The history of immunology in Switzerland, 1950 - 2018
On this page, a concise overview is provided of the 68-year history of immunology in Switzerland, without going into detail about the people or “stakeholders”.
Links to a more detailed chronology and other information on the SSAI are available at the bottom of the page.
In 1950, a group of highly respected representatives of various medical disciplines founds the “Swiss Society for Allergy” (article at the occasion of the 70-year anniversary) and organises the first International Congress for Allergology in Zurich in 1951.
In the years between 1956 and 1969, alongside allergology, the field of clinical immunology is expanding more and more to include immunodeficiency disorders, autoimmune diseases, transplantations, tumour immunology, dermatology etc. Immunology research plays a central role in all of this, and Switzerland is making its mark with important academic articles and the emergence of internationally renowned institutions of immunology, as well as the fundamental research being carried out in Basel, Lausanne and Davos.
In 1968-69, departments and outpatient clinics for “allergology and clinical immunology” are established in all Swiss university towns and institutes.
In 1972, the Swiss Society for Allergology and Immunology (SSAI) is founded, which brings together allergology, clinical immunology and basic immunology into one organisation. The role of Chair rotates between the representatives of these various disciplines, with each one taking a term of office for two years. Close contact with many international specialist immunology associations is initiated and maintained.
From 1972 up to the present day, the SSAI organises regular conferences – the SSAI Annual Meeting, the Wolfsberg Meeting and the Allergy and Immunology Update (AIU) in Grindelwald. The SSAI works to encourage a new generation of doctors and scientists, takes part in careers fairs and other events and awards Congress Scholarships for PhD students, postdoctoral students and junior doctors within the first six years of gaining their doctorate.
In 1974, a postgraduate course in immunology supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation is added to the palette.
In 1984-85, what was already the case with respect to a national network of HLA typing is now applied to an HIV/AIDS network.
Various developments take place within fundamental research in Switzerland: In 1988, the Swiss Institute for Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF) emerges out of an existing institute for experimental immunology in Davos. In 1992, the Institute for Experimental Immunology is established in Zurich from the Institute for Experimental Pathology, which had been founded in 1980.
As anticipated, from 1995 onwards, basic immunology becomes an increasingly integral part of biology faculties worldwide, including Switzerland. In 2000, the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB) is founded in Bellinzona.
Clinically-oriented immunologists have been gaining an ever-greater foothold over the preceding years and are becoming increasingly recognised.
In 1993, allergology and immunology becomes a fully-fledged medical discipline, which had already begun in 1973 with the introduction of a certificate of competence. Immunology becomes a standalone specialism in the FAMH (The Medical Laboratories of Switzerland) in 1984.
In 2002, the charitable foundation “aha! Swiss Allergy Centre” is set up, which works closely together with the SSAI.
Current status of the SSAI:
Between 600 to 700 members, 13 board members, 7 committees and sub-committees, 14 delegates to national organisations, and five delegates to international organisations for immunology and allergology, and one general secretary with an office in Bern.