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The BSI Marks 60 Years

British Society for Immunology logo

2016 is an exciting year for the British Society for Immunology as it marks our 60th anniversary – time certainly flies when studying the immune system! We want to make this a year to remember for our members and the discipline.

Setting up the Society

Although the exact date is now lost in the mists of time, the BSI was founded in November 1956 by a small group of hard working, visionary immunologists, who wanted to come together to share ideas and encourage the study of immunology. The ten years prior to this date marked an important phase for the field, with discoveries such as immunological tolerance opening up new avenues of research. Discussions about the importance of a society which specifically represented immunologists had begun some three years earlier at a meeting at Trinity College, Cambridge with the founding group including such names as John Humphrey, Bob White, Robin Coombs and Av Mitchison.  This led to the establishment of a Provisional Foundation Committee to prepare a constitution for the society, draw up a list of potential members and consider subscription charges. 1955 was spent canvassing support for the Society, with its official launch in November 1956 marked by a meeting held at the Wellcome Foundation.

The BSI now and in the future

Over the next 60 years, the Society has continued to grow, both in terms of its membership and the breadth and scope of activities that it undertakes. However one thing remains constant – the importance that the BSI places on encouraging the study of immunology and the support it provides to its members in this area. As the BSI now enters its 60th year, we want to take this opportunity, not only to look back at the huge accomplishments made by the discipline over this timeframe, but also to look forward to the achievements yet to be realised. Immunology as a discipline is entering an exciting phase of its evolution, with our increased appreciation of how the immune system functions in health and disease, and the new therapeutic avenues now opening up to treat a plethora of diseases not traditionally associated with immunology, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

At the same time, both the overall scientific and healthcare environments in the UK face uncertainties on many different fronts. From researcher career structure and funding for higher education to decisions on how society meets the cost of personalised medicine and the place of immunology within the structure of the NHS, now more than ever it’s important for the immunology community to stand together to meet these challenges.

Celebrating our 60th

To commemorate our 60th year, we want to celebrate both the achievements of the past while looking forward to the exciting future of immunology. We have commissioned a special logo to highlight our anniversary and you will see this rolled out on our various communication channels and used to highlight activities linked to our anniversary. 2016 will see the launch of our new 5-year strategic plan, which will set a strong framework in which the BSI can work to support its members and the discipline in the years to come. Additionally, we have a series of events and projects planned for later this year, which we hope will bring the membership together to celebrate the wonder of immunology as well as communicating these ideas to outside audiences.

How can you get involved?

BSI event

  • Although activities will take place throughout the year, we have set a focal date of Tuesday 11 October, around which several of our major projects and events will take place. Mark the date in your diaries and we’ll bring you more news shortly!
  • Do you have any ideas for activities either you, your regional BSI group or the BSI as a whole could undertake to mark this anniversary? Let us know!
  • What are your memories of the BSI and what does the Society means to you? We want to hear from you how the BSI has influenced your career and what you think our role should be in the future.

We do hope you join us in our celebrations. To contribute your ideas for activities or tell us your memories of the BSI, please email

Jennie Evans, Communications Manager, BSI

Image credits: (C) BSI