Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D., professor of immunobiology and of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, is the recipient of the 2012 Eli Lilly and Company Research Award. The oldest and most prestigious prize of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the award honors “fundamental research of unusual merit in microbiology or immunology by an individual on the threshold of his or her career,” according to the ASM website. The award, given continually since 1936, will be presented in June 2012 at the ASM General Meeting in San Francisco, where Iwasaki will deliver the Eli Lilly Award Lecture.

Iwasaki’s widely published research focuses on the mechanisms of virus recognition and their link to adaptive immunity, particularly at mucosal surfaces, with an aim toward understanding how immunity is created and maintained at mucosal surfaces. Iwasaki has conducted extensive research on immune responses to herpes simplex viruses in the genital tract and influenza infection in the lung. Recently, her team has analyzed the ways in which autophagy—a catabolic process in which cells degrade their own components—mediates immune responses to viruses. Her lab’s goal is to use the knowledge gained through research to design vaccines or microbicides to prevent viral and bacterial infection.

Iwasaki’s past honors include the Wyeth-Lederle Vaccines Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator in Pathogenesis in Infectious Diseases, and the BD Biosciences Investigator Award from the American Association of Immunologists.

Iwasaki received her doctorate from the University of Toronto in 1998, and joined the School of Medicine’s faculty in 2000.