Frank was born in Boston Massachusetts in 1943. He earned a PhD in microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972. He earned a BA in Chemistry with a specialization in biology from the University of Virginia in 1980 and a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from George Washington University in 1992.
During 3 years as a post-doctoral fellow at Pittsburgh Medical School and 39 at the National Cancer Institute he studied the mechanisms of immunobiology, retrovirology, stem cell biology and immune responses while developing considerable expertise in these areas. His pioneering work was as a co-discoverer of interleukin-2, interleukin-5, and interleukin-15 (although all these designations were subsequent to their discovery). These discoveries were key to the understanding of T cell immunology, cytokine regulation of inflammation and efficacy and toxicity of immune therapy.
His paper on T cell growth factor was awarded the American Association of Immunologists 2nd most important publication of the first hundred years of publications. He was also a co-discoverer of human T cell leukemia virus (HTLV1), the first disease causing human retrovirus which led to the rapid discovery of HIV and enabled the development of drugs to prevent and treat infection, likely preventing many deaths from HIV/AIDS. For this, he received an award for the “Development of the Field of Human Retrovirology” from the International Retrovirology Association.
Dr. Ruscetti is also the co-discoverer of the regulatory effects of transforming growth factor-beta on hematopoietic stem cells. His was the first demonstration of long-term growth of human cord blood stem cells. In 1991, he was awarded the NIH Distinguished Service Award “in recognition of fundamental co-discoveries of Interleukin-2, the first human leukemia virus, and for the discovery of hematopoietic regulatory activities of transforming growth factor beta”. Furthermore, his co-discovery of the differentiation of acute promyelocytic leukemia led to the first biological cure of a human leukemia. Critical to the theories on how retroviruses cause neuroimmune, autoimmune, hematopoietic disease and cancer is his 1994 seminal publication demonstrating alteration of DNA methyltransferase and the subsequent dysregulation of Interferon gamma by retroviral expression without the requirement of infectious virus and his seminal publication in 2008 on HTLV-1 infection and dysregulation of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDC), which inhibited the production of interferon alpha. In 2010 he extended this key mechanism of pathogenesis of HTLV-1 to the HGRVs. Dr. Ruscetti has co-authored more than 325 peer reviewed publications and book chapters.