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28 Oct 2019

International Congress of Immunology: Insight from Dr Pin Shie Quah

Dr Pin Shie Quah recently travelled to Beijing for the International Congress of Immunology, the biggest immunology-themed conference in the world. 

Here are her insights.

The International Congress of Immunology is a triennial and the biggest event for immunologists. The first I attended was hosted by Melbourne in 2016. I was a PhD student back then, and you can imagine how amazed and impressed I was by the size of the meeting and the learning atmosphere. Filled with positive experience, I was eager to sign up for this year’s meeting as soon as the registration was opened.

After registering myself on the first day of the conference, I attended the welcoming reception, and was excited to see many familiar and new faces. The night ended after many great conversations, food, drinks and music.

On the following day, I arrived early at the National Convention Centre for the official opening ceremony only to find out that the massive hall was nearly filled. Everyone was so enthusiastic! After the welcoming speeches from Professors Xuetao Cao, Zhigang Tian and Alberto Mantovani, we had the honour of witnessing the keynote lectures from three Nobel Laureates: Professors Peter Doherty, Jules Hoffman and Tasuku Honjo. Throughout these lectures, Australia was mentioned many times for not only contributing to but also pioneering the field of immunology. This makes me proud to be a part of the research community in Australia, and a member of the Doherty Institute!

The next few days of the conference was packed with many informative poster and oral presentations. I gave an oral presentation about my PhD project on the role of BAFF (B cell survival factor) on the biology of natural killer (NK) cells. The session was co-chaired by Dr Alexandra Corbett from our institute who also shared her experience on this website.

While there were many excellent lectures at the conference, I found the lecture from Professor Vijay Kuchroo on the induction and regulation of Th17 cells most enlightening as I have been working with Dr Catherine Kennedy on IL-23-dependent Th17 response on gastrointestinal intestinal pathogen C. rodentium. By convention, RORgt and IL-17 are used to identify Th17 cells; however, Prof. Kuchroo discussed the importance of using a set of molecular signatures to analyse these cells in disease setting.

After five productive days, the conference was closed by Prof. Zhigang Tian. Prof. Faith Osier then assumed the International Union of Immunological Society (IUIS) presidency for 2019 – 2022.

She gave an empowering speech on her goals in promoting gender equity, fostering immunologists, refining resources, advocating for global issues, and supporting the official IUIS journal (Frontiers in Immunology). It is worth mentioning that Prof. Osier is the first African and second female president of IUIS. The conference ended on a high note with My African Dream sang by a conference participant, and a promotional video clip of the next IUIS meeting in Cape Town by Prof. Clive Gray. Good bye Beijing, thanks for your hospitality! See you in Cape Town next, IUIS!

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