UAB’s Casey Weaver elected to prestigious National Academy of Sciences

For just the third time in history, a University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty member has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.
Written by: Mary Ashley Canevaro and Jeff Hansen
Media contact: Jeff Hansen

C Weaver Stream BWFor just the third time in history, a University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty member has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Casey Weaver, M.D., professor in the UAB Department of Pathology, learned of his election this week — one of the highest and rarest honors offered to scientists in the United States.

The National Academy of Sciences — sometimes called the science hall of fame — has 2,512 U.S. and 517 international members. The membership includes about 190 Nobel laureates.

“Dr. Casey Weaver’s election to the National Academy of Sciences is a huge accomplishment, not only for him but for our academic medical center and for UAB as an institution,” said Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., dean of the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, CEO of UAB Health System and CEO of the UAB/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance. “This is one of the highest honors a scientist can receive, and we are very proud of his continued work and success.”

Weaver was among 120 new members and 30 international members invited to the National Academy this year. The nonprofit National Academy of Sciences members provide independent, objective counsel to the nation on matters related to science and technology.

For 30 years, Weaver has studied T cells, one of the important white blood cells of the immune system in their role to protect the body from infection and cancer. He has published more than 180 peer-reviewed papers in outstanding high-impact and prestigious journals, including Science, Nature, Cell, Nature Immunology, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Science Immunology, Nature Medicine and eLife, and he is an author of Janeway’s Immunobiology, one of the leading immunology textbooks.

“This is a proud moment for our university and academic medical center — and the state of Alabama — as Dr. Weaver becomes the third UAB scientist elected to this elite academy,” said UAB President Ray Watts. “We celebrate all that this tremendous honor represents in terms of the caliber of Dr. Weaver’s own work, as well as the national and international reputation of UAB.”

Weaver deflected his honor toward the many UAB colleagues, past and present, he has collaborated with over time — particularly young researchers.

“Science is a team sport, and this honor is a tribute to the incredible people I’ve had the good fortune to work with at UAB — especially the trainees,” Weaver said. “I’m also pleased that the work this acknowledges was done at UAB over the last 30 years. It’s truly homegrown.”

Weaver and other new members will be inducted to into the National Academy at its 159th annual meeting next year. Members are nominated by their peers in recognition of distinguished, outstanding and ongoing achievements in original research, as well as contributions to scientific and technological progress.

UAB’s two previous faculty elected to the National Academy are Max Cooper, M.D., a physician and immunologist, who was elected in 1988 but later left UAB, and Louise Chow, Ph.D., a virologist, elected in 2012.

T cells, which include T-helper cells and T-killer cells, develop from stem cells in the bone marrow. Weaver probes the mechanisms by which CD4+ T cells control adaptive immunity, the kind of immunity that develops after vaccination or infection. Weaver has studied the mechanisms by which CD4+ T cells control adaptive and innate immunity, including but not limited to mechanisms controlling the development of different T-cell subsets and the role of T cells in maintaining immune homeostasis in the face of a large, diverse intestinal microbiota. His laboratory led in the discovery of the TH17 pathway that resulted in extension of the original TH1–TH2 hypothesis and stimulated a new appreciation of the role of this pathway in host protection against infection and its contribution to immune pathogenesis.

“Dr. Weaver has been an integral contributor to the research landscape at UAB and internationally, and this recognition by the National Academy of Sciences comes as little surprise to those who know him and his work,” said George Netto, M.D., the Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair of Pathology. “He is a scientist of distinction whose research has broadened our base of knowledge in immunology. This award is a fitting acknowledgment of his outstanding work over the last 30 years at UAB.”

At UAB, Weaver holds the Wyatt and Susan Haskell Endowed Chair for Medical Excellence in the Department of Pathology, and he is a senior scientist in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. Weaver earned his medical degree at the University of Florida, and he trained in pathology during his residency at Barnes and Jewish hospitals at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also did postdoctoral training in immunology.