The 49th Annual Conference of the Indian Immunology Society (IMMUNOCON-2022) was organised jointly by the Departments of Translational & Regenerative Medicine and Immunopathology, in the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh from 23-26 November, 2022. The main theme of this conference was “Immunology in Health and Disease” with a primary aim to expose young physicians and scientists to new developments in immune based therapies and diagnostics. The conference was attended by more than 250 delegates and close to 100 invited speakers and chairpersons (across various regions) including both basic scientists and clinicians at various levels of their career viz. PhD students, faculty (early, mid and senior level) and program specialists as well as technological experts.
Conference organizing team worked directly under the supervision of Prof. Sunil K. Arora as Conference Chair and Dr. Gaurav Sharma (as Organising Secretary) along with special committees including:
1) National Scientific Advisory Committee,
2) Finance, Registration, Exhibition and Catering committees, led by Dr. Gurleen,
3) Audio-visual committee, led by Dr. Aruna Rakha,
4) Transport Committee, led by Dr. Anupam Mittal,
5) Poster display committee, led by Dr. Lekha Rani,
6) Security, horticulture and sanitisation committees, led by Mr. Gurpreet Singh.
Pre-Conference Academic Activities:
A unique feature of this year’s conference was pre-conference additives which included a pre-conference hands-on workshop on “Flowcytometry and its applications in research” organized in association with TETC (Trust for Education and Training in Cytometry in India) on 22 November, 2022. The workshop coordinated by Drs. Rekha Gaur and Hemant Aggarwal from TETC and Drs. Naresh Sachdeva and Gaurav Sharma from PGIMER included two main modules viz. 1) multicolour immunophenotyping and 2) cell cycle and apoptosis analysis. An e-protocol book summarising all protocols was developed as a learning resource material and circulated to all the 50 workshop participants.
The second preconference activity was an IUIS Immunopaedia Education Course on a module of “Abstract writing, poster and oral presentation skills” held on 23 November, 2023, coordinated by Prof Clive Grey (vice-chairman of IUIS Education Committee) who came from Cape Town South Africa and Prof. Sunil Arora from PGIMER, Chandigarh. The course was participated by 30 registered delegates from many different parts of India and abroad as well. This was the first time that a course with such a novel format was organized in India and at the global level under the aegis of Indian Immunology Society and IUIS jointly. Participants benefitted immensely through course modules and group discussions among group participants and faculty on redacted papers . This was highly appreciated by both participating delegates as well as faculty which included besides Cive Gry and Sunil Arora, Drs. Joshy Jacob (from Emory Univ, Atlanta), Archana Bhatnagar (PU Chandigarh, Prasenjit (RCB Fridabad), Manni L Gupta Sarma, Indu Verma & Naresh Sachdeva (all from PGIMER).
The conference was formally inaugurated on 23 November, 2023 evening by Prof N K Ganguly (Former Director General-ICMR & Former Director PGIMER) as Chief Guest. Prof. Vivek Lal (Director, PGIMER) as Guest-of-honour and Prof. Rakesh Sehgal as Special Invitee graced the occasion along with other dignitaries and conference delegates. In the pursuit to promote the ‘go-green’ campaign of the Govt. of India, the organizers compiled an e-Abstract book which included abstracts of all the lectures of invited speakers and research papers submitted by delegates. The same was released by Prof. R K Sehgal (Dean, Academics PGIMER) during the inauguration ceremony for circulation among all the participants for their reference.
Another highlight of the conference was felicitation of Prof. Shobha Sehgal (Emeritus Professor, Former Professor & Founder Head of Department of Immunopathology at PGIMER, Former President -IIS and recipient of Senior Scientist Oration Award of IIS) during the Inauguration ceremony. To express gratitude, Prof. Sunil K Arora (Conference Chair and former student of Prof Sehgal) read a citation in the honour of his former teacher and guide and presented a shawl and memento for her life time achievements and contributions to the field of Immunology. Prof. Ranjana Minz (current HoD Immunopathology PGIMER) & other faculty colleagues also joined for this ceremony.
This was followed by an excellent keynote lecture, delivered by Prof. Vijay Kuchroo (Harvard medical School, USA), covering novel insights on genome wide regulators of T cell differentiation. Inaugural session was concluded with a vibrant ramp walk by research scholars and basic medical scientists of PGIMER, Chandigarh representing unity in diversity of India, followed by opening reception.
The organizing committee had put together a robust conference program under the supervision of local Scientific Program Committee. It was carefully articulated into regular plenary and podium lectures interspersed with the Technology sessions, which were handled by well-known immunology product companies participating in the conference like BD Biosciences, Tissuegnostics, Cytek, Thermo Fisher and others.
Major highlight of the conference were the theme based Plenary lectures delivered by eminent researchers of international repute including: Professors Joshy Jacob (Emory University, USA), G P Talwar (Talwar Research Foundation, India), Laura Mackay (Melbourne University, Australia), Rama Rao Amara (Emory, USA), Shiv Pillai (Harvard Medical School, USA) and Clive Gray (South Africa) on different days of conference interspersed in the program schedule.
During the conference, basic, advanced and translational immunology topics were covered in a theme based manner for the convenience of audience understanding. The conference broadly included eight major tracks/scientific sessions as follows:
- Innate and adaptive immune cross talk: Excellently covered by Partho Ghosh, Chandrashekhar Pasare, Himanshu Kumar and Naresh Sachdeva
- Immune metabolism and immunotherapies: Excellently covered by Sunil Raghav, Sunil Babu and Meera Sharma
- Infection and Immunity-I: Excellently covered by Dipankar Nandi, Soma Rohatgi, Sarat Dalai and Kaustuv Nayak
- Infection and Immunity-II: Excellently covered by Manju Jain, Rajiv Kumar, Pradip Sen and Sadhana Sharma
- Inflammation and Autoimmunity: Excellently covered by Girdhari Lal, Madhav Bhatia, Rajeev K Tyagi, Ranjana Minz
- Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy: Excellently covered by Gaurisankar Sa, Jyoti Kode, Reena Rajput and H P Gurushankara
- Ocular Immunology: Excellently covered by Reema Bansal, Soumyava Basu, Dipankar Das and Dipyaman Ganguly
- Host Immunity and Transplantation: Excellently covered by Manni Luthra, GauravSharma, Kalpana Luthra, Manoj Bharanwal and Taruna Madan
Another important highlight of the conference was the technology update lectures delivered by Subhadeep Mukherjee (BD Biosciences), Felix Tsai (Tissuegnstics), Sanjaya Mallick (Cytek Biosciences), Damini Vatsa (ThermoFisher Scientific) and Romsha Kumar (BD Biosciences). These sessions introduced delegates to advancements in the various high throughput immunology technologies and were well appreciated by participants.
The Conference venue provided excellent networking opportunities during poster sessions and refreshments including high tea and meals (lunch and dinners). Special justifiable requests were considered for supporting the registration, accommodation, local transport and hospitality of the faculty as well as participants by the organising committee.
Awards and Orations
Conference encouraged scientists by providing them a long pending opportunity to apply for the prestigious IIS awards after nearly a long gap of three years due to covid-19. Applications were invited and evaluated by the Indian Immunology Society executive committee for various society awards. The awardees of these prestigious society awards delivered excellent orations during the conference, including: Prof. Javed Agrewala from IIT, Ropar (IIS Senior scientist), Nimesh Gupta from NII, Delhi (IIS mid-career award) and G P Talwar young scientist awards.
In addition, organisers were successfully able to formulate two special awards i.e. 1) Early career women scientist award and 2) Award of excellence in research on immune therapies (sponsored by Cadila Pharmaceutical Ltd.) . Applications were invited and evaluated for merit by an independent panel of judges. The awardees were invited to deliver award oration, including: Prof. Amit Awasthi from THSTI, Haryana (Award of excellence in research on immune therapies) and Dr Nupur Mukherjee from NIRRH, Mumbai (Early career women scientist award).
For IMMUNOCON-2022, more than 150 scientific abstracts were received, which were screened by the Conference Scientific Committee. Based on the scientific content/merit 10 abstracts were short listed for oral presentations. A special session was organised for these young scientists oral presentations on Nov 26, 2022 and best three oral presenters (Alvina Deka, Subhajit Dutta and Zaigham Abbas Rizvi) were awarded with appreciation certificates and a cash prize. Thankfully the oral presentations were evaluated by eminent committee comprising of Profs. Naresh Sachdeva and Sunil Babu. In addition, all remaining 140 abstracts were given opportunity to present posters during poster session I (N=70) on 24 November, 2022 and poster session II (N=70) on 25 November, 2022. Posters were evaluated by eminent committee comprising of Profs. Pawan Sharma, Rajiv Tyagi, Dipankar Nandi, Jyoti Kode, Sunil Raghav and Sunil Babu. Best poster presenters (Preetam Basak, Sramona Kar, Rajkumar Khalko and Shruti) were awarded with appreciation certificates and a cash prize. This way the organising committee attempted to encourage early career researchers.
Conference Support and Trade Exhibition
The organisers hereby acknowledge the encouraging participation by faculty (speakers and chair persons) and delegates as well as various supporters who made this conference a great success. The infrastructural and logistic support for venue including security, transport, horticulture and sanitation facilities from administration of PGIMER, Chandigarh is gratefully acknowledged. Financially, the conference was supported through the registration fees obtained from delegates and the support from Immunology Foundation, International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS) as well as partial sponsorship by the trade exhibition participation of various Immunology product companies to enhance technological understanding and high throughput advancements, which participated under platinum, gold, silver and other categories as below:
Platinum: Becton Dickinson (BD)
Gold: Tissuegnostics and Beckman Coulter Life Science
Silver: Prayoga Life Sciences Inc, ThermoFisher Scientific, GeneX, Denovo Technologies and Biogene India
Others: Labmate, Bibiotech India Pvt Ltd., Pepperprint, NuLife and OSB Life Sciences
Overall, this conference in physical mode after a long gap of 3 years after covid, successfully fulfilled its aim and enhanced national and international collaborative niche. The rigorous scientific sessions provided the much awaited forum for clinical and basic scientists to share ideas and develop collaborative research and learn extensively. During the valedictory function at the closing of conference on 26th Nov., 2023, the awards and certificates were distributed to the young scientists. Dr Taruna Madan, President IIS announced the next Immunocon-2023, the Golden Jubilee conference to be held in NCR Delhi and invited everyone for active participation. Prof. Sunil Arora acknowledged thanked profusely the contributions from all the members of his organizing team, the newly elected Executive Committee of IIS, all invited speakers & Chairpersons, delegates and everyone who attended the sessions in one way or the other during his valedictory speech at the end of the conference. He wished everyone a safe journey back home.