ERA 2024 Interview: Jasper Callemeyn - European Medical Journal

ERA 2024 Interview: Jasper Callemeyn

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Jasper Callemeyn | Nephrology Fellow and Physician-Scientist, University Hospitals Leuven, Belgium

Citation: EMJ Nephrol. 2024;12[1]:57-58.

Congratulations on receiving a prestigious European Renal Association (ERA) Stanley Sheldon Award for Young Investigators in Translational Science at the 61st ERA Congress. What work led to this, and what does receipt of this award mean to you?

It is an absolute honour to receive this prestigious award. I was awarded this prize for my work studying the role of the innate immune system in rejection after kidney transplantation. I consider this award not merely as a celebration of my work alone, but as the recognition of a group effort in which many people supported me.

When did you realise that you wanted to specialise in transplantation nephrology, and how did you come to start your academic research in transplant rejection?

As a resident of Internal Medicine, I was confronted with the impact that end-stage kidney disease has on patients and how life-changing the gift of a kidney transplantation can be. However, survival of kidney allografts after transplantation is often suboptimal, and many cases of premature graft failure can be attributed to rejection. I decided to pursue a career in kidney transplantation with the intention to improve the care for kidney transplant recipients and to increase our understanding of transplant immunology.

You presented during the Young Awardees symposium at ERA 2024. What are the key take-home messages from this presentation?

In my presentation, I highlighted that rejection after kidney transplantation is a complex and multifaceted problem. I argued that acknowledging this complexity will improve the care for our patients. In addition, evidence is accumulating on the role of the innate immune system in allorecognition, which may lead to new treatment options and improved outcomes.

What do you think are the biggest gaps in our understanding of immune-mediated transplant rejection that research should focus on addressing to improve patient outcomes?

We highlighted the role of several key players that were hitherto insufficiently acknowledged, such as natural killer cells and other components of the innate immune system. To translate these findings to clinical implementation, we should now aim to further explore the importance and interactions of these mechanisms in larger validation cohorts. This will also require the early involvement of companies, regulatory agencies, and patient organisations.

Other than receiving your award, what are your key highlights from ERA 2024?

I was impressed by the high quality of many of this year’s sessions. In particular, the late-breaking sessions were a testimony to the revolution that nephrology is currently experiencing. In my area of expertise, the positive results from the trial investigating felzartamab for the treatment of antibody-mediated rejection were very promising. If future larger trials confirm this effect, we are truly at a turning point in the care for our patients with antibody-mediated rejection.

In the recently published article, you co-authored ‘Revisiting the changes in the Banff classification for antibody-mediated rejection after kidney transplantation.’ What was the key message you were trying to deliver?

In this article, we investigated the evolution of the international Banff classification for allograft pathology, which is used to classify rejection. We demonstrated that the 2017 version of this classification took a step in the wrong direction by no longer acknowledging cases in which the picture of antibody-mediated rejection was unclear. This data, together with the work of many other groups, has led to a revision of the Banff 2022 classification, which now incorporates two new phenotypes in the spectrum of microvascular inflammation.

With the success you’ve had so far, what advice would you give to early-career physicians looking to embark on their research journey?

Find yourself a mentor who can provide you with a nurturing environment to grow in. Dare to question dogma, take the time to step back and think broadly about your subject matter. Follow your data and open yourself up for unexpected turns. Serendipity may lead you to the most profound insights.


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