Laureate Lecture - Dr. Dan Kastner

Tuesday, April 23, 2024
9:30am general lecture, 3:00pm technical lecture in the USU Ballrooms

Every year the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (CNSM) Student Council invites a laureate to the Cal State Long Beach campus to speak to our students, faculty, staff, and community.

Our Laureate Lecturer for 2024 is Dr. Dan Kastner, who received the received Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis in 2021 "for establishing the concept of autoinflammatory diseases."

All are welcome to attend.

Please note that Dr. Kastner will be presenting remotely. The presentation can be viewed via a live broadcast in the USU Ballroom, or by joining the Zoom webinars.


There are 2 separate lectures. For Cal State Long Beach students, faculty, and staff, no registration is needed to attend the live broadcast in the USU Ballroom.

If you are attending via Zoom, a short registration is needed for each lecture.

Presentation starts at 9:30am. A Q&A session with Dr. Kastner will be held at the end of the presentation.


The systemic autoinflammatory diseases are a group of disorders characterized by seemingly unprovoked episodes of systemic and localized inflammation, without the high-titer autoantibodies or antigen-specific T cells typically seen in autoimmune diseases, and without evidence of overt infection. Many of these illnesses are caused by mutations in genes that play an important role in the phylogenetically ancient innate branch of the human immune system. Through the study of patients with previously undiagnosed diseases, in the last four decades it has been possible to discover some of these genes, which has brought about a revolution in the way that we understand human immunity and the way we treat patients with autoinflammatory diseases, sometimes with life-changing results both for the patients and their families. Since the beginning of my career at the National Institutes of Health in 1985, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this incredible journey, which is still ongoing. I hope to regale the audience with some of the basic principles of genomics, to explain some of the clinical features of illnesses we have studied, to highlight some of the key discoveries that we have made, and to illustrate how these discoveries have begun to affect the practice of medicine. And, by the end of the lecture, I hope to introduce you to some of the exciting opportunities for future discovery.

Presentation starts at 3:00pm. A Q&A session with Dr. Kastner will be held at the end of the presentation.


This lecture will build upon the basic principles of human genomics, the innate immune system, and the connection between human biology and the practice of medicine that I will introduce in my general lecture. Although more detailed than the first lecture, I would expect that this second lecture would be accessible to anyone with modest knowledge of biology who attends the first lecture. This second lecture will begin by discussing autoinflammatory diseases that involve excessive activation of any one of three fundamental ways that humans respond to microbial pathogens. Mutations in the genes controlling these pathways, which are essential to survival, can lead to inappropriate or exaggerated inflammation that may even be fatal. I will then move on to discuss how mutations in these immune-related genes may sometimes be protective against certain pathogens, using the example of how gene mutations that cause familial Mediterranean fever may be protective against Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes bubonic plague. Finally, I will discuss how somatic mutations that arise in blood precursor cells in the bone marrow may lead to a newly discovered adult-onset autoinflammatory disease that cuts across current clinical diagnostic boundaries. I will close with a discussion of how the boundaries between autoinflammatory disease and normal experience can sometimes blur, and an enumeration of some of the important questions that await the next generation of researchers.

About Dr. Dan Kastner


Dr. Dan Kastner obtained his A.B. summa cum laude in philosophy from Princeton University in 1973 and a Ph.D. and M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine by 1982. After completing Internal Medicine residency and chief residency at Baylor, Dan moved to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1985. He is currently an NIH Distinguished Investigator, Chief of the Inflammatory Disease Section, and Scientific Director Emeritus of the Division of Intramural Research of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Throughout his career at the NIH Dan's research has focused on using genetic and genomic strategies to understand inherited disorders of inflammation, often stimulated by patients with relatively rare disorders seen at the NIH Clinical Center hospital. This work has provided detailed molecular explanations for these illnesses, has established the conceptual basis for highly effective targeted therapies, and has informed our understanding of more common illnesses. Dan's group also proposed the now widely accepted overarching concept of autoinflammatory disease to denote disorders of the evolutionarily ancient innate branch of the human immune system.

Dan has won a number of awards and honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 and to the National Academy of Medicine in 2012, and recognition as the Federal Employee of the Year in 2018, the Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine in 2019, the Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Crafoord Foundation in 2021, and the George M. Kober Medal from the Association of American Physicians in 2024.

About the Crafoord Prize

"The Crafoord Prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Crafoord Foundation in Lund, with the Academy being responsible for selecting the Laureates. Its subject areas rotate every year, between mathematics and astronomy, the geosciences, biosciences and polyarthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis). The Prize in Polyarthritis is only awarded when there has been scientific progress that motivates a prize."

- From The Crafoord Prize in Polyarthritis 2021

Past Laureate Lecturers

A laureate has been invited to speak to the Cal State Long Beach campus nearly every year since 1976. A list of these guest speakers can be found on CNSM Laureate Lecturer Series archive.

The series was originally named the Nobel Laureate Lecturer Series, but in 2023 the scope was expanded to include other prestigious awards such as the Crafoord Prize; this has enabled the CNSM Student Council to invite professionals from a more diverse range of fields.