The 2019 Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award: Michael S. Diamond, MD, PhD

Michael S. Diamond, MD, PhD, is the recipient of the American Society for Clinical Investigation’s (ASCI) 2019 Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award for his key contributions to understanding the molecular basis of disease caused by globally emerging RNA viruses.

Dr. Diamond received his BA from Columbia University in 1985, his PhD from Harvard University in 1992 in the laboratory of Timothy A. Springer, PhD, and his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1994. From 1994 to 1995 he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Gerald M. Rubin, PhD, Department of Genetics, University of California, Berkeley; and from 1998 to 2001 he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Eva Harris, PhD, Department of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley.

An RNA virus has RNA, as opposed to DNA, as its genetic material. As a result, RNA viruses in general have a higher mutation rate than DNA viruses, complicating efforts to produce vaccines to reduce or prevent infection. Dr. Diamond has focused on a subset of RNA viruses known as flaviviruses, which include Zika, West Nile, and dengue viruses, and alphaviruses, which include chikungunya virus. Dr. Diamond has identified many of the key immune system components that define host protection against these virus types, and the viral genes that work against this response.

In 2010, his laboratory made a seminal discovery by identifying a novel pathogen-associated molecular pattern (lack of 2′-O-methylation on the 5′ viral RNA cap) and mechanism of innate immune restriction through IFIT1 proteins. His group has used genome-wide screening to identify host factors required by viruses, including Mxra8, a novel entry receptor for multiple alphaviruses of global concern. He has led the field in studying mechanisms of pathogenesis of Zika infection and disease, including in pregnancy. His group also has generated, characterized, and mapped thousands of neutralizing antibodies against Zika, West Nile, dengue, chikungunya, and other viruses. His work has led directly to the development of therapeutic antibodies and vaccines against both flaviviruses and alphaviruses.

Dr. Diamond joined the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in 2001. He is currently the Herbert S. Gasser Professor, Departments of Medicine, Molecular Microbiology, and Pathology & Immunology, and Associate Director, Center for Human Immunology and Immunotherapy Programs, Washington University School of Medicine. An active mentor, he has 7 doctoral students at present and has advised 14 who have completed their PhD degrees in his laboratory; he currently has 7 postdoctoral fellows and has mentored more than 20 in his group who have transitioned to independent careers in academia and industry.

Dr. Diamond’s research has been supported by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Dr. Diamond was a recipient of the Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation Award (2002-2004), a New Scholar Award in Global Infectious Disease, Ellison Medical Foundation (2003-2006), and a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research (2007-2015). He was elected as an ASCI member in 2007; an American Academy of Microbiology Fellow in 2010; an Association of American Physicians member in 2011; an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in 2017; and a National Academy of Medicine member in 2018.