News Release

Michelson Prize awards $450k to young scientists advancing immunology and vaccine research

The Michelson Medical Research Foundation and the Human Vaccines Project award three recipients with inaugural Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research

Grant and Award Announcement

Human Vaccines Project

NEW YORK, June 19, 2018 - High risk, high reward scientific advancements require long-term flexible funding with a clear focus on transformative discoveries and approaches. The next generation of scientists are often the ones bringing innovative ideas and ground-breaking approaches that have the potential to impact the future of human health. Yet these young researchers often have to wait their turn as more experienced colleagues secure sought-after funding for established research.

The Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research was founded to support these young investigators who are applying innovative research concepts and disruptive technologies to their work to significantly advance the development of future vaccines and therapies.

Today the Michelson Medical Research Foundation and the Human Vaccines Project are announcing the cutting edge researchers under the age of 35 that were selected as the award's first recipients from a global competition that included over a hundred applications spanning 12 countries. Each of the three recipients will be awarded a $150,000 Prize to fund specific aspects of their research.

"We are thrilled to recognize these three young scientists that hail from the U.S. and Australia - Patricia Illing, PhD, Ansuman Satpathy, MD, PhD, and Laura Mackay, PhD - as the first recipients of the Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research," said Gary Michelson, MD, founder of the Michelson Medical Research Foundation. "The high caliber of their scientific pursuits, their disruptive ideas, and their passion for innovation and problem solving gives me great hope for the future of science."

The recipients:

  1. Dr. Patricia Illing, a research fellow at Monash University, was the first to identify spliced peptides during a viral infection. This work involves an innovative new approach for identifying influenza-specific peptide antigens with implications for the development of vaccines against both seasonal and pandemic influenza strains. The Prize money will provide greater resources to expand understanding of how a viral antigen is recognized by the human immune system. 

  2. Dr. Ansuman Satpathy, an instructor in pathology at Stanford University School of Medicine, is focused on combining disciplines of genomics and human immunology. His research will identify key gene regulatory mechanisms that trigger protective immunity following vaccination using novel epigenomic sequencing technologies applied directly to patient samples. The Prize will allow him to greatly accelerate his work, advancing both 3D and single-cell epigenetic technologies to human immunology and vaccine research.

  3. Dr. Laura Mackay is a laboratory head and senior lecturer at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. She is studying a recently described subset of immune cells called tissue resident memory T cells, which combat various viral infections and cancer. The research that will be funded by the Prize will examine immune responses by tissue resident memory T cells to harness their protective functions to improve vaccines and immunotherapies.

"It is inspiring to see the creative thinking and innovative approaches these young researchers are taking to tackle today's scientific challenges," said Wayne C. Koff, PhD, president and CEO of the Human Vaccines Project. "We are proud to be able to support their research, which aligns with the Project's mission of deepening our understanding of the immune system. We're looking forward to the progress the Prize winners will make over the next year."

The Prize recipients will participate in a symposium on the Future of Vaccine Development at the University of Southern California on June 27, 2018. They'll also be recognized at an awards gala that evening.

Applications for the 2019 Michelson Prizes for Human Immunology and Vaccine Research will open this coming Fall. The learn more, please visit


About the Michelson Medical Research Foundation

Founded by Dr. Gary K. Michelson, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, inventor, patent holder and philanthropist, Michelson Medical Research Foundation [MMRF] supports forward thinking initiatives in medical science. For more information, visit

About the Human Vaccines Project

The Human Vaccines Project is a nonprofit public-private partnership with a mission to decode the human immune system to accelerate the development of vaccines and immunotherapies against major global diseases. The Project brings together leading academic research centers, industrial partners, nonprofits and governments to address the primary scientific barriers to developing new vaccines and immunotherapies. Support and funders for the Project include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Michelson Medical Research Foundation, GSK, MedImmune, Illumina, Sanofi Pasteur, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Pfizer, Moderna, Boehringer Ingelheim, Aeras, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, University of California San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute, J. Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and Telethon Kids Institute. To learn more, visit and follow @HumanVacProject on Twitter.

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