A Brief History of Immunology at UAB

 by J. Claude Bennett, MD

Photos courtesy of the UAB Archives

The following is an attempt to give a condensed history of immunology at UAB. It is truly impossible to be brief, because so many students, postdocs, research fellows and faculty have made the program what it is today. It also would be impossible to name all of the significant participants, so this has not been attempted. Nor are all the dates accurate, beyond being approximations. Hopefully all missteps, omissions and slights will be forgiven.

ActonIn the mid-1960s Ed Evans, Ph. D., was Chair of the Department of Microbiology and had a sizeable program, including students and fellows, to study the mechanisms of the immune response. This led to his interest in the process in lower vertebrates, much of which was taken up later by Ron Acton, Ph.D.

I [J. Claude Bennett, M.D.], returned to UAB in 1965 from the California Institute of Technology to join the Division of Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine. Six months  later,  Max. D. Cooper, M.D., was recruited to the MaxCooper2Dept. of Pediatrics, following several years of work with Robert Good. My lab had its focus on protein chemistry and the structure of immunoglobulins. Cooper’s group developed around the general theme of B-cell immunology. Cooper also had a major interest in clinical immunology and the molecular nature of immune deficiency syndromes.

1970-1980 I became Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Director of the Division of Rheumatology in 1970. Although resources were meager Cooper and I jointly worked to recruit students, fellows and new faculty to UAB. The decade of 1970-1980 was a time of great excitement for the immunology program. More...

1980-1990 Many recruitments, overlapping appointments, development of the “center” concept, and collaborative arrangements were going on in the years 1975-1990. The appointment of Harry Schroeder, M.D., Peter Burrows, Ph.D., and David Briles, PhD to the Cooper lab were made possible by the building of new laboratory facilities by the Cancer Center. More...

1990-present Charles Elson, M.D., was appointed Director of the Division of Gastroenterology in the early 1990’s and developed an outstanding program to study various aspects of gut immunology, with special focus on Crohn’s disease. Elson now heads the interdisciplinary program in Autoimmune Diseases at UAB. More...

The Immunology Program has  collaborative relationships with nearly every Department and Center in the UAB Medical School. Its students, postdocs and faculty have continued to “make-good” here and at other institutions.