There has been enormous growth in the past few years in our understanding of pathogenic mechanisms in autoimmunity, and a new recognition of the similarities and important differences between different autoimmune diseases. Examples of rapidly moving areas of research in autoimmunity are the identification and characterization of new subsets of pathogenic T cells that secrete unique inflammatory mediators and novel insights into the interface between genetic susceptibility, environmental stress and the microbiome. These findings have emerged largely from the work of basic scientists, and this FASEB summer conference on Autoimmunity has historically focused on discussion of new findings in basic research in autoimmunity. However, we believe that it is crucial for basic scientists to establish and maintain connections to scientists who are working to translate mechanisms into therapeutic targets. For example, the unexpected efficacy of therapeutic B cell depletion in some autoimmune diseases has prompted intense investigation by basic scientists into the role of B cells in pathogenic pathways. Therefore, while maintaining a focus on cutting edge basic research in autoimmunity, new sessions will be included in these conferences in which translational scientists are invited to discuss new strategies for treating autoimmune diseases with biologics, and current data on the successes and failures of manipulating the immune system in humans with autoimmune disease. We expect that increased emphasis on therapeutic treatment of autoimmune disease will attract both basic and industry scientists, and will stimulate strong interest among both junior and established investigators. The size and setting of this meeting are ideal to promote the open exchange of data and cross-fertilization of ideas that will stimulate new hypotheses and directions in autoimmunity research.
Autoimmune diseases are debilitating, chronic diseases resulting in significant decrease in quality of life. The incidence of autoimmunity has risen over the past decade such that collectively these disease exert a significant economic toll on society due to loss of livelihood and cost of health care. The goal of the FASEB Summer Conferences on Autoimmunity is to provide a forum for the exchange of data, ideas and hypotheses between basic and applied scientists in order to catalyze the development of new treatments for autoimmune diseases.