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Harnessing the Immune System to Treat Infection, Autoimmune Disorders and Cancer Perona-Wright, Georgia; Harder, Ken; Horwitz, Marc; Abraham, Ninan

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Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by the Vancouver Public Library and UBC Life Sciences Institute. Our ability to harness the power of the immune system to treat a vast variety of diseases is rapidly advancing. Join the Life Sciences Institute’s Infection, Inflammation & Immunity – I3 – research group leaders for short talks and discussion about the use of the immune system in treating infection, autoimmune disorders and cancer. This talk is an informal and open forum that aims to bring the latest and greatest ideas in the area of the Life Sciences to the public. Each event is free to attend and will include a talk, networking opportunities and reception. This series focuses on Personalized Medicine and how the Life Sciences Institute faculty, staff and students are working to change clinical practice, improve health outcomes, and reduce health costs. In partnership with the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre’s Health Information Series, an ongoing public lecture series that take place in the Lower Mainland community, this talk will also be recorded for webcast viewing at a later date. Panel Topics: Dr. Georgia Perona-Wright – “Using the immune system to combat infection” Dr. Ken Harder – “Treating cancer with immunology” Dr. Marc Horwitz – “Immunotherapies in autoimmunity” Dr. Ninan Abraham as moderator. Speakers: Dr. Georgia Perona-Wright – Dr Perona Wright’s research is on immune responses that can be both protective and pathological. Her aim is to understand how the balance between these two outcomes is achieved, concentrating on the role of cytokines during infection. She is particularly interested in the interaction between coincident, opposing cytokines. Dr. Ken Harder – The long-term goal of the Harder Lab is to identify the key genes and cellular pathways that guide dendritic cell lineage choice and dendritic cell function. We are particularly interested in the role of tyrosine kinase/phosphatase-regulated signalling pathways that control signalling thresholds important for the development and function of DCs. The work utilizes mouse models in which the levels and activities of key signaling molecules have been manipulated allowing the lab to delineate the roles of particular genes or signalling pathways in mammalian dendritic cell biology and in innate/adaptive immunity at the whole animal level. The lab is using these mouse models to explore the relationship between alterations in DC development/function and host responses to tumours and bacterial or viral pathogens. Ultimately, this research program will lead to the identification of critical proteins and pathways that may become targets of future therapeutic strategies to either augment host-pathogen/tumour responses or alleviate pathological immune responses. Dr. Marc Horwitz – Dr. Horwitz’s laboratory is interested in identifying, characterizing and determining the mechanisms of viral-induced immune disease in a variety of complex chronic disorders. These include, but are not limited to autoimmune diseases like diabetes, autoimmune myocarditis and multiple sclerosis, immunosuppression induced by viruses such as HIV and Measles, haemorrhagic fevers as observed following Dengue fever virus infection, and meningitis induced by viruses like West Nile Virus. Specifically, Dr. Horwitz’s primary goal of the program is to interconnect the changes effecting the ability of the immune system to respond to infection with its ability to develop immune dysfunction leading to disease. Moderator Dr. Ninan Abraham – Dr. Abraham is Associate Professor and Co-leader, Infection, Inflammation and Immunity (I3) Research Group at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Department of Zoology. His research is in the development, maintenance and proper functioning of T- and B-cells are essential for the survival of mammals in a pathogen-ridden environment. Their absence results in inherited or acquired immunodeficiency, the latter of which is the basis of a growing health crisis. Conversely, deregulated growth and development can lead to cancer of the immune system. Leukemia and Lymphoma are the most common cancers among children. His group’s research focus is on a cytokine, interleukin-7 (IL-7), that is an essential growth factor for lymphocytes. Defects in IL-7 or its deregulation cause immunodeficiency and lymphomas respectively. Our long-term goal is to use genetic models of IL-7 function to understand the key intracellular, signaling processes that contribute to these diseases and to formulate novel therapeutic strategies.

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