Dear EFI Members,
I hope you have enjoyed summer holidays with your family and friends.
Time is flying fast and we are moving soon into the busy months of autumn.
Writing this current issue of the newsletter I was very saddened to learn that our deeply respected Prof. Jon van Rood passed away on July 21 at the age of 91. I met him for the first time during my training in Leiden. As my mentor and teacher he inspired me to dedicate my future career to immunogenetics and its clinical application. Jon’s remarkable and long scientific life was mainly focused on the field of histocompatibility, immunogenetics and transplantation immunology. Moreover, he has made very important contributions to the global cooperation in both organ and HSC transplantation by being a founder and co-founder of many organizations like Eurotransplant, BMDW, WMDA, Europdonor, EBMT, EFI, etc. For his outstanding scientific and humanitarian achievements Prof. van Rood was honored and awarded many times. We lost a great personality, brilliant scientist, inspiring teacher and dear friend.
And now let me go to the EFI activities and share with you the events that highlighted its spring-summer season.
First of all, it’s the extremely successful EFI annual meeting being held in Manheim/Heidelberg, Germany that attracted more than 1200 participants from about 50 countries. The elegant and exceptionally well composed Opening Ceremony combined with jazz music in harmony with the latest scientific achievements was followed by the well designed scientific and educational programs keeping the participants in the halls. The social program was selected in a way allowing the participants to touch the Heidelberg’s antique atmosphere and have fun too. Last but not least, the excellent organization made it possible for the busy schedule of the meeting to run smoothly without excessive strain and overloading in a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere. So, we are very grateful to the local organizers, the team of Caner Süsal for their excellent job organizing this EFI meeting. As usual the EFI Committee meetings were held before and during the conference. Later on, during the General Assembly the enormous and extremely important activities of these committees for EFI were presented and subjected to discussion and assessment by the attendees. Thank you all for your time and support.
Secondly, the usual meeting with the current ASHI President, this time with Michael Gautreaux, was held in Mannheim and the main point discussed was the international collaboration in H&I. Renowned experts in H&I were invited to participate in the discussion and many of them, including Steven Marsh, Dominique Charron, Marcelo Fernandez-Viña, Frans Claas and Gottfried Fisher, attended the meeting. We all agreed that there is a desire and a motivation for a more efficient and structural collaboration between APHIA/ASHI/EFI and IHIWS. Furthermore, there is a need for continuity and continuation in the work from one IHIW to the next. In relation to this it would be useful to have representatives from each of the three HLA associations acting as liaisons with the organizers of the future IHIW. These liaisons should be appointed for the full period until the next workshop. Additionally, it was discussed that if the IHIW is scheduled to take place in a continent where APHIA/ASHI/EFI operate, the respective association should organize a joint conference with the IHIW meeting. All these points were subjected to а further discussion along with the IHIW councilors in Asilomar. I would like thank all participants in the meeting for the constructive discussion and the interesting ideas, as well as and their support to the international collaboration in the exciting field of immunogenetics.
Thirdly, the 13th International Summer School on Immunogenetics was held in Dublin, 23-26 July, 2017 and was organized by EFI. There was a huge interest in this year’s summer school from the members of each of the three associations, and it was really difficult to select 48 participants from all over the world. The organizers had selected a very suitable venue for the school - Trinity College, one of the seven ancient universities of Ireland and Britain, which created a unique academic atmosphere for the participants and the lecturers. The program was well prepared and the lectures were presented by well-known eminent immunogeneticists as the faculty. The participants were invited to briefly present their own research, and the discussions were held in an informal atmosphere even with a glass of the famous Irish beer, Guinness. I greatly thank Richard Hagan and David Turner as well as Sandra van Hensbergen for their wonderful job contributing to the great success of the Dublin summer school.
Fourthly, as you know over the last year a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between EFI and the Polish Society for Immunogenetics. A first step in implementing this collaboration was the conference held in Warsaw in April this year dedicated to: "Current approaches in immunogenetics in modern transplantation”. During the first session the participants were provided with detailed information on EFI accreditation, External Proficiency Testing and the Education programs which were excellently presented by the chairs of the respective EFI Committees. Then a very important discussion followed between the Polish representatives who are authorized for legalization, coordination and accreditation of the HLA Laboratories in Poland and those from EFI, including the directors and staff of more than twenty HLA Laboratories. Undoubtedly, this joint meeting has contributed to a better integration of the Polish laboratories into the EFI family and will encourage them to apply for EFI accreditation.
And finally, how are our relations with our European sister associations progressing? In March we signed a MoU with the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) and recently with the European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS). One of the possible ways of collaboration is setting up working groups involving representatives from each of the two organizations on a given topic as well as organizing joint sessions at meetings, etc. For example, given that the number of publications for the significance of the non-HLA-genes (KIR, МICA, mHLA etc.) is constantly increasing in the field of HSCT, one possible topic which could be considered by this collaborative group could be to assess the influence of various genetic systems outside the HLA region on HSCT outcome, and to propose a consensus whether to include them in the algorithm for selection. Of course, this should be subjected to a further discussion both within EFI and with EBMT as well. With respect to this, representatives from the EFI Committees should be selected so that they can coordinate each of those collaborative activities related to science, education, accreditation and promotion. Any suggestions and desire to work in this direction are welcome.
Dear Colleagues, I’m convinced that expanding the European and the International collaboration will lead to both a greater promotion and recognition of EFI’s work on the one hand, and on the other hand, will help the achievements in H&I and transplantation reach every corner of the world.