The European Federation for Immunogenetics honours Professor Sjaak Neefjes with the Ceppellini Award

21 april 2021• NIEUWSBERICHT

The European Federation for Immunogenetics has honoured Professor Sjaak Neefjes, Head of the Cell and Chemical Biology Department of the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), with the Ceppellini Award. On 21 April 2021, Neefjes delivered an online presentation concerning his research on Class I and II MHC molecules.  

Each year, at the annual European Federation for Immunogenetics (EFI), a scientist that has made substantial contributions to the field of immunogenetics is honoured by the society and invited to present their work in the form of the Ceppellini lecture. The lecture is named in honour of Ruggero Ceppellini (1917-1988), an Italian geneticist who was greatly influential in the domain of human leukocyte antigen (HLA). In 1988, Professor Jon van Rood (1962-2017) from the LUMC was the first to ever receive the Ceppellini Award for his pioneering work in immunology and transplantation. Professor Sjaak Neefjes has been honoured in 2021 for his extensive research on Class I and II MHC molecules.

Professor Sjaak Neefjes

Sjaak Neefjes is a Professor of Chemical Immunology at Leiden University and Head of the Department of Cell and Chemical Biology at the LUMC. As a multidisciplinary scientific expert, he is a member of various societies and advisory committees at European institutes and universities. Neefjes is responsible for significant breakthroughs that have had tremendous impacts in several fields, including immunology, cell biology, biochemistry and chemistry. His discoveries concerning the functioning of the immune system have led to novel clinical applications for cancer and infectious diseases, as well as autoimmune diseases such as rheumatism and multiple sclerosis. The professor’s research is centered around three major domains: Antigen presentation by Class I and II MHC, Bacterial infections and cancer and Anthracyclines and the efficacy/side-effect puzzle.

Professor Neefjes’ Ceppellini Lecture

Professor Neefjes has been honoured the Ceppellini Award for his extensive research on Class I and II MHC molecules that has significantly contributed to the field of HLA. His lecture, titled ‘My MHC life and beyond: a fascination of the ins and outs of antigen presentation’, was delivered online during EFI’s 34th European Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility Conference “My work dates back to when I was a PhD student. At the time, it was unclear how the adaptive immune system recognized virus-infected cells”, says Neefjes. As a chemist interested in cell biology, he applied non-traditional technologies from the field of immunology to explore how MHC molecules processed antigens and elicited anti-viral immune responses. “In doing so, I discovered many of the steps that occur during these complex pathways”. Building on these fundamental studies, Neefjes pioneered techniques that enabled the visualisation of several cellular life processes. As a result, he uncovered novel mechanisms for drug action and later developed several clinical applications for infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases and cancer, including radioimmunotherapy for the treatment of specific tumours.

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