In memory of Miroslav Simić 1924-2020

October 28, 2020

Miroslav Simić, known as Mirko to many of his colleagues, mentees and students, recently passed in Milton Keynes, UK where he lived since 1993, when he left former Yugoslavia where he had invested and given so much of his intellect and his life. Mirko was the founder of Immunology in Serbia.

His career began in 1958 at the Institute for Nuclear Sciences in Vinča where he worked with Professor Dušan Kanazir, investigating the effects of radiation on the immune system. During the 1960-ties (together with Vojin Šljivić, Milica-Šarlo Petrović and others) he interrogated the effects of dose, intensity, and types of radiation on antibody production, as well as protection and restitution of the immune system, which generated significant international interest. He and his colleagues made a major contribution in understanding that antigen producing progenitor cells are recruited from circulating blood and the role of the spleen in antibody production. He went on to investigate, the role of macrophages in T cell activation, particularly the role of IL-1 in collaboration with Charles Dinarello, and the inhibitory action of cyclosporine A.

Importantly and in parallel, Mirko established experimental and clinical immunology at the Medical School in Belgrade, in Serbia (then Yugoslavia). He was a visionary and enthusiast that inspired many a generation of young scientists and doctors, supporting a vibrant, inspirational and stimulating community of immunologists debating and challenging different views in the newly formed Immunological Society, many of whom are now well known immunologists disseminated throughout the world.

Mirko trained as a medical doctor and was a liberal idealist from his youth. For his liberalism, idealism and communist beliefs he paid the price in prisons and the Dahau concentration camp during WW2, before becoming a scientist and academic. In 1983, in recognition of his many achievements, he became member of the highly esteemed institution of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences but in the mid-90-is, in protest to the nationalistic political involvement of the Academy which contributed to the fall and fragmentation of former Yugoslavia, Mirko withdrew his membership in an unprecedented act of brave political defiance. 

Mirko’s enthusiasm, visions, bravery and idealism will be sorely missed!

Desa Lilić, on behalf of the Immunological Society of Serbia

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