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View from ... the President

Jo Revill

After three years at the helm of the Society, Jo Revill, our CEO, left us on 18 May to take up her new position as Chief Executive Officer at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. We are immensely sorry to see her go, but delighted that she will be using her many skills in such an important role. Her appointment is a remarkable accolade, and we are pleased and proud that Jo has been able to develop the skills for this major national role whilst serving  the BSI.

During her time with us, Jo has reformed and invigorated the organisation providing the leadership and insight to develop the BSI into a thriving and growing enterprise. Our membership grew by 11% in the past year and now stands at 3,500. Working closely with Trustees, staff and members, she has developed and implemented our ambitious 5-year strategic plan, which places a firm focus on expanding the horizons of our organisation to engage with policy makers, the media and the public and ensure that immunology is effectively represented on a wider stage. 

Although this has been a new path for the Society, it is one of which I am immensely proud. Through the upcoming challenges of Brexit and the implementation of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy to ensuring immunology is accurately reported in the media and that the public has access to reliable, evidenced-based information on vaccines, Jo’s reforms have ensured that the BSI speaks with clarity and authority on behalf of its members, reaching senior decision-makers and funders and bringing the public’s attention to many stunning advances in immunology and its application to health.

Jo also implemented important logistical changes, including moving our headquarters to its new home in Red Lion Square, Holborn, and restructured the office teams with remarkable tact and determination. Three years ago, the Trustees set an ambitious target of achieving gender balance on all the Society’s committees and getting Congress to break even: Jo and her team accomplished both in under two years.

Jo has always kept an eye on the wider picture, especially what the Society can do to assist the careers of immunologists across the wider sector. The launch of the Society’s careers review last year provided a landmark in terms of our knowledge of the state of immunology careers and will no doubt be of benefit to future generations of both clinical and non-clinical researchers. The challenge for Jo’s successor will be to work on the implementation of the report’s recommendations to make sure the BSI does all it can to support immunologists at all career stages, regardless of the path they take.   

Jo has also managed a diversification of activities aimed at our membership, which has greatly enhanced and preserved the BSI’s charitable mission. This includes overseeing two highly successful Congresses and the launch of our new website and membership system. Additionally, Jo has forged valuable international links with our counterparts in Europe and worldwide, most noticeably China.  Through this work and her support of our journals, Immunology and Clinical & Experimental Immunology, the Society’s position as a major player on the world stage of immunology is assured.

A passionate and effective leader, Jo exhibits the rare combination of charm, moral vision and a steely determination to reach the highest standards. She leaves the organisation in a very healthy position to build on our current successes and deliver our mission to promote excellence in immunology and support for the membership. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the team at the BSI, I would like to thank Jo for her immense dedication, hard work and commitment to the Society and to wish her every success for the future.

Time, however, doesn’t stand still. The BSI still has much to achieve for all our members and for the immunology community at large. We have been very lucky to appoint an energetic and dynamic interim CEO, Alex Harris. Alex brings with him a plethora of experience from the charity sector, having previously been CEO for international disaster relief and health charities. Alex is working closely with the BSI senior management team (Liz Ambekar, Jane Sessenwein, Lucy McIvor and Jennie Evans) to ensure that the Society continues to support our members and to champion immunology to the wider community.

By the time this article appears we hope to have appointed a substantive CEO from a remarkable field of over 300 applicants. The number of people who want to follow Jo as CEO is itself a tribute to Jo and to the Society.

Immunology is currently blossoming, reflecting the remarkable advances in basic science and the application of all this hard-won knowledge to novel therapeutics. It’s an exciting time, and we’re looking forward to continuing to play a vital role in sustaining and expanding the discipline’s future with a new CEO and President at the helm.

With best wishes,

Peter Openshaw

President, British Society for Immunology