Dan Littman Joins the Board of Scientific Advisors

October 15, 2013

Also joining the BSA this year is Dan R. Littman, HHMI Investigator and Professor of Pathology and Microbiology at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine of New York University School of Medicine.

“The JCC has had superb BSAs over the years, and it will be a great pleasure to work with the current members, many of whom I’ve known well and worked with before,” he says.

Littman was a JCC Fellow himself, when he worked in Richard Axel’s group as a post- doctoral fellow in the early 1980s. He remembers considering the JCC a great organization that fosters first-rate science. “I particularly recall the excitement of the science presented at the annual retreats,” he says.

It was during his fellowship that Littman began studying HIV, soon after the virus had been discovered. Today, his research encompasses the molecular
basis of immune recognition, HIV pathogenesis, T-cell differentiation and selection, and the role of commensal bacteria in immune system development and regulation. Littman’s important findings include the discovery of two molecules that act as co-receptors for HIV (one of which is now being investigated as a therapeutic target) and a mechanism that allows HIV to avoid detection by the host’s innate immune system.

One of his postdocs, Jun Huh, was also a JCC Fellow. Huh studied the role of the nuclear receptor RORgt in the immune system and is now starting his own lab at the University of Massachusetts.

Recently, Littman’s group discovered a commensal gut bacterium that promotes autoimmunity in mice. “We have moved into what is a completely new area for us during the past 3-4 years, studying the role of the intestinal microbiota in shaping the normal immune system,” he says. “We are particularly interested in how altered composition of the microbiota can influence systemic inflammatory diseases, and in how we may be able to correct such faulty regulation.”

Among his awards and honors, Littman was recently elected to the Institute of Medicine. He’s also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“I am delighted to be a part of the JCC program once again, and look forward to learning about exciting new directions in science from colleagues on the BSA and, particularly, from the newly selected JCC Fellows,” he says.