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image for Talk item typeProfessor Robert Aitken Inaugural Lecture

Talk, Mon 26 - Tue 27 Feb 2018, free entry

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Title: Antibodies - guardians of health, and tools for research

Antibodies comprise a large family of proteins found in the blood and secretions that play an important role in defensive systems that protect against infection. With the exception of what we term “vaccination”, the processes that create antibodies cannot anticipate which infectious agents – viruses, bacteria, parasites – may challenge the health of the host. Hence, a basic challenge that the immune system must meet is to create and maintain sufficient diversity such that random matching between an antibody and an infectious agent provides the starting point for a protective response. Once under way, the immune system can re-engineer the response to optimize its efficacy using processes of random mutation and selection.

The processes that create antibodies capable of meeting these fundamental challenges are surprisingly different amongst animal species. Investigating these process provides insight to the evolution of the immune system, some unexpected opportunities for therapy, and tools for biomedical research. The inaugural lecture will explore these issues drawing examples from the speaker’s research and the work of his collaborators.

Professor Rob Aitken joined York St John University in September 2015. Initially appointed as Dean for one of the four faculties that existed at York St John at that time, he took up responsibilities for internationalisation and development as the University moved through 2016 to a School-based structure. More recently, he has also assumed responsibility for research strategy.

Professor Aitken studied for his BSc and DPhil at the University of York, and after a period of postdoctoral research, took up an academic position at the University of Glasgow where he worked across research, teaching and leadership until his return to York in 2015.

His academic background is in the biological sciences and while his published research spans parasitology, bacteriology, and molecular biology across a range of systems, it is his work in basic and applied immunology for which he is best recognised. His group in Glasgow developed a detailed understanding of the immune system of cattle and pioneered the production of antibodies from these animals using bacterial systems. They also exploited antibody discovery systems to help understand better the processes underlying bacterial infection in a number of important disease models.

Professor Aitken holds broad-ranging interests in science, biomedicine and pedagogy. He contributes to undergraduate education whenever the opportunity arises and workload allows.

Alongside membership of the Biochemical Society, the British Society for Parasitology, the Society of General Microbiology, and the British Society for Immunology, Professor Aitken is also Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.

De Grey Lecture Theatre

Event Timings:
17.45 - Doors open
18.00 - Lecture commences
19.15 - Event closes (approx)
19.15 - Drinks reception, all welcome

Event details

Dates Times
Mon 26 - Tue 27 Feb 2018 18:00 to 19:15


Free entry



See location of York St John University on Google mapsSee location on Google maps

Map reference: SE 604525  Lat: 53.96525 Long: -1.08028


Charlotte Walker-Jesse

01904 876654


Lord Mayors Walk,
YO31 7EX


  • Disabled accessDisabled access
  • Dogs not accepted (except guidedogs)Dogs not accepted (except guidedogs)
  • Smoking not allowedSmoking not allowed
  • Facilities for hearing impairedFacilities for hearing impaired


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