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For the third time now, delegates from across Europe and beyond gathered to exchange their data in the European Veterinary Immunology Workshop (EVIW), which is a meeting under the auspices of the European Veterinary Immunology Group, EVIG (http://www.evig.org.uk/) which was founded in 2001 (Steinbach et al., 2004).
In the opening ceremony, the Vice-Dean of the Veterinary Faculty, Ralf Einspanier first welcomed the delegates on behalf of the Vice-President of the Free University Berlin, which next to the Charité Medical Faculty and the Max-Planck-Society provided the necessary rooms and support for the event. Bernd Kaspers (for the German Veterinary Immunology Group), Wayne Hein (for the Veterinary Immunology Committee of the IUIS) and Falko Steinbach (for the EVIG) briefly reviewed the status of veterinary immunology within the scientific community before Stefan H.E. Kaufmann, Max-Planck-Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin delivered a keynote address to more than 200 delegates who had come from around the globe to join us for the meeting.
While the three representatives of the different veterinary immunology groups were content with the scientific achievements reflected not least in the current meeting, all struck a critical cord with regard to developments over the last decade. While there is a growing public awareness that many of our current infectious problems originate in domestic animal species and that food security and prosperity in developing nations are linked to the well being of livestock, there is an inadequate reflection of this awareness in veterinary training and institutional research across Europe. It is obviously preferable to control zoonotic diseases in their original hosts and basic and applied veterinary immunology is more than ever required to improve disease resistance and to develop advanced vaccination strategies for the control of these problems. Livestock (and companion) animals, however, represent a broad diversity from fish to birds and across mammalian species into wildlife, where many diseases find their reservoirs. Compared to this diversity and the scale of the task, the number of Vet Schools in Europe is almost negligible compared to the number of Universities, which offer medical training. Moreover, veterinary research lacks the continuity and depth of resources, whereas medical research has always benefited from the plethora of research institutes, such as MRC in the UK, MPG in Germany or INSERM in France. Therefore, cooperation as reflected by the EVIW and the IVIS is not just important, but essential and vital for our discipline and beyond that for future food supply and security and in view of the ?One Health? concept, that becomes increasingly accepted.
In 2001, after the FMD crisis in the UK, an editorial in Nature Immunology stated ?Developed nations have grown complacent with their abundant and seemingly safe food supply over the past three decades. As the present situation indicates, however, increased research funding devoted to the immunology and health of our livestock is necessary for better detect, protect and defend our animals from emerging and re-emerging microbial threats? (Anonymous, 2001). This statement is still true today?if not more than ever. The economization of our society has reached science, however. While there are many arguments to support business accounting procedures, the wrong consequences were too often drawn, resulting in a lack of basic requirements and critical mass in research institutes as a consequence of business optimization and efficiency savings. While we have no reason to duplicate efforts, we need to make sure that basic requirements are available and a critical mass remains to pursue scientific progress in veterinary immunology, for which EVIG aims to provide a forum in Europe. As we aim to keep the costs of these workshops moderate, we are grateful to our sponsors, without whom such a meeting would not be possible.
Of course, veterinary immunology is also affected by the current financial climate. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Under the water is a long-term deterioration in the sponsoring of research and in particular blue sky research that takes its toll. Sadly, veterinary immunology and related disciplines are often considered dispensable?to the extent for example that in the German speaking countries four out of eight Vet Schools currently do not have a Chair for veterinary immunology; among them the prestigious Chairs in Hannover, Germany and Berne, Switzerland which were previously the first ones installed. It was therefore welcome good news that the Berlin Faculty plans to install a special Chair for veterinary immunology in the context of the successful bid for a Collaborative Research Centre focussing on animal nutrition.
Scientifically, veterinary immunology is well prepared for the future, as the current workshop once again demonstrated. With most livestock and companion animal genome sequences at least drafted, we enter the era of post-genomics with tools arising to study transcriptomes and proteomes. However, the quest for tools to study the differences that exemplify the diversity in veterinary immunology will continue.
Ever since the European Congress of Immunology (ECI) replaced the European Immunology (EFIS) Congresses, the EVIWs have become a satellite meeting of the ECI, as we wish to keep it also for 2012 in Scotland.
The EVIW is generally separated into both plenary sessions (with invited speakers only) and concurrent sessions (which select from submitted abstracts, too). In general this is reflected in the following summary of oral presentations, which include special presentations like the lunchtime seminars we introduced this time.