31st Annual Canadian Society for Immunology Meeting

Meera RajBy Dr. Meera Raj, Postdoctoral Fellow, Scott Lab

Thanks to the Centre for Blood Research for providing me with the CBR Postdoctoral Fellow Travel Award. Because of this travel award, I had the opportunity to attend the 31st Annual Canadian Society for Immunology Meeting (CSI) for the first time. The meeting was held at Western University, located in London, the “forest city” of Ontario (and not England). The Western University campus is one of Canada’s oldest campuses, is surrounded by beautiful gardens and trees, and has a mix of gothic and modern architecture.

Western University in London, Ontario. Photo credit: Balcer/Wikimedia Commons

At the event, I found the members of CSI to be exceptionally welcoming and accepting of newcomers like myself. These members celebrated contributions and accomplishments of all Canadian Immunologists. Investigators from UBC also made the list of accomplished immunologists. Dr. Michael Grant, a professor at Memorial University and a former UBC student (B.Sc. and M.Sc.), received a CSI – Hardy Cinader Award; Dr. Megan K. Leving, a UBC professor, received a CSI Investigator Award; Dr. Martin J. Richer, an assistant professor at McGill University and a former UBC Ph.D. student received a CSI New Investigator Award. At the CSI symposium, there were interesting presentations on topics that included Aging & Immunosenescence: Susceptibility to Infection and Implications for Vaccination; Conventional and Unconventional T Cell Development: Fate Choices & Spatial Factors; and Cancer Immunotherapy: Basic Mechanisms & Clinical Promise.

My poster, describing the making of a better-humanized mouse via polymer-grafting, was one of 108 posters presented at the conference. Humanized mice are an important tool in studying human diseases in an animal model. My work demonstrated that the polymer-grafting of human leukocytes can allow engraftment and delay xenorecognition by donor T-cells in an immunocompromised host mouse. This prevention/delay in xenorecognition, measured by the onset of T cell-mediated graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), may provide a longer window of opportunity for studying the immunological processes involved in human disease, thereby, generating a better-humanized mouse. I had several visitors interested in my work, as they had either struggled with humanized mice in their previous projects, were currently working with humanized mice, or were just curious if polymer-grafting was toxic to cells.

In addition to getting useful feedback on my project, I had a great time networking, interacting and discussing novel ideas pursued by students and investigators. I was able to meet former lab members and to learn more about their individual projects. Buffet lunches and dinners were held at the Great Hall, which also served as a venue to network and socialize. Meals at the Great Hall were accompanied by performances from Patrick Coppolino, a comedian; Swagger, London’s favourite party band; and some hilarious ‘1-minute 1-slide’ voluntary presentations by trainees to increase attendance at their poster presentations.