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THERE is no doubt that the emergence of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus requires an understanding on how our immune system will counter this virus. Immunology is the study of the immune system and is a very important branch of the medical and biological sciences. The immune system protects us from infection through various lines of defence. An immunologist is a scientist and/or clinician who specialises in immunology. Many immunologists work in a laboratory focusing on research and in addition, clinical immunologists are clinicians involved in the diagnosis and management of diseases of the immune system.
Immunology as common denominator
From Edward Jenner’s pioneering work on vaccination in the 18th century to the major scientific breakthroughs in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the discoveries of blood groups, organ transplantation and monoclonal antibodies, immunology has changed the face of modern medicine. Into the 21st century, consolidating the field of immunology in clinical practice and coupled with advancing technology, immunological research has provided added value research techniques and tools, such as flow cytometry and antibody engineering technology. All these applications and technology has attributed to our fight against Covid-19.
National strategic and tactical immunological interventions
In this long drawn Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020, immunologists become central to fighting this pandemic and are part of the preparedness task force in many countries across the globe. From pathogenesis to disease modelling, precision immunotherapeutics to vaccines, the immunologist is crucial in translating basic science into effective response strategies. In Malaysia, immunologists also need to be given this central role and thus recognition for immunology to be acknowledged as a sub-specialty in medicine becomes imperative.
To this end, a steering group of both scientist and clinical immunologists agree there is an urgent need to furnish expert opinions in handling the pandemic from the immunologists’ perspective. Immunologists would provide great value towards any Covid-19 research and/or clinical trials in Malaysia whether this research is a collaborative effort with other sub-specialties or initiated by the immunologists themselves. This translational immunological research is an important objective of the Translational Immunology Group for Education, Research and Society (TIGERS) towards our endeavour to combat Covid-19. It is the vision of TIGERS to put forth a platform to enhance and accelerate study and research on infectious diseases (emerging and re-emerging) and beyond. This platform of translational immunology will optimise both basic science and clinical science by harnessing the best of talents of scientists and clinicians from bench to bedside and back to the bench for continuous improvements to add value to society.