The Department of Immunology and Biotechnology (previously "Immunological and Biotechnological Laboratory") was established in 1991 as an independent teaching, research, and diagnostic unit of the University Medical School of Pécs. Research and R&D activities were started by Peter Németh’s research group in the field of molecular and cellular immunology in the Department of Pathology during the early 1980’s. Special courses were held by Peter Németh regularly on the current theoretical immunology and immunopathology for voluntary students in every year between 1981 and 1991. These informal lectures (usually held in the student's college club) enjoyed considerable popularity. The lecture series were completed later by György Szekeres, Zsuzsa Bebök, Timea Berki and Péter Balogh, the first research fellows of the group.
These two main aspects – research and teaching – and the successful grant activity supported the progression from a small research group to a new, well equipped university department during a relatively short period from 1981 to 1991.
The Immunological and Biotechnological Laboratory exhibited intensive R&D activity from the beginning, and specialized for monoclonal antibody production by hybridoma technology. Since 1981 more than 250 new hybridoma cell lines have been developed in the group mainly for the own research but some for commercial use as well.
Successful theoretical research fields were developed consequently in three major themes parallel with the monoclonal antibody production.
The research group partially separated inside the Department of Pathology between 1986-1989 (under the name of “Biotechnological Facility”) and was brought to total independence in 1991 with the establishment of the Immunological and Biotechnological Laboratory responsible in teaching a regular subject – Basic Immunology – for medical students and biologists.
The official name of the laboratory changed to the “Department of Immunology and Biotechnology” in 1996, and at the same time Péter Nemeth was appointed to the first professor and chairman.
The basic infrastructure development of the department was carried out between 1989-1990 in the ground floor and during the year 1995 in the first floor. An old university building – located in a separated block inside of the university campus - was reconstructed according to the needs of a modern research facility for biosciences. The building now houses several laboratories, including a teaching room for seminars and laboratory skills, special laboratories for the immunodiagnostical examinations, the room for the cell depository, a library, and the offices of staff members. The National Hybridoma Cell Bank is placed in the Department as an official depository for hybridoma cell lines, and serves as a regional source of other reference cell lines (human, mouse and rat) as well.
The technical tools include instruments for long term in vitro cell culture procedures, equipments for immunochemical and biochemical analysis, protein purification, nucleic acid techniques, and microscopes for light and fluorescent morphological investigations.
The building has its own computer network, linked to the main University system, enabling full e-mail and Internet contact worldwide. The Department of Immunology and Biotechnology is furnished with an up to date technical capacity, and keeps well trained coworkers employed, specialized in the field of the current molecular and cellular biological methods.
One of the most important aims of the institute was to integrate clinical and theoretical immunology and keep good contacts with the clinics of the region. First the cooperation was only consultation than since 2001 it has routine immunodiagnostical services for the clinics of Pécs and the region too. Now the Department has two specialists and two residents.
Teaching of "Basic Immunology" as a separate subject for undergraduate medical students and biologists began in 1991. The curriculum contains 28 lectures and 14 times 2 hours laboratory practices during a semester. The subject covers the most important knowledge about basic molecular and cellular elements of the immune system, the main functional regulation of the physiological immune response, and some of the most important basic immunopathological phenomena.
A shorter course on basic immunology is organized for pharmacist students and a separate course for biology teachers (28 - 28 hours in one semester). The exams are multiple choice-type written tests. Teaching the “Biotechnology” as a new subject for biologists started in 2001 in collaboration with the Faculty of Natural Sciences. The curriculums of “Pharmaceutical Biotechnology” and “Medical Biotechnology” are under elaboration.
From the year 2004/2005 new “credit” type education is introduced at the undergraduate level. These courses were at first“Immunopathology” and “Immunological methods”. Further two were estabilished: “Medical biotechnology” in 2005 and “Allergology“ in 2007.
The PhD program of the Department was endorsed – as a subprogram of the immunology group - amongst the first postgraduate courses in the country. The training program involves theoretical and methodological courses. The theoretical course covers the field of current molecular and cellular immunobiology, while the methodological course gives insight to the field of up-to-date immunotechniques for young scientists, together with laboratory practices for enhancing hand skills. Several PhD students from the other doctoral programs were interested in both the theoretical and the methodological courses during the last decade.
The senior scientists of the Department participate regularly as invited lecturers in different postgraduate seminars and courses on clinical immunology and immunobiology organized by other institutions all around the country.
The Department’s main research profiles focus on the mechanisms of cellular and molecular interactions during normal and pathological immune responses. Main investigated research fields by the scientist of the Department are the following:
- immunological recognition of the most conservative molecular elements of the body including cytoplasmic and cell surface structures
- role of the mitochondrial enzymes in the physiological and pathological autoimmunity
- regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor expression during the T cell differentiation
- functional morphological analysis of mouse lymphatic tissues
- early differentiation of B lymphocytes
- animal models for innate immunity
- methodical developments on current nucleic acid and immunotechniques.
The publication activity of the Department exceeds original papers, book chapters, international and domestic scientific congress presentations, most of them published in international journals with high impact. (See the list of publications in a separated file.) The citations for these articles continuously increase according to the international data base.
The Department has established a broad international relationship with a variety of research institutes abroad, including several laboratories in Croatia, England, France, Germany, and in the USA.
Laboratory diagnostic service on clinical immunology
The diagnostic duty of the Department is a new and promising profile recently. Regular and accredited immunological laboratory diagnostic activities of the Department have been established in 2001. Autoantibody detection by immunoserology and the analysis of cell surface and intracytoplasmic markers by flow cytometry are the main outlines. Fruitful collaboration is emerging with clinical departments of the University and the region.