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BSI Congress 2019 - which parallel session should you join?

We're looking forward to BSI Congress 2019 this December in Liverpool. We have planned an extensive 4-day programme of cutting edge research from leading UK and international researchers, including six plenary sessions, keynote speaker Prof Doreen Cantrell and numerous parallel sessions.

Here, we ask our Regional & Affinity Groups about the parallel sessions they've organised. Explore these relevant topics and find out which sessions you should join.

Visit the Congress website


Immunotherapy in autoimmunity: Finding the perfect reset button
Organised by the BSI Bristol Immunology Group
Part 1: Tuesday 2 December, 11:00 - 12:45
Part 2:Tuesday 2 December, 14:15 - 16:00

Non-infectious inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and uveitis, are second only to cancer and heart disease in their health burden on western populations. Though there are effective systemic therapies available (albeit limited by concurrent systemic side-effects), the development of potent immunotherapeutics in autoimmunity is lagging behind advances in cancer immunotherapy. A key ambition in this area of medicine is finding the perfect immune target to disarm, reset and re-educate the immune system to achieve long-term disease suppression.

Applying cell-mediated, antigen specific and monoclonal antibody therapy in the autoimmune context is underpinned by understanding immune-mediated processes in normal and disease settings. In this double session "Immunotherapy in autoimmunity: Finding the perfect reset button" we will explore the science behind novel immunotherapeutic approaches, with presentations from both seasoned researchers and junior academics. Our invited speakers, Professors David Wraith, Pere Santamaria, Jo (Geraldine) Cambridge and Dr Catharien Hilkens will discuss their unique approaches to solving defective and damaging immune cell activation in rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.


Immune Surveillance and Lymphoid Tissue Architecture
Organised by the BSI Comparative and Veterinary Immunology Group
Tuesday 3 December, 11:00 - 12:45

The Comparative and Veterinary Immunology Group (CVIG) is delighted to host a session at the 2019 British Society for Immunology Congress entitled “Immune Surveillance and Lymphoid Tissue Architecture”. Numerous innate and adaptive immune cells reside in peripheral and lymphoid tissues where they contribute to immune defenses and tissue homeostasis. An understanding of leukocyte immune surveillance and lymphoid tissue architecture is essential; however it is clear that there is a variability between species and therefore, it is important to compare findings across species to tease out the common features of immune surveillance.

In line with mission of the CVIG, the CVIG will bring together human, mouse and veterinary immunologists in this parallel session to provide a forum for exchange of ideas and to establish collaboration. During the session, Prof Lonneke Vervelde from the Roslin Institute will discuss the unique feature of avian mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue in mammalian-like tissue, Peyer's patches as well as avian-specific lymphoid tissues, the bursa of Fabricius, caecal tonsils and Meckel's diverticulum. Dr Jose Borghans from Utrecht University will discuss the simultaneous quantification of leukocyte dynamics in a mouse model using in vivo stable isotope labelling.

We hope to see you there and look forward to an exciting session and discussion!


Immune cell metabolic pathways as targets in disease
Organised by the BSI Immunometabolism Affinity Group
Part 1: Thursday 5 December, 11:00 - 12:45
Part 2: Thursday 5 December, 14:15 - 16:00

In the last decade, our understanding of how the immune system works has been dramatically transformed by observations that the majority of immune processes, in almost all immune cells, are critically underpinned by dynamic changes in cellular metabolism. These not only ensure provision of necessary energy and cellular building blocks, but also directly regulate epigenetic, transcriptional and translation processes to determine immune cell fate, phenotype and function. However, what remains less clear, and will be our next challenge to discover is firstly, to what extent dysfunctional immune cell metabolism is a feature or indeed a contributory factor of human disease such as autoimmunity and cancer and secondly, whether it can be effectively and specifically targeted to yield novel therapies for these diseases.

In this dedicated, double-length parallel session “Immune cell metabolic pathways as targets in disease” we hope to bring you some exciting new science from PhD students, post-docs, junior PIs and professors working on immunometabolism in the UK and further afield, aiming to address these very questions, as well as to identify novel ways by which metabolism and immunity are intertwined. Our invited speakers, Professor Lydia Lynch, Dr Georgia Perona-Wright, Professor Christoph Hess and Dr Hal Drakesmith will talk about immune cell metabolism in the context of chronic inflammation and obesity, allergy and infection, and primary immune deficiency. 


Pattern recognition in inflammation: From mechanisms to therapy
Organised by the BSI Inflammation Affinity Group
Thursday 5 December, 11:00 - 12:45

It is an absolute delight to be chairing the BSI session on ‘Pattern recognition in inflammation: From mechanisms to therapy’. We have some very exciting talks lined up in the session; the two keynote speakers, Kate Schroeder and Clare Bryant, have both made important discoveries in inflammasome biology, a multiprotein complex with recognised roles in infectious and inflammatory diseases. Drugs targeting the NLRP3 inflammasome signaling are already in clinical trials, so we are sure this will stimulate discussion on the therapeutic potential of innate immune receptors. In addition, we received an impressive number and quality of abstracts for oral presentations, and thus selecting just three for presentation will be extremely difficult.

The overall BSI programme has the precise balance of talks that everyone will enjoy. Since both of us use macrophage as model cells in our research, we are looking forward to the session on ‘Monocyte and macrophage regulation of immune homeostasis and inflammation’. Another session that is a personal favourite is the one on inflammation of mucosal barriers which has a notable list of inspiring speakers including David Artis from Weill Cornell and Wendy Barclay from Imperial College London. Besides this, we eagerly look forward to attending the start of the BSI with Bright Sparks session which is always fun and super interesting to attend. We are particularly enthusiastic about the keynote presentation by Doreen Cantrell from the University of Dundee who has done some impressive work on signal transduction pathways that control T cell metabolism and differentiation.

We have attended a few BSI Congresses before, but we firmly believe the BSI meeting in Liverpool is going to be even better this year – the city has a rich culture, particularly in music, with Beatles gaining their popularity here, and a magnificent architecture which can all be explored while attending the UK’s premier immunology event. As always, the BSI Congress Committee has put together an impressive programme and there will be lots to gain for every immunologist.

Together with the Inflammation Affinity Group, we look forward to seeing you all in Liverpool in December!


Leukocyte trafficking during infection, inflammation and cancer​
Organized by the BSI Leukocyte Migration Group
Thursday 5 December 14:15-16:00

Leukocyte migration influences every aspect of immunology from immune homeostasis and adaptive immunity, to inflammation and disease. This session 'Leukocyte trafficking during infection, inflammation and cancer' will provide an opportunity to compare and contrast this important aspect of the immune response during cancer and infection. There is an increasing awareness that immunological responses to these two distinct diseases exhibit many fascinating and important parallels.  

During this session, we are fortunate to have two leaders in the field as keynote speakers and three talks that will be selected from a large number of diverse abstracts.

Kicking off the session is Prof Ronen Alon, an established leader of the field who has pioneered new interdisciplinary approaches, including imaging, to uncover new paradigms of leukocyte trafficking that are both fascinating and beautifully done. Here, he will present some unexpected findings involving immune responses at mucosal sights. These results reveal new rules for leukocyte trafficking and have implications for vaccination strategies.

Concluding the session will be Prof Wolfgang Kastenmüller who has trailblazed a new reputation for undertaking leading research in leukocyte navigation and imaging. Here, he will discuss his latest findings by which CD8 T cell memory is established and so identify promising new targets for optimizing immune cell therapy in patients.


B cell activation and differentiation
Organised by the BSI London Immunology Group and the BSI West Midlands Immunology Group
Tuesday 3 December, 14:15 - 16:00

The BSI’s London Immunology Group and West Midlands Immunology Group are pleased to welcome you to our parallel session ‘B cell activation and differentiation’ at the 2019 congress. Featuring invited talks from Professor Kai-Michael Toellner (University of Birmingham, UK) and Dr Michelle Linterman (Babraham Institute, UK) plus three talks which will be selected from submitted abstracts on the same theme, the session promises to inspire immunologists from every discipline.

B cells are critical for host immunity by virtue of their ability to differentiate into plasma cells and provide a seemingly life-long supply of protective antibody. In order to achieve this the B cell must navigate a precarious journey that starts with activation and proceeds through several stages of expansion and differentiation. During this process the fate of the cell hangs in the balance, dependent on cellular signals and cues from its surrounding environment. Inefficient or dysregulated B cell activation and differentiation can result in the development of chronic inflammatory pathologies such as allergies and autoimmune disease. But the rewards are great; the ability of B cells to generate antibody and provide immune memory is at the cornerstone of vaccination and has contributed significantly to the success of modern medicine.

Fundamentally, B cell research provides wide-ranging opportunities for improving human health; the cellular interactions that drive affinity maturation and shape the functional antibody repertoire is informing the design of vaccines for infectious disease and cancer. In addition, understanding the contribution of antibody-dependent and also antibody-independent B cell functions to autoimmune disease is changing the way these chronic inflammatory diseases are treated. Complete understanding of the B cell response is clearly essential for continued progress. Recent advances in several areas of B cell research are defining the factors that regulate the initiation of B cell activation, the dynamic processes at play in the germinal centre response and the mechanisms involved in establishing B cell memory, including those that govern the fate decision between memory B cell or plasma cell differentiation.

This session aims to provide a snapshot of the exciting and innovative research that is driving our understanding of B cell biology forward and which is impacting on diverse areas of human health.


New developments in neuroimmunology
Organised by the BSI Neuroimmunology Group
Wednesday 4 December, 14:15 - 16:00

Diseases in which the immune system interacts with the brain are a set of conditions with a wide phenotypic spectrum and diverse underlying immunobiologies. Indeed, under this category, we now include not only prototypical conditions such as multiple sclerosis but a rapidly-expanding group of autoantibody-mediated forms of encephalitis and demyelination, each with their own disease-defining autoantigen. In addition, there is an increasing recognition of the immune system’s role in common forms of neurodegeneration. Across these conditions, there are examples with involvement of T cells, B cells and the innate immune system.

Yet, multiple sclerosis (MS) remains the prototypical neuroimmunological condition. Patients with MS now have a wide variety of disease modifying therapies which are effective in preventing relapses. These drugs work through several mechanisms, including lymphocyte depletion/modulation and via the reduction of lymphocyte transmigration into the brain. Yet, the underlying aetiology of MS remains poorly understood.

In our parallel session 'New developments in neuroimmunology', Francesca Aloisi from Rome will present evidence summarizing one such hypothesis. The B-cell tropic Epstein-Barr virus and its potential causative link to multiple sclerosis will be evaluated. There is a strong epidemiological link with ~99% of MS patients carrying EBV-IgGs. In addition, B cell depleting agents have shown striking efficacy in MS relapse prevention. Indeed, despite ongoing controversies and the need to know more about the relative role of EBV immunity in different phases of MS, her data converge to suggest that intracerebrally recruited EBV-specific CD8 T cells could mediate an immunopathological response toward a persistent EBV infection brought into the CNS by B lymphocytes.

In addition, the recently described autoantibody-mediated diseases of the CNS will be considered by Sarosh Irani from Oxford, discussing the distinctive phenotypes associated with these ‘not-to-miss’ diagnoses. These conditions are associated with autoantibodies which target the extracellular domains of native neuronal surface proteins. Hence, the autoantibodies can access their targets in vivo. They can present with forms of encephalitis, including the abrupt onset of psychiatric disturbances and some of neurology’s most frequent seizures. Also, forms of demyelination, such as neuromyelitis optica, where the autoantibodies against aquaporin-4 and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein help accurately differentiate this syndrome from MS, offering the patients very differing effective therapies. He will present data focusing on B cells which highlight which cells are likely to produce the autoantibodies, the observed defects in B cell tolerance checkpoints and the access of the B cells to the CNS.

The clinical phenotypes associated with neuroimmunological conditions continues to expand, and the field has a clear therapeutic impact on patients. However, exciting opportunities remain to better appreciate the underlying immunological disease mechanisms and aetiologies, and better focus our targeted treatments for this spectrum of disorders.