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ACTERIA Early Career Research Prize 2015 in Allergology

Dr. Thomas Marichal, DVM

Thomas Marichal, 31, graduated in 2007 as a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine from the University of Liège (BE). He obtained a PhD in Immunology in June 2011, under the supervision of Prof Fabrice Bureau (Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology, GIGA-Research Institute, University of Liege, BE) and was awarded a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship from the European Commission for a postdoctoral training at Stanford University (California, USA), with Prof Stephen J. Galli as a mentor. Since 2014, he is back as a junior principal investigator at the GIGA-Research Institute in Liege (BE). He has published 8 original articles, among others in The Journal of Clinical Investigation (2009), The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2010), Nature Medicine (2011) and Immunity (2013), 2 review articles and one book chapter.

A common feature of allergic disorders, helminth infections and aluminium-adjuvanted vaccination is the type of immune response that is induced, called "type 2 immunity". To date, Dr. Marichal's scientific work has made substantial advances in the field of Allergy and Immunology in understanding how type 2 immune responses are induced, and what physiological functions they have. In his Nature Medicine paper, he discovered that self-DNA, released upon aluminium-induced tissue damage, acts as a danger signal that mediates the development of type 2 immunity and immunoglobulin E (IgE) production in mice. In addition, in a paradigm-shifting study published in Immunity, Dr. Marichal and his colleagues from Stanford have shown that IgE, which are mainly known in the context of deleterious allergic reactions, also can enhance host protection against venoms. This work provides, from an evolutionary perspective, the first experimental evidence that allergic responses and IgE might, under certain circumstances, have been maintained to serve as an immunological mechanism of defense against toxins.

Dr. Marichal's current research activity at the GIGA-Research Institute in Liege is mainly interested in the complex regulation of epithelial cell functions, which maintain homeostasis at cutaneous and mucosal surfaces and can prevent the development of type 2 immune-mediated diseases such as atopic dermatitis, food allergy or allergic asthma.