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Molecular Immunology Group: a new beginning

The Molecular Immunology Group committee

The Molecular Immunology Group committee: Kim Wals, Leanne Minall and Thomas Wright

During delivery of the 1899 Croonian lecture, Professor Paul Ehrlich introduced his ‘side-chain’ theory by first inviting his audience to contemplate the constitution of the cell ‘from the purely chemical standpoint’. Ehrlich then proposed that a series of chemical reactions could describe an organism’s reaction to bacterial toxins. Adopting the nomenclature of organic chemistry, Ehrlich described chemical ‘side-chains’, produced by cells, which can bind and neutralise a toxin, then be regenerated once the host has survived the toxin, resulting in effective immunisation. Today we understand the chemical ‘side-chains’ proposed by Ehrlich as antibodies, engaging antigenic partners in a molecularly precise manner.

As Ehrlich advised, we propose that scientists again consider aspects of immunity from a ‘purely chemical standpoint’. To promote and advance work undertaken at the molecular and chemical levels of immunology, we have founded the BSI Molecular Immunology Affinity Group (Mol.i.G). Our first meeting will be held on 4–5 April 2016 and is titled ‘The Oxford  ‘“Cross-talk” between chemists and immunologists has the potential to revolutionise the molecular understanding of the immune system.’ Chemical Immunology Conference’.  We will bring together leading international experts to highlight work at the interface of immunology and the chemical sciences. The focus of the conference will be on framing immunological questions as molecular problems uniquely tractable to collaboration across the two disciplines. Themes will include the influence of post-translational modification in immune processes, emerging examples of cross-talk between immune pathways, chemical control of immune processes, autoimmunity and rational approaches towards vaccine design.

We believe that ‘cross-talk’ between chemists and immunologists has the potential to revolutionise the molecular understanding of the immune system. We aim to encourage the next generation of scientists by maintaining a focus on early-stage researchers, postdoctoral fellows and students during the entirety of the conference. Space has been allocated for early-career lectures on both days of the conference and extended poster sessions will take place, over wine, on the Monday evening. We highly encourage young researchers to submit abstracts for both lectures and posters. The BSI Mol.i.G is also currently recruiting committee members to help us promote molecular immunology both in the UK and internationally. Please get in touch with me if you are interested at

Leanne Minall

Visit the Molecular Immunology Group on our website and follow them on twitter @OxChemImm