Christine Biron is the chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Brown University in Providence, and she focuses her research program on the mechanisms of the innate immune system – the body’s system of non-specific munitions for fighting off pathogens. Dr. Biron is also a newly elected fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.
When a pathogen gets on or in your body, your innate immune system is on the front lines, working against the pathogen is a non-specific manner. In research, the innate immune system got short shrift for a long time, and only in the last 10 or 20 years has the field picked up momentum. Dr. Biron says back when she was in graduate school “the innate immune system wasn’t thought to be very cool”, but she says the field is fast-moving today, in part because of some major discoveries involving Type-1 interferons, natural killer cells, and an increased appreciation of a wider range of antigen processing cells that link the innate and adaptive immune responses.
In this interview, I talked with Dr. Biron about our increasing awareness of the innate immune system, why it’s important to bring microbiologists and immunologists together under one big tent, and why it’s best that a battle between a virus and a host ends not in victory for one and defeat for the other, but in détente.