Laureate Professor Dr Alain Fischer
“A healthy immune system can distinguish pathogenic microbes from harmless ones. But in the case of genetic disorders, life is at risk – and this is where the therapy developed by me, and my team, comes in.” Professor Dr med. Alain Fischer from the University of Paris Descartes and Collège de France dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the field of clinical immunology and achieved significant progress with his scientific work: he deciphered the molecular etiology of numerous genetic disorders of the immune system and developed a corresponding gene therapy. The Hamburg Jung Foundation for Science and Research has already honored Alain Fischer for his outstanding research with the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine in 1998 and is now all the more pleased to award him the Ernst Jung Gold Medal for Medicine 2022 for his life's work. This medal is awarded annually by the Jung Foundation to top researchers who have significantly advanced medical research and practice (or who are still actively doing so) and is a recognition of their life's work to date.
Congenital immunodeficiencies, also called primary immune deficiency diseases, are rare, extremely diverse and can have fatal consequences for those affected. While some genetic immunodeficiencies already manifest in childhood, others are only triggered by certain factors in adulthood. Alain Fischer and his working group significantly advanced research in this field, including the important development of approaches for forms of therapy. For example, the research team succeeded in uncovering the molecular etiology of five types of so-called severe combined immunodeficiencies (SCID). When affected by SCID, the immune system is so weak that it hardly offers any protection against infections. This can be life-threatening for a patient.
In further research, Fischer helped prove that the enzyme “activation-induced cytidine deaminase” (AID) plays an important role in antibody maturation. He thus identified an important component in the adaptive, i.e. acquired or secondary, immune response of the human body. Prof Fischer's work also serves as a milestone in the study of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), also known as "hyperinflammatory syndrome", as his research group identified most of the genetic defects causing HLH. HLH is a severe inflammatory reaction and life-threatening immune system dysfunction. The insights gained from his work enabled Fischer to propose different clinical treatments, for example in the field of stem cell transplantation and gene therapy. In addition, it has paved the way for further therapies that are currently being researched.