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“Infectious disease is the second leading killer in the world today. That's one of the main reasons why I focus on vaccines.”
Shane Crotty, Ph.D.
Division of Vaccine Discovery

cell-bullet1.jpg “Infectious diseases kill more people worldwide than any other single cause. That’s one of the main reasons I focus on vaccines.  They really have the potential for improving lives and saving lives."  – Shane Crotty, Ph.D.

Shane Crotty, Ph.D. Shane Crotty is a Professor with tenure in the Vaccine Discovery Division. Dr. Crotty's research focus is on the underlying immunology of vaccines, particularly the development of potent antibody responses and memory, with a predominant focus on the important role of CD4 T cells in these processes. By better understanding these processes, Dr. Crotty hopes new and better vaccines can one day be developed, particularly against deadly diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, where no good vaccines currently exist.

Dr. Crotty received his B.S. in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1996. He also received a B.S. in Writing from MIT the same year. Dr. Crotty undertook graduate work in virology at the University of California, San Francisco in the Program in Biological Sciences. There he discovered the mechanism of action of the antiviral drug ribavirin, widely used to treat chronic hepatitis C infections. Dr. Crotty earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2001. He then pursued postdoctoral work at the Emory University Vaccine Center with Dr. Rafi Ahmed from 2001 to 2003, studying aspects of the generation and maintenance of immune memory after viral infections. In 2003, he accepted a faculty position at LJI.

The Crotty lab has helped established that follicular helper T cells (Tfh) are a distinct type of differentiated CD4 T cell uniquely specialized in B cell help, and that Tfh differentiation is controlled by the transcription factor Bcl6 (Science 2009). He has made major advances in the area of T cell help to B cells, and through this work has become an internationally recognized leader in the field of Tfh cell biology (Annual Review of Immunology 2011). Dr. Crotty was named a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences in 2005, and was the recipient of the annualAmerican Association of Immunologists (AAI) Investigator Award for outstanding early-career research contributions to the field of Immunology in 2012.

Dr. Crotty is also the author of Ahead of the Curve, a biography of Nobel laureate scientist David Baltimore, published in 2001, and reviewed in The Wall Street Journal, Nature, The Washington Post, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Nature Medicine, and Discover Magazine.


research focus

cell-bullet2.jpgShane Crotty, Ph.D., and his team study immunity against infectious diseases. They investigate how the immune system remembers infections and vaccines. By remembering infections and vaccines, the body is protected from becoming infected in the future. Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective medical treatments in modern civilization and are responsible for saving millions of lives. Yet, good vaccines are very difficult to design, and very few new vaccines have been made in the past 10 years. A better understanding of immune memory will facilitate the ability to make new vaccines.

Most vaccines work because they generate antibodies. Dr. Crotty recently made a seminal finding in how this process occurs (Science 2009). Dr. Crotty said it has been well established that antibody production is a multi-step process that involves interactions between several cellular players, key among them CD4 "helper" T cells, which are disease-fighting white blood cells that tell other cells to produce antibodies in response to infections. "There were different flavors of these CD4 helper T cells and, for many years, we, in the scientific community, thought that one variety of CD4 helper cells (known as Th2 cells) triggered the antibody process. But about 10 years ago, scientists realized this was incorrect and that there must exist a new variety of CD4 helper T cell that initiated antibody production. It was named Tfh."

Dr. Crotty's team set out to understand the inner workings of the Tfh pathway. "We discovered that the BCL6 gene was like an on and off switch, or master regulator, in this process. In a series of experiments, we showed that if you turn on this gene, you get more CD4 T helper cells (the Tfh type) and it's those cells that are telling the B cells to produce antibodies," he said.

Dr. Crotty's group also tested the finding by using a cellular mechanism to turn off the BCL6 gene. BLIMP1 is a potent antagonist of BCL6 expressed by some T cells. Turning off the gene stopped the production of the Tfh cells. "Without this genetic trigger, no Tfh cells were produced and consequently no antibodies." The researchers also found that the more Tfh cells produced, the greater the antibody response. The laboratory is now internationally recognized as a leader in Tfh cell biology, having identified the central role of Bcl6 in Tfh cells, and elucidated critical aspects of Tfh cellular and molecular biology in mice, non-human primates, and humans, including studies of SAP, ICOS,STAT5, IL-2, Blimp-1, Maf, Itch, Ccnt1, Cdk9, and PD-1, among others.

Dr. Crotty also studies human immune responses to vaccines, and is hard at work on candidate HIV vaccines with the CHAVI-ID consortium.


selected publications

BCL6 orchestrates Tfh cell differentiation via multiple distinct mechanisms. JEM 2015

A brief history of T cell help to B cells. Nature Reviews 2015

Retroviral Vector Expression in TCR Transgenic CD4 + T Cells. 2015

T follicular helper cell differentiation, function, and roles in disease. Immunity. 2014 | Video Accompaniment

In vivo RNA interference screens identify regulators of antiviral CD4+ and CD8+ T cell differentiation. Immunity 2014.

Potent neutralization of vaccinia virus by divergent murine antibodies targeting a common site of vulnerability in L1 protein. J Virol. 2014

The E3 ubiquitin ligase Itch is required for the differentiation of follicular helper T cells. Nat Immunol. 2014

Unusual features of vaccinia virus extracellular virion form neutralization resistance revealed in human antibody responses to the smallpox vaccine. J Virol. 2013

Cutting edge: STAT1 is required for IL-6-mediated Bcl6 induction for early follicular helper cell differentiation. J Immunol. 2013

Dynamic regulation of Bcl6 in follicular helper CD4 (Tfh) cells. Curr Opin Immunol. 2013

Blc6 expressing follicular helper CD4 T cells are fate committed early and have the capacity to form memory. J Immunol. 2013

Modulation of SAP dependent T:B cell interactions as a strategy to improve vaccination. Curr Opin Virol. 2013

Human circulating PD-1+CXCR3-CXCR5+ memory Thf cells are highly functional and correlate with broadly neutralizing HIN antibody responses. Immunity. 2013

Harnessing CD4+ T cell responses in HIV vaccine development. Nat Med. 2013

The Receptor Ly108 Functions as a SAP Adaptor-Dependent On-Off Switch for T Cell Help to B Cells and NKT Cell Development Immunity. 2012

The 1-1-1 fallacy Immunological Reviews. 2012

Bcl6 and Maf Cooperate To Instruct Human Follicular Helper CD4 T Cell Differentiation. J Immunol. 2012

STAT5 is a potent negative regulator of TFH cell differentiation. J Exp Med. 2012

ICOS receptor instructs T follicular helper cell versus effector cell differentiation via induction of the transcriptional repressor Bcl6. Immunity. 2011

B cell-specific expression of B7-2 is required for follicular Th cell function in response to vaccinia virus. J Immunol. 2011

Follicular helper CD4 T cells (TFH) Annu Rev Immunol. 2011

IL-21 and IL-6 are critical for different aspects of B cell immunity and redundantly induce optimal follicular helper CD4 T cell (Tfh) differentiation. PLoS One. 2011

Protective murine and human monoclonal antibodies against eczema vaccinatum.
Antivir Ther. 2011

In vivo regulation of Bcl6 and T follicular helper cell development. J Immunol. 2010

Effectors and memories: Bcl-6 and Blimp-1 in T and B lymphocyte differentiation.
Nat Immunol. 2010

Germinal center T follicular helper cell IL-4 production is dependent on signaling lymphocytic activation molecule receptor (CD150). J Immunol. 2010

Combination therapy of vaccinia virus infection with human anti-H3 and anti-B5 monoclonal antibodies in a small animal model. Antivir Ther. 2010

The smallpox vaccine induces an early neutralizing IgM response. Vaccine. 2009 

Heavily isotype-dependent protective activities of human antibodies against vaccinia virus extracellular virion antigen B5. J Virol. 2009

Bcl6 and Blimp-1 are reciprocal and antagonistic regulators of T follicular helper cell differentiation. Science 2009

Inhibition of NK cell activity by IL-17 allows vaccinia virus to induce severe skin lesions in a mouse model of eczema vaccinatum. J Exp Med 2009

Vaccinia virus extracellular enveloped virion neutralization in vitro and protection in vivo depend on complement.
J Virol. 2009

Quantitative PCR technique for detecting lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus in vivo.
J Virol Methods. 2008

OX40 drives protective vaccinia virus-specific CD8 T cells. J Immunol. 2008

Selective CD4+ T cell help for antibody responses to a large viral pathogen: deterministic linkage of specificities. Immunity. 2008

NKT cells prevent chronic joint inflammation after infection with Borrelia burgdorferi.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008

Redundancy and plasticity of neutralizing antibody responses are cornerstone attributes of the human immune response to the smallpox vaccine. Journal of Virology. 2008

SAP Regulation of Follicular Helper CD4 T Cell Development and Humoral Immunity Is Independent of SLAM and Fyn Kinase1.  The Journal of Immunology. 2007

Vaccinia Virus H3L Envelope Protein Is a Major Target of Neutralizing Antibodies in Humans and Elicits Protection against Lethal Challenge in Mice. Journal of Virology. 2005

Profiling the humoral immune response to infection by using proteome microarrays: high-throughput vaccine and diagnostic antigen discovery. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005

Tracking human antigen-specific memory B cells: a sensitive and generalized ELISPOT system.
J Immunol Methods. 2004

Immune responses to Bacillus anthracis protective antigen in patients with bioterrorism-related cutaneous or inhalation anthrax. J Infect Dis. 2004

Immunological memory in humans. Semin Immunol. 2004

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  • AAI BD Biosciences Investigator Award, 2012
  • AAI Pfizer-Showell Junior Faculty Award, 2007
  • Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, 2005-2009
  • Cancer Research Insitute Young Investigator Award, 2004-2008
  • Cancer Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2002-2003
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Doctoral Fellow, 1996-2001                       
  • MIT Ned Holt Prize for Excellence in Scholarship and Service, 1996                 
  • Barry Goldwater National Scholar for Excellence in Science and Mathematics, 1995                 
  • MIT Burchard Scholar for Excellence in Humanities, 1995                 
  • Irwin Sizer Award for Education Innovation at MIT, 1995                  
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Young Scholar, 1991
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