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60 years of immunology: past, present and future

BSI 60th anniversary report front cover

The BSI celebrates its 60th anniversary with this report highlighting selected areas of current immunological interest and identifying exciting new themes and trends.

Articles

The hunt for an HIV vaccine

On 23 April 1984, Margaret Heckler, the then US Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced to a packed press conference that scientists had discovered the virus that caused acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). She went on to express the hope that a vaccine would be developed within two years.

Microbiota: hidden communities of friends and foes

Odd as it might sound, most of the average person isn’t human. Researchers have recently dismissed the often cited claim that there are 10 times more microbes than human cells in our bodies. Scientists in Israel who published new estimates in August say the ratio is closer to 4:3 in men and 11:5 in women.

Allergies: an inflammatory subject

According to figures from the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, diagnoses of food allergy have doubled in the past decade, while the number of hospitalisations caused by severe allergic reactions has risen seven-fold. It estimates that, within ten years, more than half of Europeans will be affected by allergy.

The enemy within? New perspectives on autoimmune disease

New knowledge generated by original basic science takes an average of 17 years to reach the clinic. That’s the conclusion reached by a number of authors who have sought to quantify what some have called the translational research time lag.

The last frontier? Lifting the lid on the blood-brain divide

New knowledge generated by original basic science takes an average of 17 years to reach the clinic. That’s the conclusion reached by a number of authors who have sought to quantify what some have called the translational research time lag.

Immunotherapy: the next era of cancer treatment

History tells us that cancer is a shape-shifting enemy, and molecular therapies – previously hyped as a silver bullet for cancer – have been less successful than many had initially hoped. Yet there are several reasons to think immune-based therapies might do better.

Vaccination: prevention is better than cure

Together with improved sanitation and antibiotics, vaccination has utterly transformed our relationship with pathogens. Smallpox has been eliminated, polio is on its way out, while other historic harbingers of death and debility such as measles and diphtheria are extremely rare. According to the World Health Organization, vaccines prevent around 3 million premature deaths per year.

Emerging threats: the evolving immunological response

“The recent Ebola outbreak was a shocking reminder of the threat we all face from a disease outbreak,” said David Cameron on the eve of a G7 summit in June 2015. “We will face an outbreak like Ebola again and that virus could be more aggressive and difficult to contain. It is time to wake up to that threat.”