The Society for Mucosal Immunology's (SMI) biennial meeting, the 16th International Congress of Mucosal Immunology (ICMI) is widely recognized as the pre-eminent conference on mucosal immunology combining high-quality basic science with the clinical situation. Educational content focuses on the educational theme of the meeting, Pioneering Frontiers in Mucosal Regulation. Scientific sessions will promote excellence in research and education in the field of mucosal immunology and will foster future communication and scientific advancement among immunologists. This ICMI follows 15 successful biennial meetings, recently held in Paris is 2011, Boston in 2009 and Tokyo in 2007, wherein nearly 1,000 scientists in the broad fields of mucosal immunology assembled. ICMI 2013, co-chaired by Ken Croitoru, MDCM, Dana Philpott, PhD and Jo Viney, PhD will deliver another exciting scientific meeting. The meeting includes 35 keynote and plenary speakers who will present new information in areas relating to the molecular basis of microbial immune interactions at the mucosal surfaces, new insights into the understanding of mucosal diseases of humans, regulatory cells and their relationship to mucosal immunology, mechanisms of inflammation, the epithelial barrier in immunity, innate immunity, immunoglobulin and B-cell functions, mucosal vaccines and genetics. These sessions will be enhanced by an additional 30 invited speakers who will chair abstract-driven sessions on regulatory T-cells, the immunology of the epithelium, vaccines and mucosal infections, dendritic cells, cytokines, urogenital immunology, pulmonary immunology, inflammation, allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, lymphocyte homing, cytokines and chemokines, inflammation, mucosal antibodies, ocular and upper airway mucosal immunology, probiotics, innate immunity, antimicrobial defenses, among other topics. The educational content of ICMI 2013 was developed by SMI's International Planning Committee, which is comprised of leaders in the mucosal immunology field. As experts, committee members engage in discussions in which topics are identified and developed into sessions. Committee members draw from their extensive knowledge, and also consult evaluations and topic suggestions collected from previous congresses to create a program that addresses the most relevant and pressing topics in mucosal immunology. They also refer to data collected from membership surveys requesting topic suggestions and perceived gaps in knowledge. In addition to highlighting the best science, ICMI 2013 is an incubator for developing scientists and practitioners alike to meet with one another along with representatives of relevant biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. The first three days include poster and oral abstract presentations to give young investigators the change to have their work presented and critiqued. SMI takes a specific interest in the development of young investigators and provides travel awards to them to supplement their costs to attend the meeting. In addition to encouraging the participation of new investigators, SMI recognizes the importance of participation from a wide range of demographics. Every effort is made to include a diverse representation within the ICMI International Planning Committee and the ICMI's Scientific Program. The success of the previous 15 ICMI meetings attests to this effort. Support is now requested to support ICMI 2013, which will continue this valuable effort.
While most immunologists typically study immune responses in the spleen, lymph nodes or blood, mucosal immunologists focus on the sites in contact with the external environment which are exposed to continuous antigenic bombardment. The principal tissues involved are the gut and the lung, but there is also major interest in the upper respiratory tract, urogenital tract and the eye. These surfaces are important as the first line of defense against an array of pathogenic microbes, and remarkably, the mucosal immune system in health can distinguish between pathogens, the commensal flora and innocuous dietary antigens, and mount an appropriate response to each type of challenge. The gut is also the major lymphoid organ in the body, containing the majority of antibody secreting cells and 70 percent of the lymphoid tissue. Deciphering the cues which separate tolerance from effective immunity at mucosal surfaces lies at the core of the ICMI. The corollary of this, however, is that many pathogens successfully colonize mucosal surfaces, or use mucosal surfaces to enter the tissues, so elucidating how these pathogens do this, and the mechanisms of effective immunity remain important. At the same time, the challenges of protecting mucosal surfaces from infection through vaccination immediately come up against the problem of tolerance. The revolution in mucosal immunology/microbiology in the last few years is evidence of the appreciation of the important role of the commensal flora in mucosal immunity. The microbial biome and its role in health and disease is now being recognized. At the same time, while it has been long appreciated that inappropriate tissue damaging immune responses can occur to foods such as wheat and cow's milk, it is now obvious that inappropriate immune responses, often genetically determined, are involved in inflammatory bowel disease. The ICMI educational initiative is based on recent research and data regarding documented unmet medical need in the field of mucosal immunology. Since 1990 mucosal immunology has expanded from what many considered a niche discipline to one of the hottest areas in immunobiology today. Between 1980 and 1990 400 papers were listed on PubMed as being related to mucosal immunology;between 1990 and 2000 that number grew to 1,000. More significant still is the growth between 2000 and 2007 when the number of mucosal immunology papers on PubMed exceeded 15,000. The growth trend has continued to the present.