2021 Ceppellini Lecture - Prof. Dr. Jacques J.C. Neefjes

Each year at the annual EFI Conference, a scientist who has made substantial contributions to the field of Immunogenetics is honored by the Society and invited to present their work in the form of the Ceppellini Lecture. The Lecture is named in honor of Ruggero Ceppellini (1917-1988), the Italian geneticist who greatly influenced the HLA field. The first Ceppellini Lecture was delivered in 1988 by the late founder of EFI, Jon van Rood. Over the past five EFI Conferences, it has been held by Pamela Bjorkman (2019), Lorenzo Moretta (2018), John Kappler (2017), Effie Petersdorf (2016), and Frans Claas (2015). A complete list of Ceppellini Lecture Awardees can be found here.

This year’s Ceppellini Lecture was delivered by Jacques Neefjes, Professor and head of the Department of Cell and Chemical Biology at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), the Netherlands. Jacques obtained his PhD in 1990 from the National Cancer Institute (NKI) in Amsterdam, on cell biological aspects of MHC class I and II molecules. He remained at the NKI to work as postdoc with Hidde Ploegh, to spend time thereafter as visiting scientist in the laboratory of Drs Christophe Benoist and Diane Mathis in Strasbourg, and as an EMBO fellow with Dr. Günter Hämmerling in Heidelberg. During this period, Jacques made milestone discoveries regarding the biochemical mechanisms of peptide antigen processing and presentation by MHC class I and Class II molecules, which were largely obscure at that time.

In 1993, he returned to the NKI where he served until 2016, with an intermittent visiting professorship at the University of Oslo from 2009 to 2011. Lastly, he was Head of the Division of Cell Biology at the NKI, before moving to his current position at the LUMC. Jacques is author of 313 peer-reviewed publications with a Scopus h-index of 85 and over 25.000 citations. He received numerous Awards including the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek prize (1990), a Golden Medal of the Royal Dutch Chemical Society (1996), the van Lochem career award of the Dutch Society of Immunology (2015), and two  ERC Advanced grants (2009; 2015). Before receiving the Ceppellini Award, he has delivered honorary lectures at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam (Ruysch Lecture 2012) and at McGill University, Montreal, Canada (Beatty Lecture 2012).

In his Ceppellini Lecture, Jacques gave a brilliant, enlightening and very humorous overview of our current understanding of MHC class I and II antigen processing and its role in health and disease. His vivid explanations were illustrated by very pointed cartoons, which conveyed not only his clarity of mind but also the fun he has had and is still having in his research. Jacque’s Ceppellini Lecture was a highly educational and motivating event for everyone in the audience, junior and senior alike, and definitely a highlight of the 2021 virtual EFI Conference!

Katharina Fleischhauer – on behalf of the EFI Scientific Committee