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Lewis Lanier, PhD

Chair and J. Michael Bishop MD Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology


Lewis Lanier, PhD, is chair and J. Michael Bishop MD Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UC San Francisco. Lanier has studied the immune system’s natural killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell that provides protection against microbial pathogens and tumors, for more than three decades. NK cells express a diverse array of inhibitory and activating receptors on their surface that bind to ligands expressed on the surface of potential target cells. His lab has identified and characterized many of these receptors, their ligands and associated signaling pathways, and has defined their role in innate and adaptive immune responses to pathogens and cancer. When NK cells encounter healthy cells, signals transmitted by inhibitory receptors dominate, preventing autoimmune responses. But the absence of ligands for inhibitory receptors or the upregulation of ligands for activating receptors in infected or malignant cells prompts NK cells to kill these abnormal cells and to secrete cytokines that induce a subsequent response by T-cells and B cells. Lanier hopes to apply this knowledge to the development of powerful NK cell-based cancer immunotherapies.

Education & Training

  • 1975: Virginia Tech, BS
  • 1978: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, PhD

Awards & Honors

  • 2017: American Association of Immunology Excellence in Mentoring Award
  • 2013: J. Michael Bishop MD Distinguished Professor, UCSF; Distinguished UNC Alumnus Award, UNC – Chapel Hill
  • 2011: Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Faculty Research Lecture – Basic Science Award, UCSF; Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
  • 2010: Member, National Academy of Sciences
  • 2007: President, American Association of Immunologists
  • 2005: Rose Payne Award, American Society for Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics
  • 2003: Research Professor, American Cancer Society
  • 2002: William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology, Cancer Research Institute
  • 2001: Distinguished Service Award, American Association of Immunologists
  • 1990: Research Fellow, Becton Dickinson
  • 1981: Postdoctoral Fellow, Damon Runyon – Walter Winchell Cancer Fund