René Stet


René Josephus Maria Stet


On Wednesday September 12th 2007 René Stet, 53 years old, an internationally renowned fish immunologist, passed away unexpectedly as a result of a heart attack.

René began his scientific career 35 years ago at the University of Amsterdam, where he undertook a Bachelor of Science in Medical Biology from 1972 to 1976. He stayed on at Amsterdam for a Master of Science in Biology, graduating in 1980. Having been awarded a 6 months British Council fellowship René then went to the Fisheries Research Services (FRS) Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen, Scotland, to study muscle physiology in swimming fish. He returned to the Netherlands to undertake his PhD studies with Professor Nieuwenhuis at the University of Groningen Medical School, on graft vs host disease in rats, from 1982 to 1986. At the end of these studies he went back to Scotland for a year on a UK Royal Society fellowship, also at the FRS Marine Lab where he began studies on what was to become the central interest of his later scientific career, namely the genetic basis of disease susceptibility in fish. In 1988 he moved to the Cell Biology & Immunology group of Wageningen University, first as an assistant, and later as an associate professor. It was here that he performed most of his sentinel work on fish immunology over the following 17 years. On three occasions during his time at Wageningen he was awarded visiting Scholarships, twice to visit the Parham laboratory at Stanford, in 1996 and 2001, and in 2003 to visit the Dixon laboratory at the University of Waterloo, Canada. In 2005 he once again moved to Aberdeen, to take up a full professorship at the Scottish fish immunology research centre at the University, where he initiated studies using MHC genes to understand population dynamics of Arctic char and developed further his research on other immune response genes in fish.

René had an enormous drive for science. As no other he understood the importance of a molecular approach to prove the existence of a fish equivalent to the mammalian MHC. His research on the major histocompatibility genes of fish such as common carp and Atlantic salmon, amongst others, pushed forward this aspect of comparative immunology. It was with good reason that he was announced “king of fish MHC” at the seventh International Symposium on Fish Immunology, organised by the Nordic Society for Fish Immunology (NOFFI), in June this year. His findings led to a prolific publications output, with papers ranging from genetic factors influencing disease resistance of farmed fish, to the role of MHC genes in conferring fitness in natural populations of salmon. He was particularly successful at obtaining funding for his research from the European Commission, and whilst at Wageningen maintained continuous funding from 1994 until his departure. René’s network of collaborators was extensive and he enjoyed working together with colleagues from all over the world. René was also a patient and effective supervisor and mentor, always willing to take time for students and post-doctoral fellows, even years after they had left his laboratory. His knowledge of MHC genes was recognised by the European Bioinformatics Institute Immuno Polymorphism database who requested he maintain and curate the “Major Histocompatibility polymorphism database” for salmonids. René was also in demand as a referee and grant reviewer, and was on the editorial boards of the journals Developmental and Comparative Immunology, Fish & Shellfish Immunology and Immunogenetics. His passion for comparative immunology led to a long-standing association with ISDCI, and in 1997 was elected to the position of Secretary Education, and in 2003 to Vice-President for Europe and Africa.

René is survived by his wife Noortje and his children Niels and Sanne. He will be sorely missed.

Brian Dixon
Bill Jordan
Chris Secombes

Geert Wiegertjes