Hidde Ploegh joins Whitehead Institute faculty

March 30, 2005

Tags: Ploegh LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (March 30, 2005) — Molecular biologist Hidde Ploegh has just been appointed to the faculty of Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

An acclaimed researcher whose work focuses on the immune system, Hidde comes to Whitehead from the Harvard Medical School where, as Professor of Pathology, he has been heading the school’s immunology program since 1997. Prior to that, Ploegh was a Professor of Biology at MIT, working primarily in the Center for Cancer Research.

For many years, Ploegh has been interested in the molecular mechanisms by which the immune system responds to antigens—substances such as toxins, bacteria, or foreign cells from transplants which, when entering the body, trigger the production of antibodies. Recently he’s focused on how certain viral proteins interfere with this process.

Ploegh’s research has contributed in many ways to our understanding of the immune system. For example, he helped elucidate how a certain set of glycoproteins—molecules that help the immune system recognize invaders—are put together and are delivered to the right destination to help an immune response kick in. He discovered a new mechanism by which viruses evade the immune system. He has also expanded his interest into the world of chemistry, continually combining his biological experiments with more chemically oriented approaches. Lately, Ploegh and his coworkers have been particularly interested in generating the chemical tools with which to probe a particular family of enzymes called proteases that are a key component of the Ubiquitin-proteasome system, one of the major mechanisms by which proteins are degraded in cells.

Ploegh’s 300-plus research papers include the June 24, 2004 cover story for the journal Nature, which described one of the mechanisms by which the immune system eliminates misfolded proteins.
Ploegh has been working on members of the herpes virus family and plans to begin studying influenza once he settles in at Whitehead.

“It’s great that Hidde will be joining the Whitehead family,” says Interim Director David Page. “He’s among the world leaders in his field, and I look forward to many upcoming collaborations between him and other Whitehead faculty members.”

Ploegh’s honors include Correspondent of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Health Merit Award, Avery-Landsteiner Prize, and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Written by David Cameron.

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