Michael Fessler, M.D., is the recipient of the first NIEHS Scientific Director’s Award for Outstanding Intramural Research. The honor comes with a one-time $100,000 increase in laboratory resources and a framed certificate of achievement.
Fessler, deputy chief of the NIEHS Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory and head of the Clinical Investigation of Host Defense Group, was selected by the NIEHS Division of Intramural Research (DIR) Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC) as the best in-house scientist among those who underwent BSC review within the past year. BSC committee members evaluated researchers in several topic areas, including scientific impact on their field, significance, originality, innovation, depth, productivity, mentoring, and training (see sidebar).
"I’d like to thank NIEHS leadership for designing this award, as it injects new positivity and incentive into the intramural review process," Fessler said. "I’d also like to thank the BSC for selecting me for the award."
Understanding lung inflammation and infection
As a researcher and physician who specializes in lung disease, Fessler works to understand the mechanisms behind lung inflammation and lung infection. One of his primary goals involves examining how the immune environment in the lungs is regulated by the movement of cholesterol through macrophages and other cells. His studies, which are both mechanistic and translational, may ultimately lead to better treatments for the lung scarring and inflammation that occurs in asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other lung diseases.
According to NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D., the new award grew out of the 2015 DIR retreat. The majority of attendees thought the institute should do more to recognize the exceptional research conducted by its intramural staff. NIEHS leadership agreed and set up parameters for the award.
Zeldin believes Fessler is an outstanding physician-scientist who is making major contributions to understanding immune responses. "His work is highly innovative, mechanistic, impactful, and has significant translational potential," Zeldin said. "He is most deserving of this honor."