Published: 24-06-2015 15:11 | Updated: 07-09-2015 16:19

Scientific symposium pays tribute to pioneers

Colleagues from around the world came to celebrate the 90th birthdays of cancer researchers Georg and Eva Klein at a symposium that featured lectures by the world’s leading cancer researchers and opened with a special birthday concert.

Eva and Georg Klein have been awarded countless prizes and awards over the years for their discoveries in the field of cancer. Although they both turn 90 this year, they are still active tumour biologists at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology (MCT). A symposium, arranged by their students and staff, was held on 17–18 June on “The Future of Tumour Biology” at the Nobel Forum, Karolinska Institutet. The programme was kept secret from the couple up to the last minute.

“It was a delightful surprise and such a wonderful programme,” said Georg Klein during the first coffee break of the day. “Everyone is here with new discoveries. It’s so very interesting.”

The symposium was open to an exclusive collection of invited scientists but was streamed live over the internet – with the exception of the lecture by Nobel Laureate Harald zur Hausen as it contained unpublished results.

KI’s vice-chancellor, Professor Anders Hamsten, was noticeably moved when he opened the symposium by thanking the couple for what they have done for KI and for generations of researchers.

“We are here to celebrate science and to pay homage to two fantastic researchers and role models who, together, have made exceptional contributions to Karolinska Institutet and to tumour biology,” he said in his welcoming address.

Professor Hamsten described Georg and Eva Klein as two of KI’s most important researchers of all time. They were pioneers in immunotherapy, which ranks today as one of the most promising breakthroughs for the future of cancer therapy. The speakers at the symposium were the cream of modern cancer research. Apart from scientific lectures, there was also time for personal reflections on the couple’s long career. A closing address was given by Hans Wigzell, professor emeritus of immunology, and one of many to have earned their PhD under the Kleins’ supervision. He gave a vivid description of the Department of Tumour Biology that was originally set up by the couple, and that went on to become a world-leading hub of tumour biology in the 1960s and 70s, attracting scientists from all corners of the world. It also boasted a climate of trust, even for a 19-year old Hans Wigzell, who was taken on as an assistant after only his first year of medical studies.

“It’s Eva’s and Georg’s incredible ability to teach and inspire, not their scientific results, that is their greatest contribution to the world,” he said. “And for that we thank you, Eva, and we thank you, Georg.

Text: Jenny Ryltenius
Photo: Gunnar Ask

Videos from the lectures at the symposium will be available soon.

Read more about Georg and Eva Klein.