At the recent British Society for Immunology Congress, we were delighted to award Lifetime Honorary Membership of our Society to three members in recognition of their outstanding contribution to immunology and to the Society. They are Don Mason, Bridget Ogilvie and Herman Waldmann. This honour is awarded after rigorous discussion and a vote by the Trustees. At the Congress opening ceremony, tributes were led by BSI Vice-President Anne Cooke and a summary is available below.
Don Mason started academic life as a physicist studying nuclear fusion and then moved into the field of cellular immunology, where he made outstanding contributions. Together with Alan Williams and colleagues at the MRC Cellular Immunology Unit in the Dunn School of Pathology in Oxford, Don focused on immunological studies using the rat as a model organism. Together they generated not only outstanding science, but also outstanding scientists that trained in that Unit.
In terms of science, they generated panels of monoclonal antibodies to key surface molecules, some of which enabled Don to separate out CD4+ T cell subsets into those that mediated pathology and identify those CD4+ T cells, regulatory T cells, that controlled them. He also noted that one population of Th cells primarily produced cytokines that would aid B cell responses and others that made IFNγ and helped cytotoxic T cell responses.
He had a remarkable capacity for identifying novel approaches and areas of importance and, in many cases, he was ahead of the curve. By targeting antigens to B cells using monoclonal antibodies, he successfully inhibited the development of multiple sclerosis in an animal model. He also showed that genetic differences affecting the neuroendocrine system determined whether rat strains were susceptible or resistance to the induction of demyelinating disease. He had been interested for some time on the relevance of cross reactivity in T cells and produced a compelling argument that this was an essential characteristic.
Dame Bridget Ogilvie has received many honours and awards for her contributions to science and medical research, including 28 honorary doctorates. Bridget was an internationally recognised immunologist/parasitologist whose academic career focused on the immune response to nematodes and other parasites. She then embarked on a sabbatical with the Wellcome Trust, which led to a change in career path. She very much enjoyed working with the Trust, staying on and becoming their Director from 1991 - 1998. This involved overseeing an expansion of funding schemes, which benefitted researchers at all stages of their career as well as the establishment of the Sanger Institute.
Bridget has also played, and continues to play, an important role in science, serving on many advisory board and committees, including as a Vice Chair of the board of trustees at Sense About Science, reflecting her commitment to public engagement. She has also served as a trustee of the Science Museum. She was awarded the Kilgerran Prize of the Foundation for Science and Technology in 1994, and was both elected as a fellow of the Royal Society and knighted in 2003, and in 2007, appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia.
Herman Waldmann has made major contributions to the field of immunology through his studies on immune tolerance in animal models, with particular focus on transplantation tolerance and autoimmunity. In addition, along with colleagues, he pioneered the use of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies against T cells. His groundbreaking studies resulted in the development of Campath-1H, the first humanised monoclonal antibody to be used therapeutically. This antibody has transformed the lives of recipients of bone marrow transplants for the treatment of leukaemia and has more recently been used successfully in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. His follow-up work also concentrated on other monoclonal antibodies, which have shown efficacy in animal models, but have yet to be trialled on humans. However one antibody that has been used is an anti-CD3, which showed therapeutic promise in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.
Herman became Head of the Immunology Division in the Department of Pathology of the University of Cambridge in 1989 and later head of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at the University of Oxford in 1994. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990, became a founding fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1998, and has been awarded numerous scientific awards for his contributions to the field of immunology. He has always been interested in teaching and mentoring, participating in many summer schools and always being a strong supporter of young scientists.
You can find out more about all the current BSI Honorary Members in our 'About us' section.