The ICIS-Pfizer Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research (formerly the Seymour & Vivian Milstein Award from 1988 – 2020)

2021 ICIS-Pfizer Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research (formerly the Seymour & Vivian Milstein Award from 1988 – 2020)

Jenny Pan-Yun Ting, PhD, William R and Kenan Professor of Genetics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, USA and is the Director of the Center for Translational Immunology and the Immunology Program co-leader at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC, Chapel Hill, USA

Professor Ting has been chosen as the 2021 ICIS-Pfizer Award winner in recognition of her outstanding discoveries in the fields of immunology, molecular biology, genomics, and microbiology, and especially for her observations regarding the control of immunity which impact a wide variety of diseases. Dr. Ting, combining her knowledge of cytokine regulation and function with state-of-the-art approaches to unravel the immunologic basis for inflammation in infection,inflammatory diseases and cancer, has elevated world-wide research on interferons and cytokines, most notably through her seminal work in NLRs that in many ways started the field of NOD-like receptor proteins.

As an active member of the cytokine community working on various aspects of cytokine biology since 1984, Dr. Ting’s focus for the last 25 years has been on understanding how cytokines such as interleukin-1 and type I Interferons are regulated during immune activation and how these cytokines in turn regulate the immune response to a plethora of diseases including inflammatory diseases, autoimmunity, metabolic diseases, neuroinflammation, cancer and infection bybacterial and viral pathogens. Her work has focused on the events that lead to the development of protective immunity as well as to understanding how cytokine dysregulation leads to an array of chronic inflammatory diseases. While most of her early research focused on the regulation of cytokine-induced major histocompatibility complex class II and the function of immune genes in brain glial cells, her pioneering work on pattern recognition receptors, especially the role of the NOD like receptor superfamily as sensors of microbial infection and sterile inflammation is perhaps her most significant and impactful contributions to the field of immunology.

This body of work coupled with her curiosity, generosity, and mentoring skills, has led to other equally path-breaking observations relevant to cytokine biology and human diseases. Her lab was amongst the first to describe the NLR family of proteins. These studies have been extended in many different ways to define NLRs and other novel intracellular sensors that respond to viral and intracellular bacterial infections. Since her early work identifying the CATERPILLER family (NLR family), Dr. Ting has worked steadfastly to identify the molecular mechanisms regulating these proteins and their ability to induce inflammasome formation, regulate interferon and inflammatory cytokines, impact microbiota and alter immunometabolism. Her lab has also shown the relevance of some of the NLRs in adaptive immune cells to alter T effector cells. These efforts have led to a large body of literature from her lab linking NLRs to the regulation of both inflammasome NLRs and non-inflammasome NLRs in a wide range ofdisorders. This body of work has provided compelling data to suggest that therapeutic targeting of NLRP3 and related inflammasomes could be a viable therapeutic approach for the treatment of a wide range of inflammatory diseases. Indeed, several biotech companies are exploring this issue now.

Jenny Pan-Yun Ting received her B.S. in medical technology from Illinois State University, and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University, USA.  She did her postdoctoral training at the University of Southern California and Duke University. She joined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a faculty in 1984, and is currently the William Rand Kenan Professor of Genetics, with a joint appointment in the Department of Microbiology-Immunology.  She is also the Immunology Program Leader at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at UNC-CH.  She has over 300 publications, and is consistently one of the highly cited researchers recognized by Thomson Reuters/Clarivate Analytics.  She has served on several councils at the National Institutes of Health, and is currently a member of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Board of Directors.  She has taken on numerous leadership roles including serving as the President of the American Association of Immunologists from 2020-2021. She has mentored over 100 post-doctoral and pre-doctoral researchers in her lab.

2021 ICIS-Pfizer Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research Presentation

Professor Ting will give her ICIS-Pfizer Award Presentation at Cytokines 2021 Virtual Meeting – Opening Session: 10/17/2021, 15:30 – 15:55 BST: “The all-encompassing importance of innate immune receptors

Sponsored by a generous grant from Pfizer.


The ICIS-Pfizer Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research (formerly the Seymour & Vivian Milstein Award from 1988 – 2020), represents the pinnacle of scientific achievement in interferon and cytokine research since 1988, two years after interferon was first approved for the treatment of hairy cell leukemia. Since that time, it has been widely recognized that interferons and the larger class of cytokines play critical roles in the development and progression of many major diseases including cancer, viral diseases such as hepatitis and influenza, and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis and lupus.

This award is bestowed upon a leading biomedical research scientist who has made outstanding contributions to interferon and cytokine research, either in a basic or applied field. Many laureates have made seminal advancements that have enabled the successful treatment of disease or have the potential to lead to significant health benefits.

Milstein Awards Laureates from 1988 – 2020. For more information about each of the past Milstein Award winners, please click here.