Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Columbia University Medical Center

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The Heidelberger-Kabat Distinguished Lecture in Immunology
The Heidelberger-Kabat Lecture's foundations date to the mid-1950s when the university instituted a lecture series to honor Dr. Michael Heidelberger, Columbia's first professor of immunochemistry and the founding father of the field. Subsequently, the university established a symposium named for Dr. Elvin Kabat, a Columbia professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology who studied under Dr. Heidelberger and whose research led to the identification of the proteins responsible for antibody activity.

In 2001, the families of Dr. Michael Heidelberger and Dr. Elvin A. Kabat, in conjunction with the University, formally established the Heidelberger-Kabat Distinguished Lectureship in Immunology to honor Drs. Heidelberger and Kabat, longtime colleagues and friends, by sponsoring an annual lecture by a scientist representing the best current research in immunology. The newly christened Heidelberger-Kabat Lecture has emerged as one of the country's premier forums for the discussion of new developments and discoveries in immunochemistry.

Trained in organic chemistry, Michael Heidelberger embarked on the characterization of the immunologic specificity of pneumococcal polysaccharides in the 1920s and continued this work after his move to Columbia in 1928. His work demonstrated that polysaccharides are effective antigens (in the absence of any peptide component), thus dispelling the myth that only proteins could serve as antigens; and that antibodies are proteins, bringing immunochemistry out of the vague realm of colloidal chemistry. Using antibodies as specific reagents, Heidelberger carried out structural analyses of a wide variety of naturally occurring polysaccharides. Heidelberger brought the precise methods of analytical chemistry to the determination of antibodies, antigens, and complement on a weight basis, providing the gold standard against which miniaturized and rapid methods such as RIA and ELISA could be standardized and compared. Heidelberger won numerous medals, citations, and awards for his work, including two Albert Lasker Awards in 1953 and 1978, the National Medal of Science in 1967, and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in 1977.

ELVIN A. KABAT, PH.D. (1914-2000) During his doctoral work, Elvin Kabat developed a life-long interest in carbohydrate chemistry, which later led to his unraveling the complex chemistry of human blood group substances. In 1937-38, Kabat used electrophoresis to show that immunoglobulins comprise the "gamma globulin" fraction of human serum and demonstrated that gamma globulin was present in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with multiple sclerosis. In 1947, Kabat began to work on an animal model of multiple sclerosis in monkeys, establishing the autoimmune character of this disease. He initiated the quantitative study of antibodies in anaphylaxis and allergy and provided the first estimates of the size and shape of an antibody's antigen combining site. Kabat received the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize in 1977, and the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest award for scientific achievement, in 1991. Elvin Kabat was a respected and beloved member of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia for many years and is remembered not only for his outstanding scientific mind but also for his high standards, his forthrightness, and his wonderful sense of humor.

List of Lectures

Lecture Title


Non-homologous DNA end joining in VDJ combination and B cell tumorigenesis: the up and down sides of antibody CDR3 diversification


The Control of Immunity and Tolerance by Dendritic Cells

Ralph Steinman, M.D.
(2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine)


Antibodies: Essential Regulators of Normal and Malignant B Cells


The Evolution of Adaptive Immunity


Molecular Mechanism for Antibody Memory


Dendritic Cells and B Cells in Immunity and Tolerance


NF-kB and Regulation of the Inflammatory Response


The Inflammasome in Health and Disease


Mammalian Stress Sensors in Health and Disease


T Cell Recognition and Repertoire


A General Mechanism for Modulating Immunoglobulin Effector Activity


Aire, a Transcriptional Regulator that Controls Immunological Tolerance


From Inflammation to Immunity: Understanding Cancer and Improving its Treatment


T Cell Memory and Exhaustion

Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University + 701 W. 168 St., HHSC 1208 New York, NY 10032 Tel. 212-305-3647