Los Angeles, CA (April 17, 2023) – The Celiac Disease Foundation is proud to announce the recipients of the 2023 Global Celiac Disease Research Prizes, recognizing outstanding achievements in advancing research and treatment for celiac disease on a global scale. As a leader in patient advocacy for celiac disease, the Foundation is committed to supporting innovative and impactful research initiatives to improve the lives of millions of individuals worldwide.
The $25,000 Prize for Excellence in Celiac Disease Research, this year awarded to Dr. Robert Anderson, recognizes an investigator whose research has made a significant impact on clinical, translational, or transformative research in celiac disease. The $10,000 Young Investigator Prizes in Clinical and Basic Science, this year awarded to Dr. Valerie Abadie and Dr. Maureen Leonard, respectively, recognize the exceptional achievements of investigators in the early part of their career in celiac disease research. Prize awardees were selected by a distinguished jury of their peers; they will be formally recognized at the Celiac Disease Foundation Award Reception on Monday, May 8, 2023 held at Digestive Disease Week in Chicago, Illinois, in person and virtually.
“We are honored to recognize and reward the exceptional work of Dr. Anderson, and Drs. Abadie and Leonard, who are dedicated to advancing our understanding of celiac disease and improving our quality of life,” said Marilyn G. Geller, Celiac Disease Foundation Chief Executive Officer. “We hope that these prizes will not only recognize their achievements but also encourage continued global progress and collaboration in the field of celiac disease research.”
Robert (Bob) Anderson, MB ChB PhD is the recipient of the Celiac Disease Foundation Prize for Excellence in Celiac Disease Research. Dr. Anderson’s research in patients with celiac disease has helped to cement the role of gluten-reactive T cells as the fundamental drivers of celiac disease. His work was first to show that T cells specific for gluten circulate in celiac disease patients’ blood confirming celiac disease is a systemic disease not limited to the gut. His team used these insights to produce the first comprehensive T cell epitope map of gluten to guide the future development of highly specific food tests, diagnostics, therapies, and “non-toxic” cereals. Subsequently, Dr. Anderson designed and led the supporting research and clinical development of the first specific T cell-directed immunotherapy for celiac disease. Insights from this program revealed the immunological basis for clinical reactions to gluten and provide new opportunities for biopsy-free diagnosis, monitoring, and accelerating drug development for coeliac disease. Dr. Anderson completed undergraduate medicine and a PhD in New Zealand, and then trained in gastroenterology in Melbourne Australia. His career in celiac disease combining vaccinology and T cell immunology began as a post-doctoral scientist at Oxford University in Professor Adrian Hill’s and Derek Jewell’s labs. Dr. Anderson returned to Melbourne and established the celiac disease research program at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute based on a strong partnership with Coeliac Australia. Dr Anderson transitioned from academic to commercial roles in Australia and then in the United States while developing experimental immunotherapy for celiac disease. Dr. Anderson is now in clinical practice at Mackay Base Hospital and continues development of T cell diagnostics and novel therapies as co-founder and director of Novoviah Pharmaceuticals in Queensland Australia. Dr. Anderson is current President of the International Society for the Study of Celiac Disease.
Valerie Abadie, PhD is the recipient of the Celiac Disease Foundation Young Investigator Prize for Basic Science. Dr. Abadie is a Research Associate Professor at the University of Chicago, Department of Medicine, section of Gastroenterology. Dr. Abadie is internationally recognized for her expertise in mucosal immunology and celiac disease. Her work greatly contributes to increasing our understanding of celiac disease pathogenesis. A Celiac Disease Foundation Young Investigator Research Grant recipient, Dr. Abadie’s groundbreaking work includes the identification of the immune mechanisms leading to the loss of oral tolerance to gluten, and the development of the first pathophysiological mouse model of celiac disease, which represents a unique pre-clinical model for the evaluation of novel therapies for celiac disease. In particular, she demonstrated that retinoic acid, a Vitamin A metabolite, can synergize with the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-15 that is overexpressed in the intestinal mucosa of celiac disease patients to abrogate tolerance to dietary antigens like gluten and induce inflammation. Using the newly developed mouse model of celiac disease, Dr. Abadie was able to demonstrate that the genetically predisposing HLA-DQ8 molecule, tissue transglutaminase 2 and B lymphocytes are all required to promote the development of villous atrophy, the most severe manifestation of celiac disease.
Maureen Leonard, MD, MMSc is the recipient of the Celiac Disease Foundation Young Investigator Prize for Clinical Science. Maureen Leonard, MD, MMSc, is assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, clinical director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Mass General for Children (MGfC), and co-Investigator of the Celiac Disease Genomic Environmental, Microbiome and Metabolomic Study (CDGEMM). As a physician-scientist, Dr. Leonard conducts work encompassing clinical and translational research programs in adults and children. Her research program is focused on predicting and preventing celiac disease through the CDGEMM Study. This study aims to identify biomarkers such as microbial “signatures” which may predict the onset of autoimmune disease in an international, prospective cohort of infants at risk for celiac disease. She also works to identify environmental factors that influence celiac disease onset and biomarkers that can predict intestinal healing. She collaborates with other researchers to create and perform clinical trials aimed at treating celiac disease in both children and adults.
The Celiac Disease Foundation thanks our 2023 Global Celiac Disease Research Prize sponsors: Anokion and Immundiagnostik, Inc.
Celiac disease is a complex genetic autoimmune disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 100 people worldwide. It is a chronic condition that can cause a range of complications, from intestinal damage to severe malnutrition, heart disease, and cancers. Despite its prevalence, there is still much that we do not understand about celiac disease, and there is no known cure.
The Celiac Disease Foundation Research Prizes aim to encourage and support researchers who are working to improve our understanding of this condition and develop new treatments and therapies. Research Prize awardees are leading the way in advancing celiac disease research and bringing us closer to a cure.
About the Celiac Disease Foundation
The Celiac Disease Foundation, established in 1990, is a leading global patient advocacy organization committed to accelerating diagnosis, treatments, and a cure for celiac disease. Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of the more than three million individuals in the United States affected by this genetic autoimmune disease through our strategic investments in research, advocacy, and education. Our iCureCeliac® patient registry and extensive patient recruitment services enable us to identify qualified patient candidates and speed their enrollment to advance critical disease research. Our unparalleled national advocacy program has led the way to secure federal recognition and first-ever research funding from agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense. We adhere to the highest scientific and ethical standards as we work each day to promote understanding of celiac disease, empower our patient and provider community, and foster a collaborative culture to carry our mission forward.