Final Max Planck Florida Institute Lecture on the Threat of Plagues

April 5, 2011

The final lecture in a three-part series hosted this season by the Max Planck Florida Institute featured Dr. Stefan H.E. Kaufmann, founding director and director of the department of immunology at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin. Nearly 200 guests filled the Fellowship Hall at the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach on March 30 to hear his talk on the “Threat of Plagues,” where he discussed the threat of infectious diseases and the strategies to prevent pandemics around the world.

“Historically, infectious diseases and epidemics have decimated entire populations, triggered mass migrations and decided the outcome of wars,” said Dr. Kaufmann. “The threat of infectious diseases still hangs over us today – now more than ever due to the quickening pace of globalization. Infectious diseases affect every facet of our lives. Besides being the focus of research and medicine, they shape society and culture and have a significant economic and political impact.”

Guests at the lecture included Lew Crampton; Mechtild Ewert; Daniel and Shanna Kahan; Dr. Istvan Krisco; Howard and Patricia Lester; Perry and Troy Brown; and Mac and Patty Skelly.

One of Germany’s most cited immunologists, Dr. Kaufmann is also a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Charité University Clinics in Berlin; past president and honorary member of the German Society for Immunology; and current president of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS). His scientific research focuses on the body’s immunity to bacterial pathogens with an emphasis on tuberculosis. He is the member of the editorial board for more than 20 international scientific journals.

“Today there are more than two billion people in the world infected with tuberculosis, of which two million live with the risk of the disease breaking out,” said Dr. Kaufmann. “Prevention is better than a cure. We can’t afford to hesitate on continuing the research and funding necessary to eliminate this disease from society.”

In addition to his public lecture, Dr. Kaufmann also visited Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee on March 30 in coordination with the Palm Beach County School District to address a group of science students. And on March 31, he was part of a panel discussion on “Tuberculosis: A neglected pandemic” at the German House in New York City, hosted by the German Center for Research and Innovation.

The Max Planck Florida Institute winter lecture series is free and open to the public. Next season’s lecture topics include a presentation on the research being done at the Florida Institute on understanding the functional organization of the nervous system and its capacity to produce perception, thought, language, memory, emotion, and action. Neural circuits, the complex synaptic networks of the brain, hold the key to understanding who we are, why we behave the way we do, and how the debilitating effects of neurological and psychiatric disorders can be improved.