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Thomas Malek, Ph.D.

"It is exciting to see the basic science research that I have been working on move closer to benefiting people with type 1 diabetes."

Thomas Malek, Ph.D., is a Professor and Chair of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Malek joined the University of Miami in 1985. Since that time, his research program has investigated the critical role of Interleukin-2 (IL-2) in the regulation of the T lymphocyte-dependent immune responses. He is widely recognized for this work and has published extensively on this topic.

In 2005, Dr. Malek became a member of the DRI with the specific goal of translating key discoveries from his lab to developing new approaches to defeat the unwanted immune responses that destroy insulin-secreting β cells. Some key findings include:

1) The discovery that IL-2 is essential for the development and function of regulatory T cells, essential cells that maintain immune tolerance. This was a paradigm shift in the field by redefining IL-2 from a molecule important for immunity to one that is indispensable and central for suppression of autoreactive T cells.
2) The discovery in preclinical models that low levels of IL-2 receptor signaling effectively support key activities of regulatory T cells but not effector and autoreactive T lymphocytes. This finding is a major underpinning for the current investigation of low-dose IL-2 in patients with autoimmunity, including type 1 diabetes, at the DRI and by other investigators around the world.

3) The discovery with Alberto Pugliese, M.D., that quantified a precise therapeutic window in human lymphocytes for the selective response of regulatory T cells to low-dose IL-2. This work provides a pharmacological basis that further highlights the promise of low-dose IL-2 as an agent to boost regulatory T cells in autoimmune diseases.

4) The discovery of a novel variant of IL-2 that is much longer-lasting and more effective than recombinant IL-2 in expanding autoimmune-suppressive regulatory T cells. This molecule is currently being developed by a major pharmaceutical company for clinical trials.
Dr. Malek has a major commitment to develop and train our next generation of scientists. He has trained over 40 individuals in his laboratory, including Ph.D and M.D./Ph.D students and postdoctoral fellows. He has also mentored several junior faculty members. 
Dr. Malek is a frequent reviewer for the NIH and is currently a member of the Hypersensitivity, Autoimmune, and Immune-mediated Diseases Study Section.

He has published over 160 manuscripts in major international journals including Nature, Immunity, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Diabetes, and Journal of Immunology.

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