I don’t get out very often, but this week I’ve been emulating profG. I haven’t had any time for reading so have been away from the blog, sorry
My computer is on its last legs and has been driving me nuts as it crashes every few minutes. My replacement has been on order for 3 months.
Early in the week I had to go to Liverpool for the the annual British Society of Immunology meeting. It has been spruced up a bit since I was last there in the early 1990s. Only time I have been to a restaurant with an outside toilet:-(. It reminded me of going to my nans.
However it was rather refreshing to return to my roots as an immunologist, as I hadn’t been to a BSI meeting for a while.
Any clinician who was there, was in their civvies and the Armarni grey suits were nowhere to be seen.
Unlike ECTRIMS there was no corporate hospitality, in fact there was no hospitality. There was a few old farts that I recognised and yes I wasn’t just looking in the mirror.:-) Some were from the sandle and socks brigade…. you know the type. They look like swampy the eco warrior with the leather patches on their jackets and have mad eyebrows and facial hair
If you see me wearing that stuff…kill me…as I will have lost it by then….. the sleepless nights will have caught up with me and my brain health will have gone.
Anyway there was not a drug stand in sight and the sponsors were from the machines that go ping. Actually some amazing technology was on display.
The audience was largely young people going somewhere to learn new stuff. There was no themed posters made by pharma and the person who stood in front of the poster had made them and done the work. How have we got suckered into allowing the corporate stuff , I don’t know. Actually I do know..it’s cash. I suppose I don’t have a problem.with the corporate poster but we should stop the pretence that academic neuros have done the work. Maybe it was their idea, but they haven’t done the work. But it allows pharma to sponsor the trip of the neuro to ECTRIMS. That’s why the same poster has different name orders at different meetings. Tragic. However the new stuff is really presented in the posters.
Anyway if you were lucky you got a free pen with a company logo on it. I got one with a pullout.bit showing macrophage markers….No barista coffees….Nowt. In fact, I lost my meal ticket so had to starve for the day. Whilst this is perhaps the vision of a ECTRIMS distant past, I suspect it will be some time before it becomes the vision of ECTRIMS future. However I have to say it was great to sit there and listen to stuff I don’t know.
I went to some interesting sessions. There are a few bright-eyed, bushy- tailed individuals and there was some refreshing nativity of how the pharma world works
I think I met MD2 at one of these BSI meetings in the 1980s, when he was working down South. The meetings used to be in Kensington Town Hall and I would pop in and out depending whether I had stuff to do in the lab. It was all very basic but immunology was so,so exciting. Everything was new and there were some really bright people doing.fantastic stuff.
This is now thirty years ago but we both remember one talk in particular. We both loved it.
At that time, transplantation antigens called the major histocompatibility complex MHC that allow you to accept or reject a organ from someone else had been discovered For mice this was known as the Ia molecule (pronounced eye-A). In fact this was made up of two molecules called I-A or I-E. These would control the pro-inflammatory arm of the immune response.
I bought into that and in MS we have HLADR B1 1501 that inceases risk. This was known as DR2 before we discovered genetic codes
Of course we had the regulatory cell brigade who use to come up with all sorts of rubbish ideas The lemmings would follow it. In this case they had invented a regulatory MHC molecule, I-J (Eye Jay). They made antibodies against it, they made mice with different genetic variants of it. Every immunology paper on suppression in mice had I-J as a mechanism. Sound familiar? Yep every paper now has T regs as a working mechanism. Anyway back to the past because then came the Jan Klein moment
Prof Jan Klein was not small. He was a towering Czech who worked in Germany. He was into transplantation and he gave a talk about the MHC.
(Update he has a wiki page so if interested read here)
I was fan of his. I had asked him for some help with some stuff about mice He went the extra mile and did loads of work for me and gave me the results, no strings attached. I got a paper. I had never seen him in person, he had been a science pen pal but he was a good guy.
Anyway molecular biology had been invented and he had sequenced the MHC. There was no I-J, there was no space for it!. It didn’t exist!. So the ramblings of the tolerance brigade had been shown to be what it was. Yep a load of old bollocks. (ProfG used this term this week so I guess it’s OK to use)
The guantlet was thrown down and if anyone wanted to publish on it, they were invited to the lab in Germany to try and demonstrate that he was wrong to dismiss it. He laid down the law and challenged every body to prove him wrong. It was brilliant.
Yep there have been these moments when things have been discredited but it was fun to witness it.
Then a few lemmings got up to fight their case, I can remember who they were. I remembered I sat opposite one to one of them and got showered with bits of food as their parent had obviously not taught them to not talk with your mouth full…Anyway they got minced into the ground, it was ace. I suspect this is what BoJo feared and was the reason he stayed away from the Andrew Neil show.
Ask anyone about I-J now and they will say…..What’s that?
I had to leave Liverpool early because I was double booked. So after my last session I got a train whilst the Liverpool derby was going on. I got home at 23.00. Then did a few hours work on a computer that worked and then in Prof G style I got up at 04.30 to go to the airport. As I had to go to Athens to talk to young neuroimmunology students. The flight was cheaper than the trip to Liverpool. This year they did not get any support for international participants. Do you you blow out your friends who were organising the session and disappoint the students, sometimes you have to say f- it and I went anyway.
I arrived 5 minutes before my talks were due to start, so no stress there…but 3 hours of stuff to do and the first session went on for most of the evening and I finished at 20.00.
The next day..I mean today, I did my next set of talks and and I ended by saying to the students that the stuff may be wrong but it was up to the science community to try and prove it to be wrong, if they can’t then maybe it’s not wrong.
Anyway at the end I said I wanted to do the same thing at a science meeting. Why because I would expect to get a real kicking from the audience as I challenged the lemmings, but would that be a Jan Klein moment for some of the youngsters. I doubt it but todays science is seldom challenged in the way it should be
I legged it to the airport catching the plane with 30minutes to spare and am now on the tube and train for a couple of hours and should get home about 23.30. Then in at the weekend to see the Beasties.
Not exactly a ProfG medium moment but some content for today (well tomorrow),