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The MRC Human Immunology Unit (HIU), based at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, aims to foster research in human immunology with the goal of developing better treatments against cancer, infections and autoimmune diseases. The full range of research at the Unit, commitment to public engagement and its sense of community, were on display at the Unit’s annual day, which took place on 21 September.

The day opened with an introduction by Prof Richard Cornall, on behalf of the Unit’s director Prof Enzo Cerundolo. This was an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the HIU in the preceding year, including its impressive number of publications and translational outputs, including several clinical trials and productive collaborations with industry.
HIU Day 2017 talk (photo by Erdinc Sezgin)
Oral presentations were structured around themes of relevance to the unit within the wider remit of human immunology, from cancer and pathogen immunity to antibody response, innate immunity and lymphocyte development. This series of fantastic talks was mostly delivered by DPhil students and postdocs, with a strong focus on ongoing work to provide a real sense of the current research in the Unit. During the lunch break there was a busy poster session, another opportunity to share updates on recent work. The oral and poster presentations also highlighted the importance of the support and equipment available to researchers through the MRC WIMM’s core facilities, as well as the significant level of collaborations and interactions between groups and with external researchers.
Breaks between talk sessions were an opportunity to showcase the Unit’s efforts to engage with the public. Two recently developed activities were on display. One of these was a small and portable table-top activity that helps explain skin allergies, developed for this year’s MRC Festival of Research. Meanwhile, researchers got into character while demonstrating their new interactive play/game where a detective dendritic cell identifies infected cells, which are then destroyed by a ninja T-cell and cleared by a maid macrophage. This activity will be on display at the upcoming Curiosity Carnival – an Oxford-wide event on 29 September celebrating research. Prof Graham Ogg emphasised the Unit’s commitment to public engagement in the afternoon session, and current participants were at hand to share their experiences and encourage other members to get involved.
HIU Day 2017 macrophage maid (photo by Erdinc Sezgin)
HIU Day 2017 macrophage maid (photo by Cat Vicente)
HIU Day 2017 Trinity dinner (photo by Erdinc Sezgin)
The scientific sessions were followed by a candlelit dinner at Trinity College, when the talk and poster prizes were announced. Mike Barnkob (Cerundolo lab) and Clare Hardman (Ogg lab), were the joint first prize winners for oral presentations, for their talks on how to prevent the inhibition of T cell infiltration in solid tumours and ILC2 and skin disease respectively. Gennaro Prota & Uzi Gileadi (Cerundolo Lab) were the winners of the first poster prize for their work on a novel vaccination strategy, while Jonny Hertzog (Rehwinkel Lab) won the second place poster prize for his research on Zika virus and innate immunity.
Photos by Erdinc Sezgin (Eggeling lab)