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Professor Gerold SCHULER (2004, 2006)

Gerold Schuler (born 09.01.1951 in Innsbruck, Austria) received his approbation as physician and the M.D. degree from the University of Innsbruck, Austria in 1975, and since 1995 he is Head of the Department of Dermatology of the University Hospital of Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany. Already during his dermatology training at the University of Innsbruck G. Schuler started to look at the biology of dendritic cells (DC) (guided by Profs. K. Wolff and G. Stingl), and continued to do so during two sabbaticals at the Rockefeller University (guided by Ralph Steinman) and subsequently upon his return to Europe in 1985. His current main interest is to transfer DC-based immunization strategies into the clinic to treat tumors and HIV infection. His group has been working on improving and standardizing DC vaccines, and has performed a series of clinical trials of DC vaccination, including multicenter trials. Currently, critical variables of DC vaccination such as schedule, maturation stimulus, and the effect of providing T help or depleting regulatory T cells is studied in ongoing 2-armed trials. In addition, RNA transfected DC vaccines are explored. G. Schuler is the coordinator of the gTherapeutics Applicationsh and the gDC Vaccinationh sections in the DC-THERA (Dendritic Cells for Novel Immunotherapies) EU Network of Excellence and the CIMT (Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy) EU Integrated project, respectively.

Main scientific findings: Over 20 years these include the following: i) murine epidermal Langerhans cells (LC) mature into potent immunostimulatory dendritic cells (DC) in vitro, resulting in the concept of eDC maturationf which has proven to be a major control point in cellular immunity; ii) DC produce IL-12, a pivotal cytokine in the induction of Th1 responses; iii) LC and spleen DC are myeloid-related cells, which also led us to the discovery that GM-CSF is the key cytokine for (myeloid) DC development, thus allowing for the first generation of DC from hematopoietic precursors; iv) human DC can be generated by using GM-CSF + IL-4 or IL-13 from peripheral blood precursors, and adaption of the method for clinical use; v) first proof of principle that antigen-loaded DC can induce tumor-specific cytotoxic T cells as well as Th1 cells in melanoma patients; and vi) identification and characterization of human CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells, and demonstration that repetitive injection of semi-mature DC induces regulatory T cells in mice.