Interview with Prof. Sylviane Muller, CONGRESS CO-CHAIRPERSON and SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE Member
Sylviane Muller is the director of a CNRS (Frances’s National Center for Scientific Research) lab in Strasbourg. She oversees 50 employees at the lab, including researchers, engineers, technicians, post-docs and students working on immune-inflammatory diseases, particularly lupus.
Of the lab, she says, “Our uniqueness and strength is that we come from different professional backgrounds (medicine, immunology, physiology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, chemoinformatics), and we combine our individual fields of expertise to make progress and gain knowledge of this devastating disease. “
Prof. Muller’s research focuses on using adapted molecular tools to deflect the immune system, allowing the immunoregulation of certain deleterious processes. This requires elucidating specific pathways that are altered and then eliminating obstacles.
“Is this not a fascinating issue?” she says.
A long-time participant at the International Congress of Autoimmunity, Prof. Muller says the aspect of the congress she most values is “the intellectual wealth arising from the diversity of opinions we encounter there.”
The scientific program is another strong point of the congress, she says. “It allows each of us to explore new fields of investigation with internationally recognized speakers and obtain a wide range of information about current threats. Discussions are largely open, leading to meetings and collaboration between specialists and the formulation of new ideas.”
Over the years, she says, the congress and the participants themselves have introduced new topics, thus the scientific program always includes emerging topics in the field of autoimmunity.
Prof. Muller says that the scientific program is diverse enough that each participant finds sessions about their favorite topics.
“Personally, however, I am excited about sessions dealing with genetics and epigenetics, heat shock proteins, cytokines, novel therapeutic targets, therapeutic peptides and autoimmune diseases diagnostic and therapy, T/B cells and T/B regulatory cells and tolerance, and several others,” says Prof. Muller.
At the 2014 congress, an important issue will be finding novel therapeutic targets based on our understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms at work in tolerance break.
“In order to make progress in such key areas as specific treatments for autoimmune patients, we need to find out pertinent pathways in which relevant elements should be targeted,” Prof. Muller says. “Then, chemists, biochemists and molecular biologists should meet to develop valuable tools to correct harmful elements.
“This is easy to write, but is in fact a tremendous challenge for us.”
Prof. Muller’s lecture at the 9thInternational Congress on Autoimmunity will be about her lab’s peptide-based strategy to immunomodulate lupus disease.
“Recently, we have made decisive progress regarding the mode of action of peptide P140 that composes Lupuzor,” she says. “These findings led us to investigate fundamental aspects of the life/death balance in lupus cells, notably in the area of autophagy.”
She says the networking activities are another aspect which she enjoys for the informal opportunities to connect with friends and colleagues.
As a local co-chairperson, Prof. Muller says that France has a long research tradition in the field of immunology and autoimmunity, in particular. Among the French pioneering researchers in the field of autoimmunity are Pierre Louis Alphee Cazenave and Maxime Seligmann, who both introduced important new concepts and terminology to the field.
“Eminent ‘students’ have followed in the routes of these pioneers and made their own contribution to the advancement of the field,” she adds.
And why Nice?
“Nice, the fifth largest city in France, is a city of history, culture, art, creation, events, nature, mildness, flavors and fragrances, a city where ‘autoimmunologists’ from all parts of the world will (re)discover Chagall, Matisse, ‘the Promenade des Anglais’, and the French Riviera.”