Dental professor awarded Royal Society fellowship

Tom Lehner, professor of Basic and Applied Immunology from the Mucosal Immunology Unit at King’s College London Dental Institute, has been awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine.

It’s in recognition of his huge – and sustained – contributions to the field of basic and applied immunology.

The citation was given by John Skuse, treasurer of the Royal Society of Medicine. Professor Lehner joined the Dental Institute (formerly Guy’s Hospital Medical and Dental School in 1963).

He joined the Oral Medicine Department under Professor Martin Rushton, the first and most distinguished department of its kind.

Stephen Challacombe, professor of Oral Medicine, vice dean and director of External Strategy at King’s College London Dental Institute said of Professor Lehner that he had made ‘enormous contributions to dentistry and oral medicine and the field of oral immunology which he established virtually single-handed.’

In his career, Professor Lehner has published 250 original peer review papers and 50 books and reviews.

His work has ranged from the early classification of oral and systemic candidiasis, the classification of which is still extant today to mucosal vaccines against HIV.

In early years at Guy’s, he had particular interest in recurrent aphthous stomatitis and Behcet’s syndrome (and continues to contribute to this field).

Professor Lehner and his colleagues in the new Department of Oral Immunology, the first of its kind anywhere in the world and established at Guy’s Hospital Dental School in 1970, applied immunological principles  to the investigation of candidiasis, herpes simplex, oral cancer, aphthous stomatitis, caries and periodontal diseases amongst other conditions.

From 1972 onwards, a stream of innovative papers emanated from this department under Professor Lehner’s direction.

 

These included the immunobiology of oral streptococci and prevention of dental caries by the application orally of recombinant proteins, synthetic peptides and monoclonal IgG or secretory IgA antibodies produced in transgenic plants.

This was the first ever use of plants to produce antibodies and the first demonstration of their efficacy in vivo but also the first use of monoclonal IgG antibodies in vivo in both caries and periodontal disease.

From 1990 onwards, his work has been more directed to the immunology of HIV infection and particular immune mechanisms of protective mucosal and systemic immunity against HIV using the SIV model in non human primates. He continues this work at the same intensity today and is the project director of the international consortium of vaccination against HIV/SIV supported by the Gates Foundation.

Professor Lehner has received numerous awards including the CBE in 2003 and the FKC in 2004 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to innovative research.

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