Scandinavian Society for Immunology Young Investigator award to Tapio Lönnberg

Tapio Lönnberg has received Scandinavian Society for Immunology Young Investigator award to recognize his excellent research in immunology.  Dr. Lönnberg works in Turku Bioscience Centre as a group leader and the head of single-cell omics unit. He is a PI of the Academy of Finland InFLAMES flagship program.  He studies the plasticity of human immune system cells and how it is linked to immune mediated diseases.

Tapio Lönnberg tells that a given cell type can be easily recognized by studying for example  its cell surface molecules. However, only in-depth study of the cell, profiling, reveals what the cell really is up to and what is its stage of activity. When the target is cells of the human immune system, we talk about immunoprofiling.

Tapio has played a central role in leading the development of single-cell omics unit in Turku Bioscience Centre, with cutting-edge instrumentation and expertise. He leads a research group of six researchers.

Human immune cells are highly flexible and able to change their function. While a strength, this property may also turn to a weakness. When a cell starts to regulate its activity, it can be a sign of either good or bad.

–  For example T cell, a lymphocyte, can functionally differentiate to various kinds of tasks depending on how it is stimulated and how long the stimulus lasts. This is crucial for example in cancer immunology. Often T cell mediated defence to cancer is inefficient i.e. exhausted. An important question is why this happens, Lönnberg says.

The next question is, can we prevent cell exhaustion or help the cells to return to their original task. The problem is the opposite in autoimmune diseases such as in Type 1 diabetes where over active immune cells should be returned to their normal function.

Tapio Lönnberg says that it would be of outmost importance to gain in-depth understanding on how normal human immune system works, because such knowledge would provide basis for correcting immune mediated disorders.

Scandinavian Society for Immunology (SSI) Young Investigator Awards were announced on June 15th in the Society’s annual symposium in Iceland. In addition to Tapio Lönnberg the society awarded also four other young investigators, one from each Nordic country. The awards were given now for the first time. In the future the prizes will be awarded annually. In 2023 the SSI symposium will be in June 4-7 in Turku.