International Senior Professional Institute

For Basel Institute for Immunology 40th anniversary celebration, 9 – 10th June 2011

Even though my stay at the Basel Institute for Immunology (BII) was rather brief, it was highly illuminating and had a major impact on my future career as an immunologist. I was most impressed by the spirit of openness and collegiality of the institute, where I was immediately integrated into the BII's research community. The BII was a leader for many immunologists mostly for two reasons: First, its goal of highest scientific originality, precision, and quality and second, its spirit, which immediately convinced its members to whole-heartedly follow suit. I know that this is an over-simplification but the enormous output of leaders in immunology clearly argues for its success. They say performance depends on attitude and judging from the BII's track record, its overwhelmingly positive attitude is obvious, and the contagiousness of its attitude has succeeded in imprinting a spirit of quality and openness in research to the many students, post-docs and researches who have walked through its doors. I am proud to have been there – to have learned about the art and tools of immunological research – at the most vibrant center of its kind.

Stefan H.E. Kaufmann
Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin
President, International Union of Immunological Society

6th April, 2011


Who is Who of the BII-Alumni Coverpage


Greetings from President of IUIS
Scientists (ABC Family Name Order)                       page
Berek Claudia                                                11
Bogen Bjarne                                                 12
Chen Una                                                      13
Dembic Zlatko                                               14
Fathman Garry                                               15
Flajnik Martin                                                16
Gerson Donald                                               17
Gisler Roland                                                 18
Günthert Ursula                                              19
Hamilton John                                                20
Hansen John                                                  21
Hengartner Hans                                            22
Heusser Christoph                                         23
Jacobs Heinz                                                 24
Julius Michael                                                25
Kapasi Zoher                                                26
Karasuyama Hejime                                      27
Kaufman Jim                                                 28
Kaufmann Stefan                                           29
Kettman Jack                                                30
Kincade Paul                                                 31
Kisielow Pawel                                              32
Lamers Marinus                                             33
Lassila Olli                                                     34
Leanderson Tomas                                        35
Mackay Charles                                            36
Marcu Kenneth                                             37
Mayr Wolfgang                                             38
Ohnishi Kazuo                                               39
Pink Richard                                                  40
Ramseier Hansruedy                                      41
Riesen Walter                                                42
Sakaguchi Nobuo                                          43
Salio Mariolina                                              44
Shulman Marc                                               45
Sidman Charles                                             46
Tyndall Alan                                                  47
von Borster Jack                                           48
Wallny Hans-Joachim                                    49
Students                                                     page
Borggrefe Tilman                                          53
Ghia Paolo                                                   54
Jäck Hans-Martin                                         55
Padovan Elisabetta                                       56
Schmitz Nicole                                             57
Ziegler Andreas                                            58
Anquez Viviane                                            61
Dangy Jean-Pierre                                        62
Lang Rosmarie                                             63
Marcuz Anne                                               64

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Contributed by
1. Hansruedy Ramseier (received June 28, 2011)
and more

(Received, June 28, 2011)

June 11, 2001
Prof. Dr. F. Melchers
Muttenzerstrasse 29
D-79639 Grenzach

Dear Fritz!

Thank you for your letter of April 6, 2001.  In response to your request, I shall be pleased to summarize the three topics you asked to be dealt with.

1) What was I, and what did I do in science, before I joined the institute?

When  I returned  with my family  from  the US to Switzerland  in 1965, (a move  not done voluntarily, because Bill Billingham then at the University of  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia offered me an assistant professorship, an offer  which I could  not take advantage of because of lack of an immigration visa), I was offered  by Lean  Lindenmann the position as a chief  assistant (Oberassistent) at the Institute of Medical  Microbiology, Division of Experimental Microbiology, University of Zürich. There I continued my research in transplantation immunology. In particular I followed up the ideas put down in papers with Billingham  and later Streilein (Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci.,120: 379,1964; JEM,123: 629,1966; Lancet, 1: 622,1965). These showed that mixtures of lymphoid cells from genetically different inbred strains of mice, rats and hamsters, when injected  into the skins of  lethally irradiated hamsters produced skin reactions of delayed type hypersensitivity character. By changing to in vitro technology, it turned out that such mixtures of immune-competent lymphoid cells when cultivated secreted into the  medium some factor which, when concentrated by lyophilisation, then reconstituted 10x and injected i.d. into irradiated  (but as shown later also normal) hamsters attracted  polymorphonuclear (PMN) cells. To quantitate the degree of PMN accumulations, skin reactions were excised, cut into small fragments, which were trypsinized, and PMNs thus released were counted. The numbers of PMNs in skin reactions followed the degree of histoin-compatibility and immune-competence (Science, 157: 554, 1967). This factor was later called PAR for “Product of Antigenic Recognition”.  As these studies elaborated  it became clear that PAR must be induced by recognition of foreign transplantation antigens by immune-competent T lymphocytes. Efforts, therefore, concentrated on the  (then largely mysterious) T cell receptor. In collaboration with Lindenmann, adult F1 hybrid animals from the three species mentioned were immunized with lymphoid cells from one of the parental strains. In the sera of all species of so treated animals an activity could be found which specifically inhibited recognition of transplantation antigens by cells  of the immunizing parent of the other parent present on F1 hybrid cells. These data showed that F1 hybrids could form antibodies against those receptors, which they lacked for genetic reasons (Path. Microbiol., 34: 379, 1969). I think these data gave perhaps the first indication on the existence of the T cell receptor for transplantation antigens, for receptors (then called Recognition Structures, RS) could be inhibited specifically. They furthermore had to do with idiotypic problems and as a result of some correspondence  with Niels Jerne, he invited me to join the Basel Institute for Immunology. This I did from spring 1971 to spring 1973. In April 1970 I was promoted to assistant professor of the Medical Faculty, University of Zürich.

2) What did I do, and achieve, while I was at the institute?

Even before joining the institute, I tried hard to replace the cumbersome PAR test by some more accepted, conventional test system, but I failed (as I did also many times later). To do this I had plenty of time, because all lyophilizers at the institute were not capable of drying the culture supernatants properly, but thawed the material and thus inactivated it. After about six months I went to see you, Fritz, and declared that if I do not get the same lyophilizer as I had in Zürich, and which worked very well, I would return to Zürich. I then got it. This, by the way, turned out to be the main problem of the fact that, with the exception of Hans Binz (e.g. J. Immunol., 111:1108, 1973), nobody could reproduce the PAR test. Although I instructed a number of people on the problem of lyophylization, nobody seemed to take the problem of thawing and inactivation seriously.  At the institute, the finding made in Zürich that an allo-antiserum-A anti-B carried the same “recognition sites” as do immune-competent-A T-cells, was followed up. Antibodies raised against such allo-antibodies blocked the T-ceIl receptor just as specifically as did the cell-induced antibodies described above. Thus, a possible similarity between recognition  structures on immune-competent T-cells and the antigen-binding sites of allo-antibodies aimed at the same target could be shown (JEM, 134:1083, 1971, Eur. J.Immunol., 2: 109, 1971).  In addition, the “education” of T- and B- (thymus) cells to recognize transplantation antigens was studied and revealed activity by their capacity to form aIlo-antibodies and induce formation of anti-RS antibodies (Cell. Imm., 8:177, 1973). Also, studies on the nature of PAR showed that it is formed whenever T- but not B-cells were confronted with allo-antigens (Nature, 246:351, 1973). Using congenic strains of mice, the fine structure of T-cell receptors for H-2 antigenic specificities could be demonstrated  (Eur.  J. Immunol., 3: 164, 1973). Furthermore, it was found that mice could be immunized  against abolition of tolerance by heavy doses of otherwise effective transplantation tolerance-breaking cells due to induced formation of anti-RS antibodies in “immunized” tolerant mice (Eur. J. Immunol., 3:156, 1973).

3) What did I become after left the institute, and what impact did my work at the institute have on my career afterwards?

My stay at the institute and the “call” by Niels Jerne to become a permanent member, certainly helped that I was promoted to the position of an extraordinary professor in 1975. Before that, alas, my salary dropped by about 20 percent! Unfortunately, I had very little  collaboration during my stay at the institute, most likely because of my unconventional  test system and a general lack of urgent interest in transplantation immunology. Only J. F. A. P. Miller showed interest in acollaboration, but one test not giving the expected result, stopped it. Later on, Hans Binz and Hans Wigzell succeeded in confirming many aspects of results obtained with the PAR assays, using different immunization procedures allowing conventional tests.

Well, Fritz, I hope this is what you expected in your letter. As you wished, I shall also put this down this in handwriting, but in case you have difficulties in deciphering my hieroglyphs, this should help as the "Rosetta stone".

I hope sincerely that your “state of transition” will soon end and will find a satisfactory solution.

Sincerely  yours,
Hansruedy Ramseier

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