Prof. Cathryn Nagler honored for outstanding contributions to immunology

UChicago scholar recognized for breakthrough research on microbiome and allergies

After 30 years of research, Prof. Cathryn Nagler says she’s still as passionate about her work and the possibility of new discovery as she was when she started graduate school.

Nagler was one of the first to recognize the link between intestinal bacteria and the regulation of immunity, making the connection in 2004—long before “microbiome” was a household word. A leading immunology scholar, the University of Chicago scientist is now working on developing microbiome-modulating therapeutics to prevent or treat food allergy.

For her groundbreaking work in the field of immunology, Nagler was recently selected as a distinguished fellow of the American Association of Immunologists. The distinction recognizes AAI’s active, long-term members for exceptional careers and scientific contributions. Other recipients of the honor include Nobel laureates David Baltimore, Susumu Tonegawa and James P. Allison.

“The membership of the American Association of Immunologists encompasses all of the broad field of immunology; this is my most valued peer group,” said Nagler, the Bunning Family Professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Department of Pathology and the College. “Recognition as a distinguished fellow by my peers in the AAI is therefore enormously gratifying.”

“Cathy’s exceptional research on the immune system and her contributions to the American Association of Immunologists make this honor well-deserved,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering. “By leveraging her research to address issues like rising rates of life-threatening allergic responses, she has helped improve the lives of many affected by this issue.”

Nagler is co-founder and president of the startup ClostraBio, Inc., a company dedicated to understanding and treating food allergies and other diseases of the immune system. Over the next 10 years Nagler expects ClostraBio, Inc. to be testing multiple microbiome-modulating drugs in clinical trials to treat or prevent food allergy—a disease which now affects 32 million Americans.

“I want the development of a drug to treat food allergy to be the capstone project of my career,” said Nagler. “In developing this drug, I want to fully understand the mechanisms by which bacteria regulate allergic responses to food.”

—Article first appeared on the Pritzker Molecular Engineering website.