Emory announces $100,000 Max Cooper prize in field of immunology

Dr. Max Cooper award announcement on Wednesday September 27, 2023. (Beckysteinphotography.com)

Credit: Becky Stein Photography

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Dr. Max Cooper award announcement on Wednesday September 27, 2023. (Beckysteinphotography.com)

Credit: Becky Stein Photography

Emory University has created a new prize in honor of Dr. Max Cooper, one of the world’s most influential scientists in the field of immunology.

Cooper, who is 90, joined Emory in 2008 and is a professor with the Emory Vaccine Center and Emory University School of Medicine.

He is credited with a string of landmark discoveries that now provide a framework for understanding how white blood cells normally combat infections and how they go awry to produce leukemia, lymphomas, and autoimmune diseases.

The annual “Emory Max Cooper Prize in Immunology” is a $100,000 prize that will reward researchers contributing to the advancement of immunology.

Dr. Max Cooper poses for a photo in a research laboratory next to his office at Emory University School of Medicine on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. Cooper, a pediatrician and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, is being honored in the category “Medical Science and Medicinal Science” for research that identified the cellular building blocks of the immune system as we understand it today.ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Among Cooper’s earliest discoveries was the finding that there are two distinct types of white blood cells that play separate but complementary roles in defending against infections.

As a young physician-scientist in the 1960s, Cooper and fellow researcher Jacques Miller discovered in chickens two distinct cell lineages in the adaptive immune system, now known as T cells and B cells. This is now recognized as one of the most important organizing principles of the immune system. Their finding helped to launch modern immunology.

A young Dr. Max Cooper.
Provided by Emory University

Credit: cust

Credit: cust

In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed immense attention on the role of B cells and T cells and their critical roles in fighting off viruses. B cells make antibodies and T cells either support B cell antibody production or act as killer cells to destroy the virus.

Cooper is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a member of the Emory Vaccine Center and the Center for AIDS Research. In 2019, Cooper received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, a distinguished honor recognizing researchers who make major advances in medical science.

“I’m extremely grateful for the establishment of this prize using my name to honor important contributions to the field of immunology,” said Cooper in a press release from Emory. “Hopefully this award will spur innovation and continued investment in the field of immunology to the benefit of patients with immune deficiencies, auto-immune diseases, leukemias, lymphomas, and multiple myeloma.”

Available to national and international candidates across the spectrum of immunology, the first prize will be awarded in the fall of 2024.

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