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Dr. Per Brandtzaeg

"I would like to end my message by emphasizing how much I appreciate the genuine friendship that prevails among members of our Society. Quite often I hear newcomers attending our meetings comment that that they immediately sensed the warm and relaxed atmosphere. This is an attribute that I shall do my best to nourish during my presidency together with the extremely devoted “crew” that serves our Society. Nevertheless, the best guarantee for a successful period is the enthusiastic support from all member! Let us join in our efforts to enhance the field of mucosal immunity, recognizing its importance to many facets of biology and medicine as well as its great potential to aid mankind through practical medical application in the not too distant future." – Per Brandtzaeg, SMI President 1995-1997

In this interview, Dr. Brandtzaeg and Dr. Matteoli discuss:

  • Dr. Brandtzaeg’s contributions to the field of mucosal immunology
  • The history of SMI and Dr. Brandtzaeg’s personal involvement
  • The importance of an internationally-focused organization for mucosal immunologists
  • Career advice for students, post-docs, and junior faculty

Dr. Brandtzaeg's Oral History Video

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In 1962 Per Brandtzaeg obtained a Fulbright fellowship to do his postgraduate training, and he received in 1964 an MS degree in microbiology, immunology and pathology at the Medical Center, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham, AL, USA. He returned to Oslo with a PhD fellowship from the university there, and he was offered to do his degree work at the Institute of Pathology of the Medical Faculty.

This work was delayed so he did not receive his PhD in immunology at the Univ. of Oslo until 1971. The reason was that the Head the Institute of Pathology wanted him to establish a research and diagnostic laboratory at the department and institute of pathology. This laboratory was opened in the spring of 1965 and is now called the Laboratory for Immunohistochemistry and Immunopathology (LIIPAT). Its main activity has always been mucosal immunology and immunopathology, although tumour markers have been part of its responsibility for diagnostic purposes. Brandtzaeg’s special interest was how antibodies are transported through gut epithelial cells to interact with, and modulate, the commensal microbiota.

His IgA receptor-mediated epithelial transport model, proposed in 1974, is now internationally accepted. Brandtzaeg was also the founder (2001) of a thematic research network called the Centre for Vaccinology and Immunotherapy (CEVI) at the University of Oslo, with a focus on basic mechanisms of importance for active and passive immunization. In 2007, CEVI obtained status as a Centre of Excellence for Immune Regulation (CIR), funded by the Research Council of Norway and the University Hospital. Brandtzaeg obtained the top score of leading European scientists in the field of mucosal immunology in a worldwide peer judgement carried out by the US National Academy of Sciences Immunology Benchmarking Panel in 1998. He became the Head of the Institute of Pathology in 1990, and also served as former Head of the Faculty Division, Rikshospitalet University Hospital.

Brandtzaeg remains one of Norway’s most cited researchers over the last decades, and according to Google Scholar his H-index is at 120. He received several major national and international science awards, among these the two most prestigious Scandinavian medical awards, namely Anders Jahre’s Senior Nordic Award for achievements in medical research (Oslo, 1988) and the Fernstrøm Foundation Nordic Major Prize (Lund, 2014). In 2006 the Norwegian King Harald 5 named professor Brandtzaeg Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav because of his major achievements for Norwegian medicine and for his engagement in the public debate to enhance the quality of forensic science to avoid miscarriage of justice.