland).  In November 2014, he received a doctorate honaris causa from the University of Bonn (Germany).
For his scientific contributions, he has received many prestigious awards. (By the way, he donates his award and prize funds to The Interleukin Foundation, a charitable foundation he established in 2009, which supports research on cytokines to young investigators). Prizes recieved include the Squibb Award (USA), Ernst Jung Prize in Medicine (Germany), Gold Medal of the Heilmeyer Society for Internal Medicine (Germany), Chirone Prize (Italian National Academy of Medicine), Carol Nachman Prize (Germany), Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashdid al Maktoum Award (United Arab Emirates), Beering Prize (USA), Albany Prize in Medical Research (USA), Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Sweden), Paul Ehrlich Prize (Germany), Bonfils-Stanton Prize (USA), the Novartis Prize in Clinical Immunology (Switzerland) and in 2012, the Bonazinga Award (USA).  In November 2013, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Eicosanoid Foundation for his pioneering studies on the role of lipids in cytokine-mediated inflammation. In June, 2014, he received the Drexel Prize in Immunology.
Quite a story!
Eric Poeschla
Eric M. Poeschla, MD
Professor of Medicine
Tim Gill Endowed Chair in HIV Research
Head, Division of Infectious Diseases
University of Colorado School of Medicine