IUIS-Frontiers Webinar Series on COVID-19

The situation that we are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. To illuminate some of the recent developments pursued by leading scientists during this turbulent time, the IUIS collaborated with Frontiers and launched a series of weekly scientific webinars to accelerate the development of novel diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

International acclaimed speakers shared their insights and latest research results on Covid-19-related topics, welcoming an audience that featured more than 8,800 scientists from 86 countries. All of the presentations received great feedback – attendees especially enjoyed the lively back-and-forth with presenters in the discussion period.

The webinars are available on demand –watch them now and get valuable insights on Covid-19 related topics.

On-demand Webinars

Alexis M. Kalergis: Impairment of the immunological and neurological synapses by respiratory viruses. Implications for vaccine design.

Respiratory viruses are a leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia worldwide, due an inefficient viral immunity even after disease resolution. These viruses can cause severe symptoms both in the respiratory and nervous systems, such as bronchiolitis and encephalopathy, respectively. Alexis and team have observed that some respiratory viruses prevent the proper function of immune cells, such as T cells and dendritic cells, by impairing the immunological synapse assembly between these cells. Inhibition of the immunological synapse could work as a major virulence factor by impairing host immunity and enhancing susceptibility to reinfection. Further, respiratory viruses can cause a learning impairment due to inflammation at the central nervous system. Due to alterations on the blood brain barrier after infection, elements of the immune system enter the CNS impairing the normal function of neurons and astrocytes in the host. Based on these data, Alexis and team have generated novel vaccine approaches to strengthen the immunological synapse leading to protective immunity against these respiratory pathogens and preventing CNS damage. These findings have permitted us to design a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, which is currently in preclinical evaluation. The webinar is moderated by Rosana Pelayo.

Joyce Ngoi & Peter Quashie: Tracking SARS-CoV-2 in Ghana

This seminar Peter & Joyce discuss the analysis of 2 sets of SARS-CoV-2 sequences which include imported and circulating viruses at the inception of Ghana’s outbreak, and circulating viruses 2-3 months after Ghana’s first reported cases. They present on the adaptations on the ARCTIC protocols they carried out in sequencing batches, discuss the benefits inured by the ARCTIC V3 primers and relative ease of sequencing on the MiSeq and Nanopore platforms. They also analyse the Ghanaian viruses, describe their evolution relative to other SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks and the observed transmission patterns in Southern Ghana. The webinar is moderated by Gordon Awandare.

Kathleen Sullivan: COVID-19 in immunodeficient patients

Kathleen Sullivan shares her insights on:
– Immune compromise and the risk for severe COVID-19
– Primary immune deficiencies and COVID-19, what we know and what we don’t know
– Vaccine options for people living with primary immunodeficiencies
Dr. Kathleen Sullivan is the Division Chief of Allergy Immunology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, overseeing one of the largest North American clinics for inborn errors of immunity. The webinar is moderated by Carmen Martín.

Yuting Ma: The impacts of psychological stress on virus-associated immune responses: unignorable challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic immunity 

Yuting Ma discusses the impacts of psychological stress on virus-associated immune responses: The pandemic outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) has become a major threat to our physical health. Simultaneously, the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the resulting countermeasures (particularly lockdowns) are negatively affecting our mental well-being, due to disease progression-induced fear and fatigue, social distancing and isolation, family conflicts during quarantine, supply shortages, unemployment, and mounting financial burdens. Accumulating evidence suggests that stress is associated with an increased susceptibility to, and severity of, viral infection, which can be at least partially explained by systemic changes in anti-viral innate and adaptive immunity, as well as dysregulated inflammatory and autoimmune responses. Furthermore, pandemic-related psychological stress may influence the efficacy of viral vaccines. Thus, deciphering the underlying molecular links between psychological stress and viral infection-associated immune-inflammatory alternations will provide novel insights into the development of optimal therapeutic interventions and prophylactic vaccines.

Sacha Gnjatic: Inflammatory cytokines and SARS-CoV-2 antibody responses predict survival and severity in COVID-19

In this webinar, Sacha Gnjatic will cover both innate and adaptive immune aspects potentially driving pathology following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Applying their immune monitoring experience to large patient cohorts hospitalized at Mount Sinai in New York during the COVID-19 epidemic, Sacha Gnjatic and his team investigated cytokine and antibody profiles. They found that levels of IL-6, TNF-alpha, and antiviral immunoglobulins are helpful in predicting severity and survival outcome, and may be useful to stratify patients and guide tailored therapies.
The webinar is moderated by Miriam Merad, Vice President of IUIS.

Elizabeth Mann and Madhvi Menon: Longitudinal immune profiling reveals distinct features of COVID-19 pathogenesis

Elizabeth Mann and Madhvi Menon discuss findings from their recent longitudinal immune profiling study with admitted COVID-19 patients across four hospitals in Manchester at the height of the pandemic in the UK. They find key immune signatures that track with disease severity and can potentially be used to identify patients upon admission that are destined for intensive care. They also determine how immune responses change throughout the disease course and how this differs in patients with milder disease that recover compared with patients who go on to become severe/critical.
The webinar is moderated by Ann Ager, Professor at the Cardiff University.

Michael Reth: Ramos B cell engineering for the evaluation of the humoral anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunity

Michael Reth and his team are studying how the B cell antigen receptor (BCR) and the B cell surface is organized in resting and activated B cells for the sensing of foreign antigens. They learned that the BCR and many B cell surface markers are highly organized at nanoscale distances. In their studies they are using the CRISPR/Cas9 method to rapidly generate loss- or gain-of-function mutants of the Burkitt lymphoma cell line Ramos as specific cell line. They thus have generated Ramos B cells which are lacking all four components of the BCR and replaced the antigen receptor by the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. This allows them to test for SARS-COV-2 spike specific antibody responses and monoclonal antibodies by flow cytometry. The first results of their assays are discussed in the presentation.

Adrian Hayday: Seeking correlates of protection and correlates of pathology in COVID-19 patients

In this webinar, Professor Adrian Hayday shares an overview of a completed deep immunophenotyping of 100 patients and controls, with approximately 200,000 data points.
Adrian Hayday is currently a Professor of Immunobiology at King’s College London, a Clinical Academic Group leader at King’s Health Partners, and Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute where he is an Assistant Research Director.
The webinar is moderated by Dr. Nigel Stevenson, Assistant Professor at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College Dublin.

Hans-Martin Jäck: Prevention and Therapy of COVID-19 with Monoclonal Antibodies

Hans-Martin Jäck summarizes the COVID-19 pandemic and CoV-2-host cell interactions. He introduces the concept of passive immunisation and active vaccination to prevent and protect from COVID-19, and he provides an overview of the current clinical serum and vaccine trials, finishing the webinar with a review on the production of human CoV-2 neutralising antibodies in transgenic mice with an entirely human antibody repertoire. The webinar is moderated by Tim Sparwasser, Professor and Director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene (IMMH) of the University Medical Center (UMC) of the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz.

Salim S. Abdool Karim: COVID-19 in South Africa

Since the first case of COVID-19 on 5 March 2020 in South Africa, the epidemic grew exponentially with a doubling time of 2 days for the first 3 weeks until the effects of state-initiated interventions impacted reducing the doubling time to 15 days. The National response, which comprises 8 stages aims to flatten the curve. Stage 6 of the response on clinical care has provided new insights on the immune response, the role of the cytokine storm and the impact of dexamethasone on reducing mortality. The spectrum of Covid-19 disease from head to toe has transformed our initial understanding of Covid-19 as a respiratory distress syndrome. The webinar is moderated by Clive Gray, Professor of Immunology and Chair of Immunology at the University of Cape Town.

Eric Vivier: Association of COVID-19 inflammation with activation of the C5a-C5aR1 axis

Eric Vivier provides a longitudinal analysis of immune responses, including immune cell phenotyping and assessments of the soluble factors present in the blood and broncho-alveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of patients at various stages of COVID-19 severity: paucisymptomatic, pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). He reports an increase in soluble C5a levels proportional to COVID-19 severity and high levels of C5aR1 expression in blood and pulmonary myeloid cells, supporting a role for the C5a-C5aR1 axis in the pathophysiology of ARDS. Anti-C5aR1 therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) prevented C5a-mediated human myeloid cell recruitment and activation, and inhibited acute lung injury (ALI) in human C5aR1 knockin mice. These results support C5a-C5aR1 axis blockade as a means of limiting myeloid cell infiltration in damaged organs and preventing the excessive lung inflammation and endothelialitis associated with ARDS in COVID-19 patients. The webinar is moderated by Abdallah Badou.

Donna Farber: Respiratory immunity and COVID-19 

Donna Farber discusses the development of lung-localized immune responses and the role of tissue resident memory T cells in protective immunity to respiratory viruses, in mouse models of influenza infection and in human lungs,  including recent findings on the impact of age on human lung immunity.  These concepts will be discussed in the context of respiratory immunity in SARS-CoV2 infection and our studies identifying potential immune correlates of disease severity in COVID-19.
Donna Farber is the George H Humphreys, II Professor of Surgical Sciences (in Surgery) and Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University. The webinar is moderated by Henry Mwandumba, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Malawi College of Medicine and Deputy Director of the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme (MLW) in Blantyre, Malawi.

Sharon Lewin and Katherine Kedzierska: COVID-19 in Australia: Being prepared and understanding the role of cellular immune responses 

What role do cellular immune responses play in squashing the curve of COVID-19 infections? Sharon Lewin and Katherine Kedzierska show how immunity to SARS-CoV2 has demonstrated the breadth of concomitant immune responses associated with recovery in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation. Their study indicates that robust multi-factorial immune responses can be elicited towards the newly-emerged SARS-CoV-2 and early adaptive immune responses might correlate with better clinical outcomes.
Sharon Lewin is the inaugural director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. Katherine Kedzierska is Laboratory Head in Department of Microbiology and Immunology, at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.
The webinar is moderated by Roslyn Kemp, Past President of the New Zealand Society for Oncology and Secretary-General of IUIS.

Mihai Netea: Trained immunity and BCG vaccination: a tool against COVID-19?

What do we know about the adaptive characteristics of innate immune responses? Does BCG induce long-term changes in innate immune cells? What are the non-specific effects of BCG vaccination on other infections? Can the BCG-induced trained immunity be harnessed against COVID-19?
Mihai Netea heads the division of Experimental Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Nijmegen University Nijmegen Medical Center. He is mainly interested in understanding the factors influencing the variability of human immune responses, the biology of sepsis and immunoparalysis in bacterial and fungal infections, and the study of the memory traits of innate immunity.
The webinar is moderated by Faith Osier, President of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS).

Andreas Radbruch: Adaptive Immunity in COVID-19

Adaptive Immunity: Memory, Protection and Immunopathology in COVID-19: What do we know about the adaptive immune reaction to Sars-CoV-2? Why do humans react so heterogeneously to Sars-CoV-2? Does the adaptive immune system provide protection and for how long? How can we challenge the system with a vaccine to establish longlasting, efficient immunity?
Andreas Radbruch, Scientific Director of the DRFZ and Professor for Experimental Rheumatology at the Medical Faculty of the Humboldt University of Berlin, shares his insights. The webinar is moderated by Rita Carsetti (Head of the Diagnostic Immunology Unit and of the B cell pathophysiology Research Unit of the Bambino Gesù Children Hospital IRCCS in Rome).

Rachel Humphrey: What cancer immunologists are doing about COVID-19

What are physicians and scientists seeing in their COVID-19-infected patients and in their own personal scientific explorations? What are the ongoing hypotheses that drive the emerging clinical studies, and what can we say about the rapid evolution of medicine, in light of their ongoing work? Rachel Humphrey, shares her insights. Rachel is a medical oncologist, who is currently serving as Head of Research and Development for TIO Bioventures. The webinar is moderated by Miriam Merad, Vice-President of the IUIS.

Eleanor Fish: Global outbreaks – Interferons as 1st responders

Can antivirals that target the host and not the virus improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients? Professor Eleanor Fish from the University of Toronto showed that treatment with interferon-alpha was beneficial in patients with SARS, and now shares early data on COVID-19.

The webinar is moderated by Juan-Carlos Zuniga-Pflücker, the Chair of the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto.

Giuseppe Ippolito: The Global Scientific Response to COVID-19

Giuseppe Ippolito, Scientific Director at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome, Italy, shares his opinion on why policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic must be based on scientific evidence – and why policymakers must invest in science to be prepared for future infectious diseases.

The webinar is moderated by Rita Carsetti, Head of the Diagnostic Immunology Unit and of the B cell pathophysiology Research Unit of the Bambino Gesù Children Hospital IRCCS in Rome.

Rino Rappuoli on COVID-19 Vaccines

How long will it really take to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, and how is science speeding up the process? Rino Rappuoli, Chief Scientist and Head of Research & Development at GlaxoSmithKline, shares his insights as a world expert in vaccine development.

The webinar is moderated by Faith Osier, President of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS).

Frontiers Coronavirus Knowledge Hub

A global challenge like the current COVID-19 pandemic can only be defeated when research results are rapidly and openly shared and all stakeholders work together – scientists, health workers, publishers, funders, policymakers, and government officials.

The Frontiers Coronavirus Knowledge Hub provides an up-to-date source of trusted information and analysis on COVID-19 and coronaviruses, including the latest research articles, information, and commentary from our world-class scientific community.

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