The exclusive Center Club provided just the right atmosphere Saturday night for "An Evening of Elegance," a black-tie fund-raiser that drew 135 supporters of the Newport Beach-based National Society for Immunology.
The event, organized by the Orange County Council for Immunology, raised nearly $20,000 for UC Irvine research on allergies and such diseases as AIDS, multiple sclerosis and lupus.
Guests descending the steps to the garden level of the club, which adjoins the Performing Arts Center now under construction in Costa Mesa, were serenaded by the Murray Korda Monseigneur Strings before walking through a receiving line that included the evening's two guest speakers: Drs. Gale Granger and Sudhir Gupta, both of whom are immunology experts involved in research at UCI's School of Medicine.
Guests were also greeted by Marilou Sparrow, a Council for Immunology board member, and Gloria Osbrink and Mary Ann Wells, Immunology Council founding directors.
The program started after dinner with Dori de Kruif, chairman of the event, introducing honorary chairman Shirlee Guggenheim: "Shirlee was bound and determined to be here tonight. She and her husband, Robert, just returned last evening from Mayo Clinic. We couldn't have this evening without her."
Guggenheim welcomed the guests and said: "My beloved husband, Robert, who is home recovering from surgery, expresses his wishes that he could be with all of his friends tonight. He believes in the cause as much as I do."
Dr. Granger was then introduced by JoAnne Mix, Council for Immunology president, as "one of the world's great experts in the immunological control of cancer." He described the immune system in layman's terms.
"Immunology is an area that deals with resistance. When the system is working well, it can destroy cancer cells and infectious agents. When it makes mistakes, it can attack our own tissues. Allergies, arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and pulmonary problems are all related to a misfunction of the immune system," he said.
Granger recalled how the council was formed about two years ago as a support group for the National Society for Immunology.
"Sud (Gupta) and I started beating the bushes (to gain support for the society) about three years ago," he said. "Our first meeting was held in Mary Lou Sparrow's home on the peninsula. We managed to get a few people interested and tried educating people."
A few months later, the formation of the society's first support group, the Council for Immunology, was officially announced at a tea held at the home of Shirlee and Bob Guggenheim.
Gupta, previously with Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City, is regarded as an expert on aging and AIDS. On aging, he said, "The immune system determines how we appear physically as well as the number of diseases we get as we get older."
Gupta said he is pleased with the rapid progress that has been made in AIDS research. "From the description of the disease two years ago, we found out what caused it, and then the next two years we began animal experimentation with the vaccine," he said.
After the formal program, Dr. Rob Hewlett, associate professor of clinical pulmonary disease at UCI, and Dr. Marshall Austin, earlier described by Granger as "one of the finest rheumatologists in the country," talked about advancements in their fields of medicine.
Hewlett said researchers have just begun to discover the relationship between diseases and the immune system. He expects current research to lead to "astonishing" discoveries. For example, he said, researchers are now exploring a possible link between the immune system and lung cancer. "There has to be a tremendous connection between emphysema and why some people develop lung cancer and other people don't," he said.
Austin spoke of gains for arthritis sufferers: "There are a number of natural products that the body makes that have been harvested, if you will, by immunologists. These natural products, which are anti-inflammatory, will actually prevent some of the pain and swelling of arthritis. The (treatment) programs we have now certainly help patients, but they have a number of problems caused by side effects. Hopefully through (our research on) immunology, we will do away with a number of these side effects."