For most of us, our immune system always is ready, fending off infectious organisms and other invaders that could make us sick. But for others, problems with the immune system lead to illness and infection.

For his work in immune-system research, Casey Weaver, M.D., professor of pathology, has been awarded the prestigious HudsonAlpha Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Life Sciences.
Casey Weaver, M.D., professor of pathology, long has been intrigued by the immune system. During the past several years, his lab has conducted groundbreaking research that has helped identify a new pathway by which the immune system responds to certain infections that also can cause autoimmune disease when uncontrolled.

For his work, Weaver has been awarded the prestigious HudsonAlpha Prize for Outstanding Innovation in Life Sciences.

“This award is an acknowledgement of the work of a number of fine young scientists I’ve had the privilege of mentoring during the past few years and reflects the quality of scientific investigation that is ongoing at UAB,” Weaver says.

Weaver’s team is interested in understanding mechanisms by which specialized immune cells called T-cells balance the need to protect against infections and cancer without turning on the body to cause immune-mediated diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus and multiple sclerosis.

“The studies that this prize recognizes have helped to advance our understanding of immune protection and immune disease by contributing to the identification of a new class of T-cells, called Th17-cells,” Weaver says. “By understanding how this class of T-cells develops and functions in normal and abnormal immunity, we hope to learn how to curb the destructive potential of these cells as a means to identify novel approaches to treat patients who suffer from certain types of autoimmune disease. This might also lead to new ways to harness the potential of these cells to eradicate certain types of infection and malignancies.”

Rewarding innovation
The HudsonAlpha Institute, located in Huntsville, hosts a synergistic cluster of biotechnology talent — science and business professionals — that seeks to turn knowledge and ideas into commercial products and services that will improve human health and strengthen Alabama’s progressively diverse economy. HudsonAlpha has a three-fold mission of genomic research, economic development and educational outreach.

“It is a forward-looking, entrepreneurial initiative to integrate basic advances in the genomic sciences with education and industry, and I’m excited by the potential of this prize to build new ties with Alabama life scientists, to enhance the recruitment and development of scientific talent in our state and to build on the legacy of health-care innovation that we have inherited,” Weaver says.

The annual prize recognizes exceptional talent, dedication and discovery and is designed to increase awareness of biotechnology in Alabama and encourage students to pursue biotechnology as a field of study. The prize is awarded to a faculty member or staff scientist at one of Alabama’s six research universities – UAB, the University of Alabama, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Auburn, University of South Alabama or Alabama A&M University. It carries a cash prize of $20,000.                               

Each research university may nominate up to two candidates who recently have effected advancements in the life sciences that provide significant, practical implications in biotechnology or biomedicine. These achievements should reflect great promise for further development and benefit to mankind. Nominations recognizing efforts that are already delivering on that promise are welcome. Visit to learn more.

Learn more about Weaver and his research at Weaver CT.htm.