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Prof Katherine Fitzgerald - Public Lecture Award 2011

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Dr Kate A. Fitzgerald, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, was the recipient of the 2011 Irish Society for Immunology Public Lecture Award presented by Prof Ed Lavelle, President of ISI.

Prof Fitzgerald Public Lecture: “The Offensive Side of Immune Defences”

Over the last decade immunologists have discovered how the immune system senses the presence of an infection. Several families of genes have been identified which recognise foreign substances present on bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that are not present on, or in, our own cells. By sensing these foreign molecules the immune system gets started and, if successful, will eliminate the infection from the body.

This response is a very tightly controlled process and must be turned on rapidly and then turned off again as soon as the threat has been eliminated. In some individuals this surveillance system inadvertently recognises molecules from their own bodies and eliminates these molecules, thus causing considerable damage to tissues and organs and contributing to conditions such as arthritis and lupus.

Dr Kate A. Fitzgerald, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, was the recipient of the 2011 Irish Society for Immunology Public Lecture Award. A leading researcher in the field of innate immunology and the role it plays in a range of autoimmune diseases, Dr Fitzgerald illustrated what happens when the body’s own defences turn offensive and attack its own cells. This enhanced insight into the reaction of the immune system to infection is significantly influencing our understanding of autoimmune diseases. This lecture, which is aimed at a general audience, was the next in an ongoing series presented by the RDS and The Irish Times, and was held in association with the Irish Society for Immunology.


Katherine A Fitzgerald, PhD

Professor of Medicine

Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Katherine A. Fitzgerald is an Irish-born American molecular biologist and virologist. She is a professor of medicine currently working in the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is also the director of the Program in Innate Immunity. She is a leader in the field of innate immunity. She conducts research on many aspects of innate immunity such as the molecular basis of pathogen recognition, the innate immunity to malaria, Type I Interferon gene regulation, and the counter regulation of innate immune recognition.

Fitzgerald received her B.Sc. degree in Biochemistry in 1995 from University College Cork. She received her Ph.D. in 1999 from Trinity College Dublin, studying with Luke A. J. O'Neill. In 2011, Fitzgerald was a finalist for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science. In 2015, she was awarded the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal, and she is the first woman to win the award. She was awarded the Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher in 2014 and 2015, for being in the top 1% of authors cited in her field. In 2020, she was admitted into the Royal Irish Academy, one of Ireland's most prestigious academic bodies. (Source Wikipedia.)


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