We’re delighted to report that Peter Openshaw, past President of the British Society for Immunology and Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London, has been awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list in recognition of his services to Medicine and Immunology. All at the BSI send Peter our warm congratulations.
Professor Openshaw was BSI President from 2013–2018, the first clinician to hold this role, having previously served on our Council since 2006. With a hugely successful career spanning several decades, he has made significant contributions to medicine and immunology across clinical practice, research, policy and charitable organisations, such as the BSI. He is an internationally renowned expert on the immune defences of the respiratory mucosa, focusing particularly on viral lung disease and vaccination, and has authored well over 200 articles in the field. His impact has been significant, not least during the current pandemic where his visionary approach has delivered life-changing research programmes, his sound advice has informed government policy-making and his strong leadership has inspired researchers in their endeavours as well as provided reassurance to the public.
“I am so pleased about this award which recognises not just my work, but the fantastic teams with whom I have had the privilege of working over many years,” said Professor Openshaw. “It is wonderful to have recruited a string of brilliant young investigators who are now themselves academic leaders, or have gone on to enjoyable roles in other areas. The five years I spent as President of the British Society for Immunology was one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of my life, promoting collaboration and mutual kindness as a way to advance science and build the field. I hope this award will bring yet more attention to the fascinating and important field of immunology and will be used to celebrate its excitement and many successes.”
At the BSI, his term as President was marked by a transformation in our approach to serving the immunology community, which saw the delivery of an ambitious new strategic plan, a growth in membership of over 50% and the Society building a reputation as a thought-leader and influencer in the policy space. After receiving honorary BSI membership in 2018 in recognition of his contribution, Professor Openshaw remains close to the Society working with us on several projects including as a member of our expert COVID-19 taskforce and as a spokesperson in the media.
Professor Arne Akbar, current President of the British Society for Immunology, commented, “I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Peter on his well-deserved award of a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list. Peter is a fantastic ambassador for immunology, combining a visionary and innovative research mind and portfolio with an astute understanding of the wider societal implications of his work. During his tenure as BSI President, he encouraged an atmosphere of openness, shared commitment and inclusiveness between the BSI Trustees and office staff members that transformed the way the Society supported our members while also making the BSI the ‘go to’ organisation for immunological expertise. The immunology field in the UK is incredibly fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated expert in life sciences and clinical practice to call upon for expert advice and we look forward to continue to work with him for many years to come.”
In addition to his BSI-related work, Peter’s wide-reaching influence is clear to see through his role in government advisory committees. He is the current vice chair of NERVTAG, the Government’s advisory committee on new and emerging respiratory virus threats, and was a member of SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) during the swine flu pandemic of 2009–10. He has also led many major immunology research programmes and consortia, including the Mechanisms of Severe Acute Influenza Consortium (MOSAIC), a major international collaboration which discovered a key gene that makes some people more susceptible to severe illness from flu. In the COVID space, he is co-lead of ISARIC-4C, a ground-breaking study of patients hospitalised with COVID-19, which has already made significant contributions to our understanding of the disease. He also co-chairs the UK Coronavirus Immunology Consortium. Additionally, he leads the Human Infection Challenge Vaccine Network (HIC-Vac), which supports an international network of researchers who are developing human infection challenge studies to accelerate the development of vaccines against pathogens of high global impact.
Peter has also made a huge contribution to public understanding of science through his extensive work in the media and at public events. In particular, during the current COVID pandemic, he has gained a reputation as one of the most reliable media commentators, providing accurate, easy to understand, and empathetic expert opinion. His dedication to ensuring that complex and fast-moving scientific discovery is accessible and understandable to the public really is an example to us all.