News Release: Research

Jun. 2,  2010

Immunologist Max D. Cooper Honored with Robert Koch Award

News Article ImageEmory immunologist Max D. Cooper, MD.

The Robert Koch Foundation will honor Emory immunologist Max D. Cooper, MD, with the prestigious 2010 Robert Koch Award, endowed with 100,000€. Cooper is professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in Emory University School of Medicine, a scientist in the Emory Vaccine Center and the Emory Center for AIDS Research, and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

The Robert Koch Award Ceremony will take place Nov. 12, 2010 at the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences under the direction of Dr. Philipp Rosler, the German Federal Minister of Health.

Cooper is recognized for his fundamental contributions to immunology, especially the understanding of the functions of different populations of lymphocytes, as well as the discovery of lymphocyte-like cells in primitive fish.

The annual Robert Koch Award is one of the most renowned scientific commendations in Germany and a leading international scientific prize. The Robert Koch Foundation, under the patronage of German President Horst Kohler, promotes fundamental scientific research in the field of infectious diseases and immunology and supports measures to solve other health-related problems in countries of the developing world.

The award is named after Robert Koch (1843-1910) one of the founders of modern microbiology. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905 for his tuberculosis discoveries.

One of the most influential scientists in the field of immunology, Cooper is credited with a series of landmark discoveries that provide a framework for understanding how white blood cells normally combat infections and how their development may go awry to produce leukemia, lymphomas and autoimmune diseases. Among his earliest discoveries was the finding that there are two distinct types of white blood cells, now known as T and B lymphocytes, which play separate but complementary roles in defending against infections. This is recognized as one of the most important organizing principles of the immune system.

"Max Cooper is one of the groundbreaking scientists of our time, and he is extremely deserving of this major international award," says Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center. "His visionary fundamental discoveries have laid the groundwork for many of the most significant advances in infectious diseases and vaccines."

Currently, Cooper and his research team are studying a new class of antibody-like proteins produced by the immune systems of the eel-like lampreys and hagfish. These proteins have unique properties that may make them useful for diagnosing and treating human diseases.

Cooper is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. He is past president of the Clinical Immunological Society and the American Association of Immunologists. Currently he is president of the Henry Kunkel Society at Rockefeller University, a group that encourages clinical, patient-centered research in the field of immunology. In 2008 he received the Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

He received his medical degree and completed his residency at Tulane University. Prior to joining Emory in 2008, Cooper spent 40 years at the University of Alabama School of Medicine (UAB), where he was professor in the departments of medicine, pathology, microbiology and pediatrics. 

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