Christopher Garcia is the 2024 Passano Award winner

Garcia was recognized for his research into the way molecules bind to one another and its implications for safer and more effective treatments.

- By Christina Hendry

Christopher Garcia

Christopher Garcia, PhD, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology and of structural biology, has been named the recipient of the 2024 Passano Award by the Passano Foundation. The award is in recognition of Garcia’s foundational discoveries regarding the structure and function of cell surface receptors and how they interact with the molecules that bind to them, or ligands.

Garcia’s work has revealed the structures and signaling mechanisms for many ligand-receptor pairs under study in a variety of fields such as immunology, oncology and regenerative medicine. He unveiled the first structure of the receptor of a type of immune cell called a T-cell — elucidating how T-cell receptors identify antigens, markers of foreign or unwanted substances in the body. He has also developed techniques to recognize tumor antigens and modulate T-cell receptor signaling. Over the past decade he has used these structural and mechanistic insights to design proteins, such as cytokines, that bind to cells with novel specificities and functions, with potential for the development of safer and more effective cancer therapies.

More than a half-dozen engineered proteins from his lab are now undergoing clinical trials. Garcia’s hope is to bring these advancements to patients. 

“I have a very professional and talented group,” said Garcia, the Younger Family Professor and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “This foundation has allowed us to do creative and innovative science.”

Garcia sits among a deep bench of Passano Foundation laureates — more than 20 have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize since the award’s inception in 1945. He says it’s validating to win this award, but he remains focused on what’s next. 

“Receiving this award tells me we’re doing the right things and focusing on the right problems, and that’s very gratifying,” he said.

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2024 ISSUE 1

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