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The Czech Immunological Society's website

The first specialized centers in immunological research in former Czechoslovakia were established in 1951. Traditionally, this research was concentrated at the Charles University and its institutes that were associated with medical research, such as the immunology and microbiology institutes in Praha, Plzeň, and Hradec Králové, and also in the Masaryk University in Brno, Komenský University in Bratislava and Šafařík University in Košice. In the same year, immunology became one of the major research topics at the Department of Microbiology of the Biological Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, which in 1952 gave rise to the Institute of Microbiology, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, where the department of immunology was already independent and one of the biggest departments. The „Prague immunology school“, represented mainly by Profs. Jaroslav Šterzl and Milan Hašek, was widely recognized in the late 1950s and early 1960s thanks to the breakthrough findings in the areas of immunological tolerance (Hašek) and the adaptive phase of the antibody response (Šterzl). The promising development of Czech immunology, which was closely linked to and validated by fruitful international research, was crudely interrupted by the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies, and the subsequent severance from the international scene that lasted for more than 40 years. Some of the prominent Czech immunologists emigrated to the USA, Canada and to Western Europe. Despite these events, contact with the Czech immunologists that remained persisted to some degree; with the first signs of a more perceptible revival occurring at the beginning of the 1980s.

Establishment of the Czechoslovak (later on Czech and Slovak) Immunological Society

Already in the 1950s and 60s Czech immunologists were strongly aware of the need to meet colleagues on a wider, optimally international, basis of a specialized society devoted to immunology. This was the reason why Prof. Šterzl in 1969 established a group for the preparation and founding of the Czechoslovak immunological society; this potential new Society was to be linked with the IUIS (International Union of Immunological Societies, http://www.iuisonline.org), which was founded in the same year. The proposed Czechoslovak Immunological Society had nearly 400 members immediately after its inception and Profs. Šterzl and Říha were invited as its representatives to take part in the first IUIS meeting (Interlaken, Switzerland, September 1970); however, as explained below, the Czechoslovak immunological society was not officially approved and founded until 1973 The committee and later on the secretariat of the Czechoslovak/Czech Immunological Society have, since 1969, been located in the Institute of Microbiology Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

In April 1970, the first issue of the Immunological Bulletin was distributed as an official information vehicle of the, as yet not officially approved, Czechoslovak Immunological Society to Society “members”. The Bulletin has been published without interruption ever since. It brings official information on all activities of the Society such as lists of national and international congresses and seminars, and the minutes of the Society Board; it also features reviews, original articles, and articles devoted to state-of-the-art methodologies.

As revenge for the firm and uncompromising stand taken by the heads of the Immunological Society to the Warsaw Pact occupation, the government refused to approve the founding of a Czecho-slovak Immunological Society that was independent of other officially recognized Societies. The committee thus decided to establish an independent immunological section under the umbrella of the Czecho-slovak Biological Society in 1973. Its membership at that time consisted of almost 500 specialists from different fields of biology and medicine, and Prof. Šterzl was elected the first president. International recognition of this section was officially confirmed at the 2nd International Congress of Immunology, held in Brighton, UK, in 1974, at which the Czechoslovak representative took part as an observer.

In 1986 the political climate in Czechoslovakia became less oppressive and the establishment of the Czechoslovak Immunological Society (CSIS) as an independent organization was finally officially approved. The Society immediately became a member of the IUIS and EFIS (European Federation of Immunological Societies, http://efis.org/). The first president of the official CSIS was Prof. J. Štefanovič. In 1993 the former Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, generating legislative issues that needed to be resolved in order to divide the Society into the Czech (Czech Immunological Society; CIS; http://www.biomed.cas.cz/cis/) and Slovak (Slovak Immunological Society, SIS) parts. The first president of CIS was Prof. Jaroslav Šterzl, to be followed from 1994–1997 by Prof. Ivo Hána, 1997–2000 by Prof. Helena Tlaskalová, 2000–2006 by Prof. Aleš Macela and since 2006 by Prof. Blanka Říhová. From the outset, the scientific secretary of CIS has been Dr. Martin Bilej, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Immunological Bulletin. In 1992–1998 Prof. Šterzl served as an IUIS council member, being followed from 1998–2001 by Prof. Tlaskalová.

Activities

The first congress of Czech and Slovak immunologists was organized by Prof. Jindřich Lokaj in Brno in 1976. The second was held in Martin, Slovakia, in 1979 and since then the immunological congresses have been organized at 3 yearly intervals, with the Czech Republic and Slovakia alternating as the organizers. General Assemblies convene and presidents of the Society are elected during the congresses. One of the chief activities of the CIS, apart from the organization of the regular congresses, local highly specialized Symposia and the Day of Immunology, is the co-organization of EFIS-EJI Tatra Immunology Conference held every other year at Štrbské Pleso (Tatra Mountains, Slovakia), which aims to educate PhD students in aspects of state of the artimmunology [[1]].

The Society every year confers two prestigious awards: one, in memory of Miloslav Pospíšil, is presented to an author of any age for their distinguished papers in the field of natural immunity; the other is limited to authors under 35 years as a reward for excellent original papers in immunology and is currently named after Prof. Šterzl, the founder of modern Czech immunology, who passed away on May 8 of this year. In addition, the Society confers the highest award, the Garnet Immunoglobulin, usually on the occasion of immunological congress not only to Czech but also to foreign immunologists who have left a deep and permanent impression upon the field and have closely collaborated with Czech colleagues.

Reference

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  2. Reference

Prof. Blanka Rihova, Institute of Micro-biology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic

e-mail: rihova@biomed.cas.cz

Czech Immunological Society (CIS)