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IUIS Star: outstanding science, exciting connections and immunology fun

Dr Laura Pallett

The 2023 International Congress of Immunology (IUIS) Congress took place from 27 November to 2 December in Cape Town, South Africa, uniting immunologists from around the world to discuss cutting-edge science. Here, Dr Laura Pallett, BSI member and former Early Career Representative on the BSI Member Representative Forum, shares her experience as an IUIS Rising Star at the inaugural programme in IUIS 2023.

Early in 2023 I received an invitation from the BSI to apply for the inaugural IUIS Rising Stars Programme, which was to be integrated into the 18th IUIS Congress later in the year. I felt honoured to have been nominated for this programme by the BSI! Driven by the IUIS Scientific Committee, its aim was to raise the profile of outstanding young professionals (those within five years of starting their own independent laboratory) who have made significant contributions to the field and their community.

Nominations were put forward by immunology societies from across the globe together with some direct applicants from US institutions. As part of the application process, we each had to submit a short one-minute video introducing ourselves, showcasing our work and what we were excited to share with the IUIS community. These videos were uploaded alongside the more traditional one-page letter detailing two or three of our greatest career accomplishments, a brief recommendation from a mentor, and two recent publications of our choice. Then, after some deliberation by the IUIS Scientific Committee (chaired by Professor Mirian Merad and Professor Mark Davis), 15 brilliant multinational early career immunologists were selected to come together as the first cohort of IUIS Rising Stars.

As Rising Stars, we each had the privilege to present in a plenary session throughout the conference, alongside stellar, world-leading immunologists; instantly giving considerable exposure to our research and the work of our growing teams.

Remarkably IUIS 2023 signified a landmark occasion, as the first gathering of this international triennial meeting to be held in Africa (ever!). This special event was marked in suitable style over six days in the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa with the sub-theme ‘from basic to translational immunology and back’. Locally, the meeting was hosted jointly by the South African Immunology Society and the Federation of African Immunology Societies, and comprised a broad range of networking events, symposia and workshops with topics ranging from ageing and immunity, through to immunity to viruses and transplant immunology. To mark the occasion, every evening we were regaled with moving artistic performances from young individuals from the Amathunzi Arts & Development Centre (a non-profit organisation located in Khayelitsha) – with one particularly poignant interpretation of the intimate experiences of a group of teenage boys from a Western Cape township with relation to tuberculosis (TB), and the lack of education around infection risk and control.

Scientifically, as Rising Stars, we each had the privilege to present in a plenary session throughout the conference, alongside stellar, world-leading immunologists; instantly giving considerable exposure to our research and the work of our growing teams. However, due to some odd scheduling I presented my work on how tissue resident T-cells adapt in the liver in a session dedicated to TB – which made for a lively (and stimulating) Q&A session! Not only did we have the opportunity to present our work and to network as a cohort discussing things like how to establish a thriving group, but also the IUIS Junior Committee (a new ECR network) invited us to attend (with ten other nominated individuals) a meet and greet session with Nobel Laureates Professor Jim Allison (discovery of immune checkpoint blockade) and Professor Emmanuelle Charpentier (CRISPR revolution), which was an intimate and frank Q&A session.

If the significance surrounding the location of the meeting and the launch of the IUIS Rising Stars Programme were not enough firsts at this meeting, the IUIS Gender Equality Committee awarded the inaugural winner of the Menarini Prize for an Outstanding Woman Immunologist. This prestigious lifetime career award went to Professor Diane Mathis (Harvard Medicine) who during her inspiring address shared her “scientific surprises” – memorable data from her career – that fuelled her love of research and pleaded with the scientific community to promote more of the positives (and less of the negatives) of a career in research because at the end of the day “we all have fun”! Something that was evidenced in full swing at the conference party at the beautiful Cabo Beach Club with live music from the multitalented immunology band made up of Jim Allison, Eric Vivier, Ira Mellman, Luke O’Neill, Thomas Gajewski, Matteo Iannacone and Jaime Mateus-Tique, with some tasty African food, drumming and dancing.

Dr Laura Pallett
UKRI Future Leaders Fellow, UCL Institute of Immunity & Transplantation
@ljpally19 @pallett_lab