The Latin American and Caribbean Immunology Association (ALACI) recognized the career of Chilean scientist Mario Rosemblatt, current executive director of the Fundación Ciencia y Vida and researcher at the ANID Basal Center of the same name, and who over the past 30 years has trained several generations of researchers who today hold high-impact positions at a global level.
Rosemblatt won the Milstein Prize, which is awarded for the first time by this regional entity. His nomination was prompted by the Chilean Immunology Association, in line with his scientific contributions to the field and his role as mentor to some of the country’s leading immunologists.
Among the many students who passed through his laboratory were Rodrigo Mora, vice president of the Immunology area of Moderna, a pioneering American company in the use of messenger RNA (mRNA) for the development of vaccines, and Ana María Lennon, director of the Laboratory of Dynamics of Immune Cells at the Curie Institute in Paris.
This was highlighted by the president of the Chilean Association of Immunology, Daniela Sauma, an academic at the University of Chile and a researcher at the ANID Science and Life Basal Center, who considers that Rosemblatt has had an enormous impact in directing young national scientists who are currently dedicated to to research in the area of immunology worldwide.
“As an Association, we responded to the call from ALACI to propose the name of Dr. Mario Rosemblatt, both for his scientific merits in this field and for the importance he has had as a trainer for numerous generations of Chilean immunologists. Many of the members of our Association have been at some point in their careers students or have interacted with Dr. Rosemblatt. He was a unanimous name within our organization.”
The recognition is delivered for the first time by the regional scientific group, and seeks to highlight the trajectory of influential researchers in the field. His name commemorates César Milstein, an Argentine immunologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1984 for his pioneering research on monoclonal antibodies.
Sauma added that “Dr. Rosemblatt’s line of research has made great contributions to trying to understand the role of certain immune populations, for example, regulatory T lymphocytes in the context of transplants. But without a doubt, his most decisive discovery, which has generated an incredible impact on science worldwide, has been the discovery of the mechanisms by which dendritic cells, which are something like the sentinels or spies of the immune system, print on T lymphocytes a pattern for these cells to migrate to specific sites in the body where there is an infection.
“This study, carried out in his laboratory in Chile, with Dr. Rodrigo Mora, must be one of the most cited Chilean articles in the world and has a high impact on how we understand immunology today,” said Sauma.
The ALACI Milstein Award recognizes leading immunologists in their respective countries in this field. In Chile, the immunologist Arturo Ferreira, from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Chile, was also recognized.
“It is an honor to share this award with my colleague and friend Dr. Ferreira. It was a very pleasant surprise because there were many applying researchers, with important careers, so it was a source of great joy for me. One of my main prides, as an academic and teacher, is knowing that my students are occupying important positions worldwide. That for me is a great prize, to know that the students who were trained in my laboratory have reached the elite of world science”, said Rosemblatt.
The current researcher at the Basal Science and Life Center has made various publications with a global impact, which currently provide fundamental knowledge for the development of therapies and vaccines. These include discoveries related to the regulation mechanisms of dendritic cells and T lymphocytes, essential molecules for the functioning of the immune system.
Rosemblatt commented that “in my field of research I have gone through all areas. And in my career, perhaps the most important is having discovered the mechanism by which T lymphocytes, which are essential for the immune response, migrate to the site of infection. I think this, which was published in 2003, has been one of my greatest contributions. To this could be added the contribution to a vaccine for a disease that affects salmon, for which there was no treatment, and then it was licensed by Pfizer and has been used in the fish farming industry for more than 15 years.”
science of excellence
Rodrigo Mora, a Rosemblatt alumnus, is currently the Vice President of Immunology at the Moderna biotech company. During his stay in Rosemblatt’s laboratory, the researcher, a doctor from the Universidad de la Frontera and a doctorate in Sciences from the University of Chile, wrote his thesis on the mechanisms by which dendritic cells regulate the migration of T lymphocytes .
His study, led by Rosemblatt, was the first in the world to describe fundamental processes for the response of the immune system. Currently, he leads an area within Moderna to evaluate the use of micro messenger RNA technology in applications such as rare diseases, autoimmune conditions, and cancer, involving more than twenty clinical trials.
The current executive of Moderna highlighted that Rosemblatt was decisive in his training, since in his laboratory at the University of Chile he acquired tools that allowed him to “stop and do experiments at the highest level”, which gave him the opportunity to do an internship at Harvard at the turn of the century.
“He is a very open person to listen to student ideas and discuss, even if they were different points of view. The scientific rigor, the advice received at the experiment table, are things that remain. In addition to a very simple and pleasant personality. As a trainer of scientists at the highest level, I highlight the ability to see researchers with potential. In his laboratory I learned everything necessary to work in an orderly manner and carry out quality experiments”, Mora pointed out.
The Chilean scientist living in Boston, United States, remembers that his doctoral thesis started in 1996, but they only managed to materialize the scientific publication in 2003, when he spent a few months at Harvard and managed to access cutting-edge technology and resources to carry out the experiments endings.
“Our findings have been replicated and expanded by other labs and it is knowledge with applications in developing vaccines, understanding how food tolerance works, and even diseases like HIV.”
The described mechanism has to do with the elements by which the cells of the immune system can reach different tissues of the organism. For that, adhesion molecules are needed to facilitate their arrival from the blood. As Mora describes, these molecules operate like a zip code for immune cells, which allow them, for example, to go to the intestine and not to the skin. This ability to migrate is key for therapeutic applications, such as vaccines.
“The experiments required to complete this study were not difficult conceptually, but technically. It took us a long time to have systems that would allow us to test our hypotheses. It was a job where we had all the disadvantages, but with optimism and Mario’s support we managed to culminate with a high-impact publication. In Chile we have good scientists, but we lack resources. We should be grateful to have people like Mario dedicated to training researchers of the highest level for our country”, concluded the Moderna scientist.
From her laboratory at the Curie Institute in Paris, France, where she heads the Immunology department, Ana María Lennon points out that the work carried out in the laboratory of Rosemblatt and María Rosa Bono allowed her to “discover the world of immunology”. “That is why I am very proud to identify them as my mentors, the people who opened my mind to this exciting field of research.”
For the researcher, it is very important that Chilean science recognizes references in different fields and that they assume an active role in the training of new generations, also taking advantage of their international collaboration networks. Lennon explained that all of this plays a fundamental role in promoting science and its advancement to higher levels.
“It is essential to have leaders in various scientific fields. For me, it was the opportunity to connect with their collaborators, to do my postgraduate degree at the Pasteur Institute… science is done at an international level, which is why we must value not only those who train locally, but also those who take their students to Be part of an international network of science. For this reason, having scientists of Mario’s caliber, with great visibility and pioneers in their field, is of enormous value for the country”, highlighted this Chilean scientist who leads the immunology area of one of the most important centers in the world.
After migrating to France, Lennon continued to collaborate with Rosemblatt. Together they were part of a postdoctoral thesis, financed by an alliance between Chile and France, on control mechanisms of dendritic cells, hitherto unknown. The research described that the cells of the immune system are able to regulate their modes of movement, depending on the task they need to perform, and the way in which they feed on extracellular material.
The Chilean Association of Immunology highlighted that the recognition of Rosemblatt reflects the reputation of our science at the regional level and demonstrates the importance of highlighting the work in training and research. In his opinion, the country needs to strengthen its critical mass of high-level scientists, and this is a way to “empower” those who have a leadership role from their laboratories.
“We need to recognize the people who do such important work. Scientists, particularly those dedicated to immunology, are still very few, and this type of incentive empowers researchers to continue developing the field. In the case of Mario Rosemblatt, we believe that he is a great example of excellent work, both as a trainer and as a person. In addition to all his scientific merits, there is also merit in his human contribution, ”said the president of the group, Daniela Sauma.
ALACI is the main regional organization in the field of immunology and is part of the International Union of Immunological Societies, an entity that in turn is a member of the International Council for Science. Since 1984, it has brought together 1,600 researchers from Latin America and the Caribbean, and among its purposes is to stimulate the collaboration of groups in different countries, organize outreach activities, and contribute to the advancement of the field in the region.
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Immunologist Mario Rosemblatt receives international award