Skip to main content

BSI Comparative Veterinary Immunology Group: a new beginning

The BSI has always been committed to supporting and promoting research that benefits animal health, and we’re delighted that our Comparative Veterinary Immunology Group has recently been revived. Here, members of the Group tell you more about their aims and the exciting activities they have planned for the next year.

The Comparative Veterinary Immunology Group (CVIG) has been an Affinity Group of the BSI for over 25 years, providing a networking forum and organising workshops for those interested in cross-species immunology. One of the first of these was a workshop on ‘Immunology of Zoonotic Infections’, which was held as part of the BSI Spring Meeting in March 1995. Subsequent meetings have been held as parallel sessions at BSI Congresses in Brighton and Liverpool. CVIG has not restricted its activities to BSI meetings – it has always been outward-facing and ambitious, organising themed sessions with other learned societies such as ‘New Developments in Veterinary Vaccines’ at the Annual Meeting of the Association of Veterinary Teaching and Research Workers in Scarborough in 2005. The last major event organised by CVIG was a parallel session on ‘Conservation and Divergence of Mammalian Immune Systems’ at the 2013 BSI Congress in Liverpool.

Reviving the group

At the BSI Congress in December 2017, a new committee structure was proposed with a view to reviving CVIG activities. This was structure was agreed by BSI and comprises Elma Tchilian (The Pirbright Institute; Chair), Sean Wattegedera (Moredun Research Institute; Secretary/ Treasurer), Lindert Benedictus (The Roslin Institute; Communications) and Linda Wooldridge (University of Bristol; Sponsorship).

The mission of CVIG is to bring together veterinary, human and mouse immunologists and provide a forum for discussion, collaboration and exchange of ideas. To achieve this, CVIG will organise a series of ambitious ‘Frontiers in Comparative Immunology’ meetings, each focussing on a particular topic. Our relaunch meeting is ‘Frontiers in human and veterinary antibody discovery’, which will be held on 26–27 November 2018 at The Pirbright Institute, UK. It is supported by the UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network (VVN) and the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network (IVVN), with both organisations kindly providing travel grants to the meeting.

Improving the visibility of veterinary immunology

Despite the importance of animal health and the increasing profile of the ‘One Health’ agenda, the recent survey in the BSI careers report revealed that only 4% of immunology graduates would like to work in veterinary immunology. CVIG is committed to working closely with the other BSI Affinity and Regional Groups and with the IVVN to promote and advance veterinary immunology. To improve the visibility of veterinary immunology and our work we have organised a competition for a CVIG logo to go with our strapline ‘Promoting immunology across species for animal and human health’ and awarded the winner a £50 Amazon voucher and free registration for the inaugural meeting.

The mission of CVIG is to bring together veterinary, human and mouse immunologists and provide a forum for discussion, collaboration and exchange of ideas.

Inaugural meeting

Our inaugural meeting in November on ‘Frontiers in human and veterinary antibody discovery’ will highlight the recent advances in antibody profiling and pull together the best research from different species and disciplines to share knowledge and promote the power of comparative immunology. The recent and dramatic increase in antibody-based therapeutic approaches has continued to fuel the development of new methods and technologies to enable antibody discovery and engineering. These techniques and applications are translatable into livestock and companion species in which antibodies can be structurally distinct from humans and mice, and where the biological mechanisms that generate a diverse repertoire can be subtly different. For example, the benefit and widespread use of single chain camelid antibodies for research is well documented, and the ultra-long CDR3 cattle antibodies have the potential to see epitopes invisible to shorter antibodies.

Optimising immunisation for a species and antigen can dramatically increase the downstream success in antibody discovery. When coupled with deep screening and functional profiling of tens of thousands of single cells, it is possible to identify rare antibodies that remain inappreciable to traditional methods. Fundamental biological questions regarding B cell subset function in different tissues and at different stages of the immune response are now being addressed at a level of detail previously impossible. Furthermore, responses from individuals can now be linked to their own germline immunoglobulin genes, which are more variable than had previously been thought. The future impact of this detailed knowledge of B cell and antibody functions in health and disease will be considerable.

These detailed high-throughput approaches are also being used to directly inform vaccine design through the identification of conserved, sub-dominant or neutralising epitopes and highresolution structural studies. The impact of vaccination regimes can also be assessed and modified to drive broader responses and longer-term memory.

CVIG’s November meeting will be structured around these themes with world leading researchers from the UK and beyond sharing their recent research. The six sessions will be 1: Structure guided immunogen design, 2: Antibodies of animal and human, 3: B cell help and regulation, 4: Translating antibodies – therapeutics and adjuvants, 5: Identification of antigen targets and epitopes, 6: B cell biology in health and disease. This Frontier meeting will highlight the power of comparative immunology to illuminate aspects of immune function that would not easily be elucidated by studies in a single species.

Future plans

We hope to see many of you at our November meeting. The CVIG committee is busy developing our next series of events and plans to link with the UK VVN and the IVVN for our second meeting on ‘Non-conventional T cells’ on 11 January 2019 (details available on BSI website shortly). Plans are also in place to bid for themed sessions at other BSI meetings and Congress. We are actively looking to develop our outreach and links with other partners to organise a major meeting on animal and human health in 2020 – if you’re interested, do get in touch.

John Hammond, Simon Graham & the CVIG committee