David M. Kranz
Professor Kranz joined the UIUC faculty in 1987. His work focuses on understanding and controlling immune responses in disease. The diseases of relevance range from cancer to autoimmune diseases such as type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. T lymphocytes (T cells) are critical in the defense against infectious agents and cancer cells. T cells are also the primary mediator of normal cell destruction in many of the autoimmune diseases. In the past 20 years, there has been tremendous progress in understanding the molecular basis of T cell function. For example, the key surface molecules have been identified, crystal structures are now available for many of the proteins, and several proteins that are involved in activating T cells or in eliminating detrimental T cells have been identified. During his Center appointment, he plans to bring a new approach to the discovery and engineering of the most important classes of immune response proteins. The approach exploits a technology known as directed evolution, which can rapidly create improved protein molecules by speeding up a process that is akin to natural evolution. Thus, in a matter of days to weeks it is possible to generate specific protein molecules that could prove useful in the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases.