Immunologist Randolph Noelle Is Inaugural Recipient of Kosasa Professorship

Randy Noelle, PhD (photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)

Randolph Noelle, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, has been named the inaugural holder of the Thomas S. Kosasa, MD, Professorship at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. A cellular and molecular immunologist, Noelle and his lab have made numerous discoveries that have implications for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Noelle is also the co-founder of ImmuNext, a company that develops immunoregulatory drugs.

“Randy’s contributions to his field, to the young scientists he mentors, and to our school are remarkable,” said Duane Compton, Interim Dean of the Geisel School. “We are grateful to Dr. Kosasa for establishing this chair, which will support distinguished faculty at Geisel for generations to come.”

The professorship was established through the generosity of Thomas Kosasa, MD, a 1967 graduate of Dartmouth College and a 1969 graduate of Dartmouth’s medical school. A renowned infertility specialist, Kosasa is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and leads the division of reproductive endocrinology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii. Born and raised in Hawaii, he came to Dartmouth as an undergrad to learn how to ski, he says. He also flew cargo planes and drove race cars during his Dartmouth years, in addition to learning medicine. Later, he conducted research in reproductive endocrinology during a fellowship at Harvard Medical School, ultimately unlocking the key to detecting changing blood levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is used to confirm pregnancy and enabled the development of rapid pregnancy tests.

“Philanthropy comes from the heart,” said Kosasa about his gifts to the medical school. In 2015, he created a $1.2-million scholarship endowment at Geisel to benefit MD students.  “My years at Dartmouth formed the foundation for my career in medicine. So it gives me great pleasure to be able to give back, especially to medical students and biomedical research.”

Endowed professorships are powerful recruitment and retention tools because of the honor and flexibility they afford, especially for researchers. By providing ongoing salary support, professorships enable faculty to devote more resources to teaching, mentorship, innovative research, and program development.

“It’s an honor to hold a chair in the name of such an accomplished scientific colleague,” said Noelle. “In these times of tight federal and private funding, such philanthropy allows us to continue to explore and discover basic mechanisms of how the immune system controls human health and disease.”

In 1991, the Noelle lab discovered a novel membrane protein expressed on helper T lymphocytes, called CD154, and its receptor, CD40. This pair plays a central role in the control of the immune system, and CD154-targeted therapeutics are currently under development. In 2011, the Noelle lab also discovered VISTA, a novel immune system protein. To translate that discovery into a viable treatment, Noelle’s company ImmuNext has partnered with Johnson & Johnson; VISTA-based biologics are currently in Phase I testing for the treatment of solid cancers. Other significant contributions of the Noelle lab include a greater understanding of long-lived immune memory and the control of immunity by retinoids.

The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, founded in 1797, strives to improve the lives of the communities it serves through excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. The Geisel School of Medicine is renowned for its leadership in medical education, healthcare policy and delivery science, biomedical research, global health, and in creating innovations that improve lives worldwide.

Authors

Kate Villars is Director of Communications for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

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