James E. Crowe Jr., MD, is the recipient of the 2017 American Society for Clinical Investigation’s (ASCI) Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award, in recognition for his research leading to the development of innovative technologies for the isolation and study of antiviral antibodies and for significantly advancing the fields of virology and immunology.
Dr. Crowe’s research group has isolated human monoclonal antibodies for many pathogenic viruses, including Zika, HIV, dengue, influenza, Ebola, norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rotavirus, and others. Antibodies discovered by his laboratory currently are in clinical development programs for several targets. His research has led to a number of patents and licensures of antibodies and vaccines, in particular for RSV, that have progressed to clinical trials.
Dr. Crowe drew inspiration from his father, a pediatric radiologist. Seeing his father read films intrigued him and later inspired his interest in structure-based design of vaccine development and computational immunology. He received his BS from Davidson College and became interested in service and global issues. He received his MD in 1987 from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, where he also completed his pediatric residency in 1990. He worked on infectious diseases in West and East Africa, and this experience prompted him to think about how to have a broader impact on the diseases affecting these populations.
In 1995, he did a postdoctoral fellowship under Dr. Robert M. Chanock at the National Institutes of Health, where he worked on developing vaccines for RSV. He said, “I enjoyed the vaccine development work, but I was always thinking, ‘How does the immune system work? What is it that we are trying to accomplish with these vaccines? And are these vaccines going to trigger the types of responses we want?’ ” Following this five-year laboratory fellowship, he did a clinical fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center leading to board certification in that field. He started his faculty life at Vanderbilt as an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology in 1996 and became Associate Professor in 2001. One of his major initial efforts was the development of a technique for generating recombinant human monoclonal antibodies to rotavirus from single antigen-specific B cells. This technique was then expanded to generate monoclonal antibodies against other viruses, including poxviruses. Presently, his laboratory is working with over 50 targets, most recently Zika, Ebola, and dengue.
Extending his work as a scientist, Dr. Crowe is also passionate about mentoring. He has received awards for mentoring postdoctoral fellows at Vanderbilt and has trained a large number of successful scientists at the pre- and postdoctoral level, with many of his trainees obtaining faculty positions at Vanderbilt and elsewhere.
Dr. Crowe is Professor of Pediatrics, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and the Ann Scott Carell Chair at Vanderbilt University, where he is also Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center. Dr. Crowe was elected to the ASCI in 2004, the Association of American Physicians in 2009, and the National Academy of Medicine in 2014. In 2016, he was awarded Vanderbilt University’s John H. Exton Award, for research leading to innovative biological concepts.