Human Immunology Workshop overview

November 25-26, 2014
Toronto, Ontario

Participating CIHR institutes

  • Institute of Infection and Immunity (organizer)
  • Institute of Cancer Research
  • Institute of Genetics
  • Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health
  • Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis
  • Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction
  • Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes


  • Provide an overview of the Canadian human immunology field, identifying current challenges and opportunities
  • Identify key research areas that are not being adequately addressed through existing funding sources and mechanisms
  • Propose recommendations to III staff and the expert steering committee on the scope and range of potential strategic research initiatives that would enhance research in human immunology
  • Improve dialogue, networking and communication across diverse research groups and pillars involved in human immunology research
  • Identify opportunities to leverage existing programs and resources
  • Generate a workshop report describing the conclusions and recommended directions to support research in human immunology in Canada


Seventy-five participants represented research, research management and support (Centre for Drug Research and Development, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, National Research Council Canada) or the pharmaceutical industry (GSK) from across Canada, and included 2 International participants (Dr. Ellis Reinherz from the Human Immunology Project Consortium and Dr. Ola Winqvist from the European Network for Translational Immunology Research and Education).

Outcomes and recommmendations

Key ideas that emerged from the workshop discussions include:

  • The human immunology community would benefit from increased interaction/collaboration/communication between the different areas within the field, offsetting the ‘working in silos’ effect.
  • It is critical that the issue of standardization be addressed in the funding initiative given that currently a lack of standardization regarding procedures is seen as a substantial barrier to advancing the field (e.g. reproducing data between laboratories).
  • To be sustainable with acquiring funding, there needs to be significant success and progress over a short time-line (5 years) and therefore the community needs to be strategic such as building on current knowledge, focussing on cohorts, biobanks and linking with existing resources.
  • Basic knowledge remains to be acquired – understanding the healthy functioning of the human immune system. Research needs to be translational and applied to improve human health.
  • Participants from different areas explored both commonalities and differences among diseases and populations.
  • Concerns were expressed regarding the potential for a CIHR initiative to hamper optimal team building should the initiative be too prescriptive as well as from the non-human researchers regarding the possibility of being marginalized.
  • The funding should also be oriented toward clinically relevant problems; to understand the mechanisms of diseases, methods of patient stratification (biomarkers or age/sex and ethnicity), and mechanisms of action of the therapeutics, and development of new therapeutics.
  • Need to increase the capacity of the community to attract and train future researchers.

Next steps

In collaboration with partners, III will explore which programs and models could have the most impact within the human immunology field. There are several options available including funding based on a multidisciplinary team approach or the formation of one large or several smaller networks. The path forward requires collaboration among the various funded laboratories to ensure exchange on standardization and the exclusion of funding individual laboratories without an upper governance structure. It is hoped that this workshop will have prepared the human immunology community for this collaboration.

If you wish to receive a copy of the full report, please email Isabelle Létourneau.

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