Thematic

Strategies for Antigen Specific Tolerance

Thursday, June 15
1:00 PM - 2:45 PM

Daniel Rotrosen

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Megan K. Levings

Professor
University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia

Megan K. Levings, PhD
Professor, Dept of Surgery, University of British Columbia
Head, Childhood Diseases Theme, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Dr. Megan Levings has been in the UBC Department of Surgery since 2003 when she was recruited back to Canada as a Canada Research Chair in Transplantation. In 2011 she joined the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute where she now heads the Childhood Diseases Theme. Dr. Levings’ scientific career started with summer research positions in a fruit fly genetics lab at Simon Fraser University. She then did her graduate training in the genetics program with Dr. John Schrader at UBC. In 1999 she joined Dr. Maria Grazia Roncarolo's lab in Milan, Italy, undertaking postdoctoral training in the emerging area of immune regulation. She was among the first groups to show that a special kind of white blood cell, known as a T regulatory cell, could be used as a therapy to stop harmful immune responses. She continues this line of research at UBC, and is now internationally recognized in the field of human immunology and chairs the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies Centres of Excellence. She leads a vibrant group of trainees and staff who are researching how to use T regulatory cells to replace conventional immunosuppression in the context of transplantation and autoimmunity.

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Mark Peakman

Professor of Clinical Immunology
Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology, Kings College London

Mark Peakman trained in medicine at University College London and pursued postgraduate training in clinical immunology. After he received his PhD based on studies of the immune system in Type 1 diabetes (a childhood disease in which the cells that make insulin in the body are irreparably damaged by inflammation) he held a senior clinical research fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. He subsequently returned to the UK and now oversees a research group at King’s College London in the Department of Immunobiology. The main focus of the research is the role of immune cells (T lymphocytes) in the aetiology of the autoimmune disease, Type 1 diabetes. In particular, the group has defined the critical targets for T cells that appear to have a role in the destruction of insulin-producing cells, and key immunological pathways through which this damage is mediated. More recently, the work has led to the definition of targets enabling the design of a novel approach to therapy. This strategy, termed “peptide immunotherapy” is the first of its kind in diabetes and further phases of this programme are ongoing. In the future, a better understanding of the role of the immune response in Type 1 diabetes will promote the further development of these novel therapeutics into the clinical setting.

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Mark Larche

Professor, Dept. of Medicine
McMaster University

Dr. Mark Larché PhD is a Professor of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario and a Canada Research Chair in Allergy & Immune Tolerance. For the past 20 years his research has focused on manipulating human T cell responses in vivo using synthetic peptides representing T cell epitopes of allergen molecules. Dr. Larché has used peptides to activate allergen-specific T cells in individuals with allergic asthma and has shown that small doses can result in profound airway narrowing after just 3 hours. These were the first studies to document peptide-induced late asthmatic reactions, which can be thought of as “T cell-induced asthma”. These studies identify direct contributions of allergen-specific T cells to symptoms of asthma and may identify novel molecular targets for intervention. The second theme of the laboratory has been the development of peptide immunotherapy for the treatment of allergic disease. Dr. Larché has demonstrated that a short course of peptides has disease-modifying activity that persists for at least two years. Positive phase IIb clinical trial results have been achieved with peptide therapies for cat allergy, house dust mite allergy, ragweed allergy and grass pollen allergy. Studies funded through industry, CIHR and NIH are currently being undertaken to understand mechanisms of action. In addition to human studies, Dr. Larché has established murine models of allergic airways disease and peanut-induced anaphylaxis. Dr. Larché was a co-Founder of Circassia Ltd. (http://www.circassia.com/) and of Adiga Life Sciences Inc. (www.adiga.ca/).

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