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VUB Francqui-Collen Chair 2021: appointed to Maria-Luisa Alegre

donderdag, 18 maart, 2021 - 18:30

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel Francqui-Collen Chair 2021 has been appointed to Maria-Luisa Alegre, MD PhD Gwen Knapp Center for Lupus and Immunology Research, University of Chicago. Prof. Alegre obtained her MD summa cum laude from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1985 and is currently a tenured Professor of Medicine with a secondary appointment in Surgery at the University of Chicago. Her laboratory has conducted ground-breaking research on the mechanisms of transplantation tolerance and breaking of tolerance by infections and inflammation.


A picture of Maria-Luisa Alegre

Dr. Alegre will give five lectures as Francqui-Collen Chair Holder: 

18/03/2021 - Lesson 1: Introduction to the Immune System and Early Work on T cell activation

  • Introduction to the immune system and salient points of relevance to transplant immunology.
  • Work on costimulatory and coinhibitory molecules and their relevance for anti-tumor immunity and transplant rejection.


22/04/2021 - Lesson 2: Induction and stability of Transplantation Tolerance

    • Transplantation tolerance. Can it be achieved? Clinical experience of deliberate or fortuitous development of transplantation tolerance and of its stability over time. Mouse model of heart transplantation tolerance, the immune mechanisms that maintain it and the inflammatory challenges that can break it. Discussion of the concept of the memory of tolerance.

02/06/2021 - Lesson 3: Immune Memory and Allosensitization

  • Discussion of the impact of sensitization via pregnancy, prior infections or prior transplants on transplant outcome and the ability to induce transplantation tolerance.
  • Discussion of humoral immunity, the role of alloantibodies in transplant rejection and the tolerization of B cells to promote transplant acceptance in sensitized hosts.

16/09/2021 - Lesson 4: Role of Environmental Factors and Microbiota on Transplant Rejection and Tolerance

  • Non microbiota environmental factors that can modulate the immune response to a transplanted organ. Discussion of diet and exercise and how they influence transplant and tumor outcomes.
  • The impact of the microbiota on transplant outcomes. Discussion of the functions of the microbiota at steady state and of the effects of dysbiosis on transplant rejection. Role of organ-resident versus intestinal microbiota in the rejection of colonized versus non-colonized organs.
  • You can also attent this lecture on campus as it is included in the programme of the annual congress of the Belgian Transplantation Society. Venue: VUB Brussels Health Campus, Auditorium Brouwer, Laarbeeklaan 103, 1090 Jette (Brussels).

07/10/2021 - Lesson 5: T Cell Tolerance: Implications for Cancer and Autoimmunity - Summary of career path from transplant medicine to transplant research and from Brussels to Chicago.

  • Discussion T cell anergy, exhaustion and regulation in the context of pregnancy, cancer and autoimmunity and its relevance to cancer immunotherapy and checkpoint blockade therapy.
  • Discussion of the modulation of T cell function by the microbiota and how it plays a role in tumor immunology.
  • Touch upon the downstream activation of innate immune cells by adaptive immunity, its pathogenic effects for autoimmunity, and the forward feedback on T cell activation.
  • Brief discussion of innate memory and relevance for transplantation, autoimmunity and cancer.

The closing lecture of the conference cycle will end with a reflection on Professor Alegre's career path from transplant physician in Brussels to head of an immunology laboratory at the University of Chicago. This part of the conference will be chaired by Prof. Michel Goldman, Founder and director of the I3h Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

RIZIV/INAMI accreditation is requested. A proof of participation will be sent to all participants of the conference. Register here

BIO Dr. Maria-Luisa Alegre

Dr. Alegre obtained her MD summa cum laude from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1985, and completed Internal Medicine training followed by a fellowship in Intensive Care at the Hôpital Erasme. Interested in the physiopathology underlying the complications of the numerous transplant patients she was treating in the intensive care unit, she joined the laboratory of Michel Goldman at the Université Libre de Bruxelles to study transplantation immunology in mouse models, and, at the completion of a Fondation Erasme fellowship, obtained a NATO fellowship to join the transplant immunology laboratory of Jeff Bluestone at the University of Chicago. She received a PhD in Immunology from the University of Chicago in 1993, along with a Best Dissertation Award, and obtained a PhD in Medical Sciences summa cum laude from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1994. Following an immunology research fellowship in the laboratory of Craig Thompson at the University of Chicago, she was appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago in 1999 where she is currently a tenured Professor of Medicine with a secondary appointment in Surgery. Her scientific responsibilities include running her research laboratory, and teaching immunology to undergraduate students of the University of Chicago, graduate students in the Committee on Immunology Program, and clinical fellows in the Department of Medicine.

Dr. Alegre’s research interests center on the immune mechanisms involved in the induction and stability of transplantation tolerance, and on the impact of infections and the microbiota on alloimmunity, transplant rejection and tolerance. Most of her studies are performed in mouse models of solid organ transplantation and involve multidisciplinary collaborations. She currently is overall PI on an NIAID Program Project Grant investigating the stability of transplantation tolerance, PI on an R01 studying the impact of the microbiota on alloimmunity, and multi-PI partner of a U01 assessing the consequences of diet and obesity on the microbiota and transplant outcomes.

Within the transplantation community, Dr. Alegre is a past member of the NIH TTT and AITC study sections, and current member of the NIH CMI-B study section, reviewing transplant immunology applications. She is a past chair of the Community of Basic Scientists within the American Society of Transplantation, past chair of the AST Grants Committee, and a past member of the AST Board of Directors. She is the current Chair of the American Association of Immunologists’ Nominations Committee. She served as Section editor of Literature Watch and of Basic Science Reviews for the American Journal of Transplantation and as Section Editor for The Journal of Immunology. She has organized many immunology and transplant immunology meetings, including being past chair of the Autumn Immunology Conference, of 3 Great Lakes Transplant Immunology Forum meetings, and of the AST/ESOT co-sponsored Basic Science in Transplantation 2016 meeting.