ImmunologyLA Draws Record Crowd and Abstracts

ImmunologyLA, an annual meeting co-sponsored by Cedars-Sinai that presents the latest discoveries in immunology by Los Angeles-area scientists, drew record numbers of attendees and abstract submissions in May.

A total of 167 faculty members, postdoctoral scientists and other research staff — the most in the event's five-year's history — gathered May 22 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. They browsed more than 50 study posters and listened to a dozen oral presentations. Two Cedars-Sinai junior scientists were among five who won awards for their studies.

Keynote speaker Richard M. Locksley, MD, (right) professor at the University of California, San Francisco, discusses a research poster at the ImmunologyLA meeting.

One highlight was the keynote speech by renowned allergy expert Richard M. Locksley, MD, professor in the Department of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and director of the Sandler Asthma Basic Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco. He also is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In introductory remarks, Jonathan Kaye, PhD, cited Locksley's "many seminal contributions" and "pioneering work." Kaye is professor and vice chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Biomedical Sciences and director of its Research Division of Immunology, a major organizer of the meeting. The other organizers were the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

In his speech, Locksley outlined the history of allergy and described "the global burden of allergic pathology," with an estimated 300 million people suffering from asthma. He said the problem is growing, with asthma prevalence in the United States having increased 75 percent from 1980 to 1994.

Locksley’s laboratory studies the foundations of allergic immunity and strives to define the underlying processes mediated by this response. His lab contributed to the discovery of group 2 innate lymphoid cells, or ILC2s, which have been implicated in asthma and other allergic diseases.

Over the last few years, Locksley has used genetically altered mice to track ILC2s in various tissues and reveal key aspects of their biology. At ImmunologyLA, he displayed data showing how immune cells can be stimulated by environmental components to induce allergic responses.

For the second year in a row, the American Association of Immunologists sponsored Young Investigators Awards at the conference. Six biomedical companies also supported the conference.

The awards for best oral presentation went to Stacey Kolar, PhD, postdoctoral scientist in the laboratory of George Liu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Pediatrics and a pediatric infectious diseases physician at Cedars-Sinai's Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center; and graduate student Autumn York, from UCLA. The awards for best poster went to Corey R. Seehus, a graduate student in Kaye's laboratory; and postdoctoral scientist Francie Mercer, PhD, and graduate student Christopher Seet, both from UCLA. Each award carried a $200 prize.

The organizing committee for this year's ImmunologyLA comprised: