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Sep 28, 2020

IFM Due Co-Founder Andrea Ablasser, M.D., Named Recipient of 2020 William B. Coley Award

BOSTON, September 28, 2020 — IFM Therapeutics is thrilled to announce that IFM Due co-founder and scientific advisor, Andrea Ablasser, M.D., has been selected as a 2020 winner of the prestigious William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology from the Cancer Research Institute (CRI). This year’s winners are being recognized for their contributions regarding the discovery and characterization of the cGAS-STING pathway, an important component of the innate immune system that is involved in the detection of mis-localized DNA that can result from infection and other types of cellular damage. Sharing the 2020 award with Dr. Ablasser are fellow researchers Glen N. Barber, Ph.D., Zhijian J. Chen, Ph.D., Veit Hornung, M.D. and Russell E. Vance, Ph.D.

Regarding Dr. Ablasser and her fellow winners, the Cancer Research Institute remarked, “Collectively, their work paved the way for the development of novel therapeutic strategies to better harness the innate immune system, and potentially amplify immunotherapy’s benefits.”

“I am deeply honored to receive this year’s Coley Award along with my esteemed colleagues,” said Andrea Ablasser, M.D., who serves as Professor at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland in addition to her roles with IFM. “It underscores the tremendous importance of the cGAS-STING pathway, a fundamental mechanism of immunity and the therapeutic promise of modulating this pathway for the treatment of human disease.”

This year’s award will be presented by Nobel Laureate Dr. James Allison, Director of the Cancer Research Institute’s Scientific Advisory Council, at the CRI Virtual Awards Gala on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at 7:00pm EDT. 

The Coley Award is granted by the Cancer Research Institute each year for seminal discoveries in the field of basic immunology and cancer immunology. The award was established in 1975 in honor of Dr. William B. Coley, a pioneer of cancer immunotherapy whose daughter, Helen Coley Nauts, founded CRI.

Dr. Ablasser’s Work: A Deeper Understanding of the cGAS-STING Pathway

The Coley Award recognizes Dr. Ablasser’s seminal contributions to the understanding of the cGAS/STING pathway since its discovery in 2013, which have shed light on the pathway’s role in diseases and point to potential therapeutic approaches. With two important studies published just in the past month, Andrea Ablasser and her research team continue to break new scientific ground regarding the cGAS-STING pathway by identifying novel mechanisms of discriminating between self- and non-self DNA.

In a study published this August in Science, Dr. Ablasser and her team identified the role of Barrier-to-Autointegration Factor 1 (BAF) in inhibiting the activation of the cGAS-STING pathway. The presence of DNA in the cytosol of the cell triggers an innate immune response through cGAS-STING activation. However, when DNA is sensed in the presence of BAF, a protein that enriches within the nuclear membrane, the cGAS-STING pathway is not activated, thus preventing possible autoimmune responses to genomic self-DNA.

In an article appearing in Nature this September, Dr. Ablasser and her team also defined the structural mechanistic processes behind the interaction of cGAS and chromatin, which has been found to dampen activation of the cGAS protein that resides in the nucleus of cells. By resolving the cryo-electron microscopy structure of the cGAS–chromatin interaction, Dr. Ablasser and colleagues discovered the acidic patch of nucleosomes bind and inhibit cGAS. When cGAS is mutated at key interaction residues, the inhibitory binding effect of nucleosomes is ablated and a prominent innate immune response to cellular self-DNA is unleashed.  


About IFM Therapeutics, LLC

IFM Therapeutics (IFM) is an independent, privately-held biopharmaceutical company based in Boston, Massachusetts. IFM’s team has discovered and developed small molecules that modulate novel targets in the innate immune system as next-generation therapies for cancer, autoimmunity and inflammatory disorders. IFM places each program (or set of related programs) in its own dedicated, independently financed, R&D-focused subsidiary company, which is supported by the common infrastructure, management team and resources of the IFM enterprise. For more information on IFM and its model, please visit

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Spectrum Science