Summer Talk before Formal Hall

Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam

The wonderful world of antibodies

The human immune system generates repertoires of highly diverse antibodies that have the capacity to recognise and eliminate most pathogens we come into contact with. However, antibodies can also have undesired effects such as in allergy or autoimmunity. How we respond to different antigens is influenced by the specific gene variants we encode. Our recent work has uncovered a surprising diversity in antibody genes, illustrating just how complex the immune system is, both at the individual and population levels. Antibodies are also increasingly used in clinical medicine to stop or slow disease progression or to enhance the natural immune response to tumours, work that was pioneered in Cambridge. My talk will provide an overview of what antibodies are and how they function, with concrete examples of antibody drugs that are making a real difference in clinical medicine today.