Plenary Speakers

The Program Committee has selected interesting and timely speakers for the 2021 ACT Annual Meeting Plenary Lectures.

To ensure the safety of all attendees, each individual will be required to select their seat for the entire duration of the lecture. Should you need to exit the room during a lecture, we ask that you return to your selected seat. Session rooms will be sanitized after each course, not at breaks.

Monday, November 15, 7:30 AM–8:30 AM (EST)

Plenary Speaker Dr. Berin

M. Cecilia Berin, PhD

Endowed Chair, Hugh A. Sampson Professor of Food Allergy Research, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Cecilia Berin is a Professor of Pediatrics and the Associate Director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute. She received her PhD (Physiology) from McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada and her postdoctoral training (Mucosal Immunology) from the University of California, San Diego. She joined Mount Sinai as an Instructor in 2001. Her research has used mouse models of food allergy to identify mechanisms of sensitization to foods and to study the communication between the skin and gastrointestinal tract in food allergy. She has also designed mechanistic studies for multi-center clinical trials for the NIAID-funded Consortium for Food Allergy Research (CoFAR) and the Immune Tolerance Network (ITN).


Title: Emerging Concepts in Immune Responses to Foods and Development of Allergy in Early Life

Description: This lecture will outline new advances in our understanding of immune mechanisms of food allergy learned from patient cohorts and will discuss ongoing efforts to understand how the immune system is educated in early life to generate immune tolerance to foods.

Wednesday, November 17, 7:30 AM–8:30 AM (EST)

Plenary Speaker Dr. Rajaniemi

Hannu Rajaniemi, PhD

Co-founder and CEO, Helix Nanotechnologies

Hannu Rajaniemi is a co-founder and CEO of HelixNano, a venture- and Y Combinator backed synthetic biology startup developing evolution-resistant mRNA vaccines for cancer, COVID-19 and other applications. Hannu studied mathematics and theoretical physics at University of Oulu and Cambridge and holds a PhD in string theory from the University of Edinburgh. He also co-founded a mathematics consultancy whose clients included UK Ministry of Defence and the European Space Agency.

Hannu is the author of four novels including The Quantum Thief (winner of 2012 Tähtivaeltaja Award for the best science fiction novel published in Finland and translated into more than 20 languages). His most recent book is Summerland, an alternate history spy thriller in a world where the afterlife is real. His short fiction has been featured in Slate, MIT Technology Review and the New York Times.


Title: Antibody-Dependent Enhancement Mechanisms and Sars-Cov-2 Vaccine Development

Description: The fact that antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) of infection following vaccination was observed for several SARS and MERS vaccine candidates raised significant concerns that it might also be an issue for the vaccines developed with extraordinary speed during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. While clear-cut instances of vaccine-induced ADE for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines have not been described to date, a growing body of clinical and mechanistic evidence suggests that antibody responses do play a key role in the immunopathology associated with severe COVID-19. In combination with rapidly evolving SARS-CoV-2 variants able to evade natural and vaccine-induced immunity, it remains important to address the possibility of ADE-like mechanisms in second-generation COVID-19 vaccine development.