[Press and Public Relations] Recognition For Anglo-Japanese Link

November 2001

No 183

A member of the University of Leicester Department of Microbiology and Immunology has been awarded the Daiwa-Adrian Prize 2001 of £15,000 for research excellence in Anglo-Japanese collaborations.

Dr Wilhelm Schwaeble, Reader in Immunology, will receive the award for joint work achievements with his Japanese colleague, Professor Teizo Fujita, at Fukushima Medical University, School of Medicine.

The presentation will take place in Tokyo on Thursday 6 December 2001, in the presence of the trustees of the Daiwa Adrian Prize, members of the five price-winning teams and invited guests.

Dr Schwaeble’s work has opened up a completely new field of Immunology research. He established a network of international collaborations with Professor Teizo Fujita and Professor Jens Jensenius in Aarhus, Denmark, to promote and lead the field. The discovery of the LECTIN PATHWAY has raised a broad interest within the Medical Community as this defence route maintains immunity under situations where the specific immune response is dysfunctional, i.e. in very young, very old and very ill patients, in patients undergoing cytostatic therapy and transplantation. Strengthening the innate immune response has a high therapeutic potential in the future treatment of human disease.

One of his most remarkable achievements is this pioneering work on the molecular organisation of a novel route of the innate antimicrobial immune response, a so far undiscovered pathway of the complement system, now termed the lectin pathway. Activation of the lectin pathway is initiated by a variety of carbohydrate recognition molecules present in plasma and other body fluids, that specifically bind to microbial carbohydrates. Binding of the lectin pathway carbohydrate recognition molecules is translated into antimicrobial and bactericidal activities through an enzyme, that Dr Schwaeble first cloned and characterised in Leicester. This effector component of the lectin pathway is a serine protease of 76kDa, termed MASP-2 (for Mannan binding lectin Associated Serine Protease-2).

The function and role of this key component of the innate immune response has been demonstrated by his group in vitro and for in vivo studies, a gene targeted MASP-2 deficient strain has been established with the support of the Transgenic Unit in Leicester. In addition, his team established the genomic organisation of human and murine MASP2 and its clustered genes and developed assays to screen for polymorphisms and deficiencies of MASP-2 and the lectin pathway as inherited predispositions for human disease.

In the meantime more components of the lectin pathway were isolated by Dr Schwaeble and his co-workers, including a novel serine protease, MASP-3, a regulatory component of the lectin pathway activation complex, termed MAp19, and three novel lectin pathway carbohydrate recognition molecules.

Dr Schwaeble, joined the University of Leicester as a Lecturer in July 1993 and was promoted to Reader in 1997. From the start, he has been successful in attracting substantial external funding to develop his own independent research programme. He has been exceptionally productive and innovative in his research and published a series of high-class papers in the top ranking journals of his field, including The Journal of Immunology, Immunology Today, Journal of Biological Chemistry, Nature and others.

Note to editors: Further information is available from Dr Wilhelm Schwaeble, Reader in Immunology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Leicester, telephone +44 (0)116 252 5674/3016, email ws5@le.ac.uk.

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Last updated: 22 November 2001 16:03
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