#NGI2020 NextGen Immunology 2020 Live Blog


The nature conference NextGen Immunology 2020 (#NGI2020) is coming up at the Weizmann Institute of Science. I’ll again live blog as it happens. Feedback is more than welcome. Spread the word and follow me on twitter: @lorenzadlung. Now: Work hard, play hard.

Host-microbe and host-microbiome interactions

Margaret McFall-Ngai, U Hawaii, USA: “The complex molecular dialogue of host-symbiont communication: Initiating and maintaining a stable symbiosis”

This paper shows that even one of the simplest animals has evolved a highly specific, symbiotic relationship with intracellular bacteria.

Eric Pamer, University of Chicago, USA: “Microbiota-mediated defense against intestinal infection”

In this milestone work, Eric and his team show mechanistically how commensals producing lantibiotics can protect from hospital-acquired infections.

Noah Palm, Yale, USA: “Mapping uncharted landscapes of host-microbioata communication”

Noah and his team enlightened us with insights on the previously unknown fact that gut microbiota secrete ligands of human G-protein coupled receptors in this study. Some of the bacterial-derived metabolites served as agonists of orphan receptors, which means that there was no ligand known for these receptors before.

Lalita Ramakrishnan, Cambridge, UK: “Learning immunology from the tubercle bacillus”

In a stunning Cell paper, the Ramakrishnan lab showed how mitochondrial calcium overload leads to necrosis of mycobacterium-infected zebrafish and human macrophages. However, plasma membrane L-type calcium channels represent drug targets for rational intervention into tuberculosis.

Petter Brodin, Karolinska, Sweden: “Human immune system development during the first weeks and months of life”

Petter and his team explore in this recent preprint the variability of the human immune landscape over time. They find highly individual patterns.

Eran Elinav, Weizmann, Israel: “Host-Microbiome interactions in health and disease”

Eran commented with Ido and me on our recent Cell paper in an editorial and put our discovery in the context of ageing. We speculate that there will be a cell-based intervention into metabolic disorders fostering maintenance of homeostasis.

Naama Geva-Zatorsky, Technion, Israel: “Combinatorial gut microbiota-host interactions”

Naama wrote an essay on human beings as holobionts composed of bi-directional interaction networks between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells for maintenance of biological functions.

Megha Basavappa, Upenn, USA: “Characterizing the role of long noncoding RNAs in innate antiviral responses”

Megha gave a preview on two Molecular Cell papers indicating dependencies of putative immunogenicity of circular RNAs.

Rotem Sorek, Weizmann, Israel: “Evolutionary origin of the cGAS-STING innate immunity pathway in microbial defense against phage”

Here is a perspective on the pan-genome that encodes a diverse array of antiviral defence systems.

Shai Bel, BIU, Israel: “Autophagy and IBD: trickier than expected”

Shai showed in Science how intestinal epithelial cells sense invading bacterial pathogens, and that they reroute lysozyme to ensure delivery to the gut lumen and subsequent prevention of bacterial invasion.

Richard Flavell, Yale, USA: “The Winter’s Tale of T cell Tails”

Richard was planning to speak about his recent Cell paper, where they discovered that enteric neurons produce IL-18, which is required for protection from Salmonella infection. But since this is published and only unpublished data was allowed at the conference, he presented something else…

Cancer immunology

Miriam Merad, MSSM, USA: “Searching for APC targets to enhance therapeutic antitumor immunity”

Miriam was involved in work recently published in Nature Medicine, characterising subsets of T cells and macrophages in plaques from a/symptomatic atherosclerosis patients, which may pave the way for precision medicine.

Eric Vivier, CIML/ Innate Pharma, France: “Harnessing innate immunity in cancer therapy”

Eric published a decent review with the exact same title of his talk in Nature.

Ido Amit, Weizmann, Israel: “The power of ONE: Immunology in the age of single cell genomics”

In the Amit lab, we are constantly developing new protocols, but we are also updating existing technologies. Here comes for instance the next generation of the MARS-seq pipeline in Nature Protocols.

Mark Davis, Stanford, USA: “Tools for T and B cells”

Mark lately set up a Scientific Data resource, called FluPRINT, with each over 3,000 clinical parameters to learn antibody responses to influenza vaccines.


Michal Schwarz, Weizmann, Israel: “Mechanism underlying Immune checkpoint blockade to combat Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia”

In this perspective, Michal describes her intriguing journey over the last two decades, in which was established that circulating immune cells are needed specifically for counteracting brain pathologies.

Asya Rolls, Technion, Israel: “Using the brain to control peripheral immunity”

Asya found in a Sleep paper that already short-term sleep deprivation of mice resulted in recruitment of B cells to the brain, which was linked to neurodegenerative diseases.

Elaine Hsiao, UCLA, USA: “Microbiome-nervous system interactions during early development”

Elaine and her team discovered in Nature Microbiology that the commensal Turicibacter sanguinis regulates serotonin levels in the intestine, and in turn lipid metabolism, which highlights the importance of the brain-gut host-microbiome axis.

Daniel Saban, Duke, USA: “A stereotypic subset of microglia that are neuroprotective in etiologically distinct retinal degenerative diseases”

Daniel investigated in his lab’s work published in Immunity the functional diversity of microglia in the mouse retina. A pool of microglia depending on IL-34 contributes to neuronal function in homeostasis while another microglia pool protects the retinal pigmented epithelium during degeneration.

Immunity at the mucosal niche

After quite some work, which made me miss most parts of the sessions on “Adaptive immunity” and “Tissue resident immunity”, I’m back reporting fantastic published stuff from the speakers.

Thaddeus Stappenbeck, Wash U, USA: “Integration of immune and microbial factors by the intestinal epithelium”

Thaddeus wrote a perspective in Nature a while ago, which nonetheless is still valid: Host-microbiome interactions have to be invested on a metagenomic level, including littermate controls, genetic perturbation and breeding/housing experiments.

Fredrik Backhed, U Gothenburg, Sweden: “Understanding mechanisms underlying insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes”

Fredrik was involved in a work published in Gut, in which they gained first insights into the microbiota of obese patients with Prader-Willi syndrome that are protected from insulin resistance.

Eran Segal, Weizmann, Israel: “Personalizing treatments using microbiome and clinical data”

In a recent outlook in Nature, Eran argued that deep phenotyping of study volunteers will transform therapeutic interventions.

Gunnar C. Hansson, U Gothenburg, Sweden: “Specialized goblet cells secrete and provide different levels of intestinal mucus protection”

Read Gunnar’s work in Cell Reports, where turnover rates of more than 3,000 proteins were determined by heavy isotope label incorporation and mass spectrometry in five different locations of epithelial cells along the murine intestine. Interesting: Turnover in the small intestine is faster than in the colon. In germ-free mice, protein half-live is a day longer as compared to conventional mice.

Lydia Lynch, Harvard, USA: “Immune Cells Are What We Eat”

Her talk was certainly one of my favourites, topic-wise for sure. Read Lydia’s wonderful review on unconventional T cells in adipose tissue homeostasis.

Vishva M. Dixit, Genentech, USA: “Discovery of a ubiquitin ligase that puts the brake on microglia-mediated inflammation”

In a recent Nature paper, Vishva and his team explored the plasticity of caspase 8 in regulating apoptosis/necroptosis.

Immunity to Cancer

Alexander Rudensky, Sloan Kettering, USA: “Transcriptional control of regulatory T cell lineage”

Sasha led work published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, in which is shown that IL-2 production regulates the pool size of regulatory T cells in the thymus to prevent fatal autoimmunity.

Dana Pe’er, Sloan Kettering, USA: “Ramblings on Cell type and Cell state”

In a Nature paper, Dana and her team delineate the ontogeny of the murine endoderm from embryonic day 3.5 to 8.75.


A pair of two. A dimer of two science-inspired songs. Adapted for a Poetry Slam. The event took place on November 20, 2019, at the BeerBazaar Levinsky in Tel Aviv, Israel, and it was themed “Rise & Shine”. I decided for two central motives: Meiosis. Mitochondria. To make the lyrics more accessible to the lay public, I’ll not only link to the Wikipedia entries of the technical terms, but I’ll also provide some explanation about the artistic process. A video of the performance can be found here.

The first piece is about meiosis, which is a process required for seed generation and sexual reproduction. It requires, however that the genetic material (“chromosomes”) in our cells is reduced by half. Pairs of chromosomes are separated generating haploid daughter cells with a single copy of all genetic information. This set is incomplete, given that all our cells usually contain a pair (i.e. two copies) of every chromosome.

The second piece is about mitochondria, the powerhouses in our cells, which generate energy. I got inspired by the tower of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Divide and conquer

Replicating loneliness leaves nothing to confess.
A nucleus is slumbering until the shofar’s morning.
Turning to stochastic bursts makes lingering the worst.

Relationships with premisses inhibit oogenesis
A vision blurred, pinching alert.
Division post insertion, despite the germ-aversion.

Uncertainty not compromised since this pain was fertilised.
How can we survive tonight as long as ghouls divide?
Ancient anxiety revived in me.
Two loners meet and then recede.
Without repeat. Incomplete.

Forces teared their chromosomes apart,
right in two, right from the start.
Metaphase caused dissonance.
Meiosis shatters cohesins,
it puts the shackles right back on.
Haploid upon routines,
and all the seeds are one.

The Tower of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Original (left), edited (right).

Impermeable membranes surrounding me in that… cell.
I’m permanently caught in vain, with no way to excel. 
The organelles will never work, they lost their energy,
and so did I lose all what makes me, all that let me… be.
Catabolism, breaking down the macromolecules,
the factory has long shut down, no process that it fuels.
Millions of those atoms forming bonds for ATP.
If proton pumps will not expel the toxin, there’s no need.
Eating myself alive is dying, necrosis at extremities.
Mitochondria concede defeat to all their enemies.
Suddenly, there is a spark that lights up a great fire.
Flames diffuse through cytoplasm, temperatures climb higher.
My desire for that torch was expanding infinitely.
Rise & Shine, the torch as torture hurting me thus intimately.
I am burning, inflammation, smoke becomes the cloud.
The torch brings light into the darkness while I’m fading out.

#curious2018 Future Insight Conference Live Blog Merck

I’ll be blogging from the #curious2018 FUTURE INSIGHT CONFERENCE hosted on on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of Merck in Darmstadt, Germany. Follow updates for aspiring talks by the brightest minds of our time as they happen. Continue reading “#curious2018 Future Insight Conference Live Blog Merck”

Reise nach Jerusalem

Mein rechter, rechter Platz ist leer. Vom Jaffator bis hin zum Meer. Je nach dem, Jerusalem, ein-Wort-Antwort: Hauptstadt. Anstatt Heiliger Ort, ein Satz: Einsatz für einen Platz zwischen den Stühlen. Eine Reise nach Jerusalem mit Fakten und Gefühlen…

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Resilience: When scientists must stop questioning

I had applied for the EMBO Long-Term Fellowship with an innovative project idea to start as a PostDoc in a new, fantastic environment after a great PhD and other precious and competitive offers. It came quite as a surprise to me that my application was not successful. Even though we as scientist should always be curious, there is a point we must stop asking questions…

Continue reading “Resilience: When scientists must stop questioning”