Jeffrey V. Ravetch PhD, MD

Recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award, 2012
"For his seminal work on identifying the Fc receptors of antibodies, which play a key role in the immune response, and for establishing their critical role in autoimmune diseases and cancer"

Theresa and Eugene Lang Professor, and Head, Leonard Wagner Laboratory of Molecular Genetics and Immunology, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY

The challenge: Antibodies work in the immune system to defend against bacteria and viruses. But antibodies can also trigger diseases such as arthritis and lupus.
The work: Dr. Ravetch discovered how antibodies can trigger different outcomes by binding to molecules (called Fc receptors) to change their activity. The Fc receptor allows antibodies to defend against toxins, bacteria and viruses.
Why it matters: The discovery of the Fc Receptor has changed how we think about the immune system by explaining the receptor’s puzzling dual nature as both protective and harmful. This knowledge paves the way to developing new therapies to fight autoimmune diseases such as lupus, arthritis and cancer.

Jeffrey V. Ravetch, received his training at the Rockefeller University – Cornell Medical School MD/PhD program. He earned his doctorate in 1978 in genetics with Norton Zinder and Peter Model, investigating the genetics of viral replication and gene expression for the single stranded DNA bacteriophage f1. In 1979 he earned his MD from Cornell University Medical School. He continued his training as fellow at the NIH (pursuing postdoctoral studies with Phil Leder), where he identified and characterized the genes for human antibodies and the DNA elements involved in switch recombination.  From 1982 to 1996, Dr. Ravetch was a member of the faculty of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell Medical College.  His laboratory has focused on the mechanisms by which antibodies mediate their diverse biological activities in vivo – establishing the pre-eminence of FcR pathways in inflammation and tolerance and describing novel inhibitory signalling pathways to account for the paradoxical roles of antibodies as promoting and suppressing inflammation.

Dr. Ravetch has received numerous awards, including the Burroughs-Wellcome Scholar Award, the Pew Scholar Award, the Boyer Award, the NIH Merit Award, the Lee C. Howley, Sr. Prize, the AAI-Huang Foundation Meritorious Career Award and the William B. Coley Award. He has presented numerous named lectures including the Kunkel Lecture, the Ecker Lecture, the Goidl Lecture, the Grabar Lecture and the Dyer Lecture. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and to its Institute of Medicine in 2007. In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2009 he became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

KEY PAPERS related to the discovery 

Ravetch, J.V., Luster, A., Weinshank, R., Kochan, J., Pavlovec, A., Portnoy, D., Hulmes, J., Pan, Y-C. and Unkeless, J. (1986) Structural heterogeneity and functional domains of murine immunoglobulin G Fc receptors. Science 234:718-725

Luster, A.D. and Ravetch, J.V. (1987) Biochemical characterization of a γ interferon inducible cytokine (IP-10). J. Exp. Med. 166:1085-1097.

Sylvestre, D.L. and Ravetch, J.V. (1994) Fc receptors initiate the Arthus reaction: Redefining the inflammatory cascade. Science, 265:1095-1098.

Takai, T., Li, M., Sylvestre, D., Clynes, R., and Ravetch, J.V. (1994) FcR γ chain deletion results in pleiotropic effector cell defects. Cell, 76:519-529.

Kaneko, Y., Nimmerjahn, F. and Ravetch, J.V. (2006) Anti-inflammatory activity of Immunoglobulin G resulting from Fc sialylation. Science 313:670-673