Division of Rheumatology
1959 NE Pacific St
Health Science Bldg BB561
Campus Box 356428
Seattle, WA 98195
Featured Faculty Member for December 2011 Newsletter
Dr. Jeffrey Ledbetter is one of a small group of people that I credit for giving me back my ability to be active. In March of this year, I got to meet the man who was personally responsible for creating the medication that has changed the course of my life – along with the lives of many others who take Orencia. Throughout his career, Dr. Ledbetter has frequently overlapped research projects with great success, yet he continues to maintain a strong personal life. He is fortunate to collaborate with Dr. Martha Hayden Ledbetter - who also has extensive experience in generating biologics.
Dr. Ledbetter joined the Rheumatology division in 2007, but his ties to the UW actually go back to the 1980s. He first came to Seattle in 1976 to work with Dr. Robert Nowinski at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center. Later in 1981, he was at Genetic Systems and Oncogen jointly. When Bristol-Meyers Squibb acquired Genetic Systems in 1985, Dr. Ledbetter continued his work there - where he would make one of his most tremendous discoveries to date. But that wasn’t enough for Dr. Ledbetter - as early as 1985, he conducted research at UW in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and at the Primate Research Center with Dr. Edward Clark. In 1998, after his discoveries at Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Dr. Ledbetter left to pursue research at Xcyte Therapies, the Pacific Northwest Research Institute and Trubion Pharmaceuticals. Throughout all of these career transitions, he continued collaborative research at UW. Even today, he continues to have a broad reach, holding the Herndon and Esther Maury Endowed Chair in Rheumatoid Arthritis, as well as his work at Resolve Therapeutics, which he co-founded with Dr. Keith Elkon.
Numerous discoveries that Dr. Ledbetter made with his research teams over the years are still being developed. At the Pacific Northwest Research Institute in 1999, he found a new way to make B-cell depletion therapy by targeting CD20. This research helped to launch Trubion, Inc., where he worked from 2003-2007. The work he did there is now in phase 2 trials (SBI087) in collaboration between Pfizer and Emergent BioSolutions that acquired Trubion in 2009. In the last few years with the Rheumatology division, Dr. Ledbetter has had two key projects. One was working on a CD180 receptor, where they are still researching to discover which diseases might benefit from his discovery there. With Dr. Elkon, Dr. Ledbetter has been collaborating on recombinant nuclease fusion proteins for lupus.
There are a number of people in Dr. Ledbetter’s history whom he credits for mentorship and inspiration. Dr. Leonard Herzenberg at Stanford, who pioneered the development of the fluorescence activated cell sorter (FACS), was an early inspiration. Dr. Ledbetter was also inspired by Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who pioneered bone marrow transplantation at FHCRC and received the Nobel Prize in 1990, and by Drs. Edmond Fischer and Edwin Krebs at the University of Washington, who won the Nobel Prize in 1992 for their work on kineases and phosphatases.
For Dr. Ledbetter, working at a university laboratory means an opportunity to serve as a mentor to inspire future scientists and clinicians. His dream is to create tolerance therapies, and I cannot wait to see what he learns along the course of that investigation.
- Lara Foote, UW Rheumatology Donor formerly at Microsoft