The 34th annual Bertram M. Marx Lecture will feature Caltech structural biologist Pamela Björkman, Ph.D.

Björkman will speak on “Structural correlates of antibody neutralization of pathogenic viruses.”

Pamela StreamPamela Björkman, Ph.D.Pamela Björkman, Ph.D., the David Baltimore Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, will present the 34th annual Bertram M. Marx Lecture, hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Microbiology, Tuesday, March 1, from noon to 1 p.m.

Björkman, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, will speak via Zoom on the “Structural correlates of antibody neutralization of pathogenic viruses.”

“For more than three decades, Marx family members have generously brought outstanding researchers to UAB,” said Fran Lund, Ph.D., founding director of UAB’s Immunology Institute and former chair of Microbiology. “This year’s lecturer is one of the top structural biologists and immunologists in the world.”

The Björkman laboratory focuses on immune recognition of viral pathogens. This includes immune responses against HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, and most recently SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal is improved therapeutics and vaccines.

“We use X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy and biochemistry to study pathogen glycoproteins and host immune proteins,” Björkman writes on her Caltech lab website. “Using structural information and alternate antibody architectures, we are engineering antibody-based reagents with increased potency and breadth.”

In the 1980s, while at Harvard as a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, Björkman used X-ray crystallography to solve the first molecular structure of a major histocompatibility complex protein, a key component of the immune system for distinguishing self from non-self. Such discrimination, or its failure, underlies autoimmunity, transplant rejection and the ability to recognize and attack pathogens.

The Bertram M. Marx Lectureship began in 1985 to support annual visits to the UAB campus by scientists noted for their work examining the basic biology of cancer as well as the impact of infection, inflammation and immune regulation on the development and progression of cancer and other chronic diseases.

For Zoom information, join the mailing list at the UAB Microbiology website or email Julie Decker