Photo courtesy of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Photo courtesy of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

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Alexander Rudensky is the chair of the Immunology Program and director of the Ludwig Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York, with which he has been affiliated since 2009. He has also served as an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1993 and as a Tri-Institutional Professor at MSKCC, Rockefeller University, and Cornell University.

Dr. Rudensky graduated from the Medical Biology School of the State Medical Institute in Moscow, USSR. He received his PhD in 1986 from the Gabrichevsky Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Moscow, after which he served as a senior research scientist at the Institute for Genetics of Microorganisms in Moscow. In 1990 he joined Charles Janeway Jr at Yale for his postdoctoral studies.

In 1992, Dr. Rudensky joined the faculty at the University of Washington, Seattle, focusing on the functions of CD4 T cells in T cell–mediated immunity. In Seattle, one of his main interests was the molecular mechanisms underlying the presentation of antigens to T cells and the effect of recognition of the antigen on the developing thymocytes. His laboratory's interests broadened as the secrets of efficient peptide loading became clearer. One end result was the realization that to have a normal peripheral T-cell population, the thymus needed a small number of a wide diversity of peptides to be available for presentation. This work led to Rudensky's interest in how the T-cell repertoire is fine-tuned through exposure to self-peptides in the thymus, and how manipulation of the environment can alter what slips through the thymic “barrier.”

Focusing more attention on how mildly self-reactive T cells can be controlled in the periphery, Rudensky and his colleagues zeroed in on the regulatory T cell and defined it as a CD25-expressing cell that also expressed the Foxp3 gene. The Rudensky laboratory is currently the world leader in examining the mechanisms underlying the differentiation and functions of regulatory T cells, making continual progress in regulatory T-cell developmental requirements, how their suppressive activities are regulated, and how tweaking their functional sensitivities can provide new approaches to the many programs with which they interact, including autoimmunity, allergy, and cancer.

Dr. Rudensky is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine. He has won numerous awards, including the 2015 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic Immunology.