Announcements: Kudos to Dan Kastner

NHGRI Scientific Director Dan Kastner Awarded Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis

DAn Kastner

Dan Kastner

The National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI) director of intramural research, Dan Kastner, has been awarded the prestigious Crafoord Prize in polyarthritis by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for his pioneering work in “establishing the concept of autoinflammatory diseases.”

The Crafoord Prize in mathematics and astronomy, biosciences, geosciences, or polyarthritis research has been awarded in partnership between the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Crafoord Foundation (Lund, Sweden) since 1982. However, the polyarthritis prize is awarded only when the academy determines that a researcher has made significant scientific progress in this field.

The award follows a prolific and impactful year for Kastner and his team as they pursued their research into autoinflammatory diseases. In 2020, Kastner and his group discovered CRIA and VEXAS, two different autoinflammatory diseases; established a link among common canker sores and two more-serious autoinflammatory diseases; and showed that mutations that cause familial Mediterranean fever protect against the bubonic plague. These discoveries are the latest in a career spanning several decades. During his time as a researcher, Kastner has improved our understanding of the genetic causes of autoinflammatory diseases. In the process, he has also helped enhance and improve human health.

Kastner began his career at NIH in 1985, but he first showed interest in genomes when he created the structure of DNA out of pipe cleaners and jellybeans for a seventh-grade science fair. As an NIH rheumatology fellow, he established a team to find the gene that caused familial Mediterranean fever. After the discovery of the gene in 1997, Kastner’s research focused on using genetic and genomic strategies to understand inherited disorders of inflammation. This work has provided detailed molecular explanations for such illnesses, has provided the conceptual basis for highly effective targeted therapies, and has informed our understanding of more common illnesses. Kastner and his group’s research also resulted in the now widely accepted concept of autoinflammatory disorders, which is linked to the innate human immune system.

Kastner was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 and the National Academy of Medicine in 2012. In 2018, he was named “Federal Employee of the Year” in the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, and in 2019 he won the Ross Prize for molecular medicine.