Gordon Research Conferences
Proposing a New Gordon Conference

Current Proposals

GRC welcomes proposals for new Gordon Research Conferences from the scientific community. The following list of proposals is currently being considered by the GRC Conference Evaluation Committee. If you would like to participate in the review, please contact Gerri Miceli via e-mail, and we will send the proposal of interest to you for comment.

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Biologics Development
Jai A. Pathak, National Institutes of Health, Gaithersburg MD
Christopher J. Roberts, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Michael Tarlov
, Material Measurement Laboratory, NIST, Gaithersburg MD

We propose a new GRC targeted towards a broad audience drawn from across a global community comprising industry, academia and federal research labs that is active in focused research on development of biologics. As defined by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), “biological products, or biologics, are medical products. Many biologics are made from a variety of natural sources (human, animal or microorganism). Like drugs, some biologics are intended to treat diseases and medical conditions. Other biologics are used to prevent or diagnose diseases.” Biologics are used to treat diseases ranging from cancers, respiratory diseases such as asthma, metabolic disorders like diabetes and auto-immune disorders, e.g. lupus.

Our aim is to provide a big tent forum to discuss and promote the science underlying successful development of bio-therapeutics and vaccines (prophylactics).   While biologics play a critical role in public health, the scientific community currently lacks a unified platform wherein the science that underpins development of biologics can be discussed comprehensively in one forum, and benefit from synergies across disciplines. A single forum that bridges the continuum from discovery through development and to delivery to the patient is critical: discovery is only successful if a molecule can be turned into a safe and efficacious drug without unwanted side effects, or a vaccine that triggers the desired immunogenicity. The scope of this GRC would exclude clinical research, but focus on the highly inter-disciplinary science of biologics development, which lies at the interface of the following disciplines: antibody discovery & protein engineering, cell engineering/culture (expression of therapeutic proteins), purification of proteins expressed by cells, analytical characterization of protein biochemistry and biophysics, formulation, and delivery to patients in diverse dosage forms using either approved devices or innovative drug delivery vehicles. Scientists from highly diverse academic backgrounds are active in this area: biology, immunology, biochemistry, chemistry, biophysics, chemical/biochemical engineering, biomedical engineering and bio-engineering. The number of scientists actively employed and engaged in biologics development across the US, Europe, India and East Asia (China, S. Korea and Japan) easily exceeds 30,000. Neither will drawing a pool of minimum 150 scientists to attend the proposed GRC pose any challenges, nor will finding a body of 200 active investigators be a concern.  Owing to its uniquely inter-disciplinary nature, this proposed GRC will attract a “new” community that does not attend GRCs, because no such GRC exists.  There are many meetings run by for-profit organizations, but the quality of scientific programming offered therein and the vetting of speakers is insufficient.  By virtue of its high quality scientific programming, this GRC will actually peel away attendees from those conferences, who currently have no such quality GRC option.

While therapeutic protein and vaccine antigen discovery has made significant strides, development lags behind. The statistics tell the cruel story: out of every hundred molecules discovered and introduced in the clinic for trials, less than five become approved drugs/vaccines. While some of this attrition is due to clinical efficacy (Hay et al., Nature Biotechnology, 32, 40-51 (2014), barriers to drug/vaccine approval currently lie overwhelmingly in unresolved development-related fundamental scientific challenges.  Molecules that are discovered often show promise in target-binding studies at the bench scale, but routinely prove hard to purify or to formulate, i.e., develop, so as to be stable against protein aggregation (C. J. Roberts, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 32, 372-380 (2014) and many other biochemical degradation pathways associated with the solution or solid state. Mitigation of these challenges requires a gathering of scientists from across these disciplines under one roof, as the primary amino acid sequence motif chosen by discovery scientists for superior antigen-binding characteristics is known to lead to challenges in protein stability. Similarly, the harmful byproducts of cell culture such as host cell proteins (X. Wang et al., Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 103, 446-458 (2009), viruses etc. that must be removed during protein purification often pose analytical characterization challenges (Berkowitz et al., Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, 11, 527 – 540 (2012) because they can be hard to measure at exceedingly small impurity concentration levels (≤ nanomolar). Furthermore, analytical challenges abound, from termination of protein structure, especially in novel molecules, to higher order structure characterization. Even stable formulations with clinical efficacy need effective drug delivery strategies, and delivery across the blood-brain barrier remains a challenge for neuroscience indications. Targeted delivery of drug product to tumor cells using approaches based on nanoparticles, dendrimers etc. is ubiquitous.  However, clinically-relevant and successful development requires an integrated approach that enables these scientists to work coherently by using effective feedback and cross-talk mechanisms that are currently unavailable in any other scientific conference for tackling this intrinsically inter-disciplinary challenge.

This conference will be structured so as to provide an even balance between therapeutics and prophylactics. It will also feature cutting edge research/development in vaccines to combat epidemics (Zika, Ebola, pandemic flu) etc. and also diseases such as malaria, cancers, AIDS etc. Scientific breakthroughs in this area will not only boost the science needed to bring vaccines to patients, but will benefit wider society to facilitate lower costs of healthcare for developed as well as developing nations.  If such a need is met, it will provide an unparalleled fillip to the fundamental inter-disciplinary science underlying drug/vaccine development, while simultaneously improving and transforming the health of billions across the world.  For vaccines, this conference will also focus on areas such as room temperature stable vaccines that require no cold chain, suitable for developing countries, and also vaccines that can be delivered with low cost but effective delivery devices.  In this area, we will also involve govt. research labs, as well as non-profit agencies and philanthropic organizations that are active in vaccine research and development. We view this coalition of industry, academia and govt. research labs (Stevens et al., The New England Journal of Medicine, 364, 535 – 541 (2011) as an essential ingredient to ensure discussion of cutting edge science at the frontiers of technology, to provide much-need tangible impact to patients worldwide.

Deep Carbon Science
Craig Manning, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Isabelle Daniel, Université Claude Bernard, Villeurbanne, France
Edward Young, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Deep carbon science is an emerging field that aims to understand carbon’s origins, forms, quantities, and movements in Earth’s subsurface; that is, where deep carbon came from, the forms it takes, how much lies beneath the surface, and how it is transported into and out of the interior reservoirs. Carbon is one of the most important elements of our planet. Its presence at the surface has important consequences for the global climate system, for the origin and evolution of life, for carbon-based energy resources, and for a vast array of carbon-based materials central to our daily lives. However, the solid Earth, its fluids, and the subsurface biosphere likely contain substantially more carbon than is present at the surface, and these deep reservoirs control the size and extent of surface carbon sinks. Moreover, plate tectonics and other hallmarks of an active planet drive change in the size of the near-surface carbon reservoir over geologic time.

Although deep carbon exerts a fundamental control on the operation of Earth’s well-studied surface carbon cycle, we have a limited understanding of carbon’s sources, sinks, transfers and quantities below the surface. Deep carbon scientists from a wide range of disciplines, including geoscience, biology, materials science, physics, and chemistry, aim to address this problem by researching carbon in a planetary context. Deep carbon science uses the tools of microbiology, genomics, ecology, geology, geochemistry, geophysics, materials science, and data science. However, the field is distinguished by its cross-disciplinary effort to understand one of our planet’s most important elements.

There is now an international community of scientists who identify deep carbon science as their primary focus, but there is no meeting which addresses their collective interests and activities. We therefore propose to establish a new Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on ‘Deep Carbon’. The highly interdisciplinary conference would enhance communication by bringing together scientists who work in different subtopics to exchange ideas, tools, and expertise. A GRC conference would also cement a sense of community among the burgeoning deep carbon science discipline.

The ‘Deep Carbon Science’ GRC series would have a core focus on carbon in its subsurface setting. The topics of each year’s meeting would evolve with the advancing field while exploring slightly different facets of unifying concern. For example, provisional subtitles include Deep Carbon Through Deep Time, Hidden Pathways and Surface Feedbacks of Deep Carbon in Motion, and Origins of Deep Carbon. Each meeting would thus provide a forum for engaging the community of deep carbon scientists to consider and direct their research in different and evolving contexts. Such meetings would provide an unprecedented opportunity to advance deep carbon science. This proposal contains a provisional plan for a conference on the first theme – Deep Carbon Through Deep Time. Proposed sessions cover the spectrum of deep carbon science with a focus on the evolution of deep carbon in biological and nonbiological reservoirs over 4.6 billion years of Earth history.

Electrochemical Materials Science
Giovanni Zangari, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Olaf M. Magnussen
, Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany

Electrochemical processes that involve structural or morphological changes, such as electrodeposition, electrochemical etching, oxidation, and intercalation among others, have become of widespread interest in the materials science community. These phenomena indeed allow versatile and highly controlled synthesis as well as modification of materials down to the nanometer scale; additionally, they play a central role in phenomena such as electrochemical energy storage, energy conversion, and corrosion. Understanding and tailoring these processes is of pivotal importance for solving the great challenges posed by these applications. This scientific problem requires a cross-disciplinary approach that combines elements of solution and solid state chemistry, condensed matter and nanoscale physics, interface science, material science, and chemical engineering. A new conference with the scope of building bridges between these fields is much-needed. In order to bring together this rapidly growing community, we propose to establish a new Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on "Electrochemical Materials Science".

This conference will be an international forum for researchers with different background from academia and industry. Instead of focusing on specific applications, this meeting will concentrate on developing unifying aspects of the interaction of materials with electrochemical environments. Phenomena of interest include the underlying atomistic processes of growth and phase transformation, overarching trends in the behavior of different classes of materials, and complexity arising from micro- or mesoscale heterogeneity and hierarchical structure of real materials. The program will aim at fostering intellectual exchanges among scientists that work on fundamental aspects and more application-driven researchers, leading to mutual understanding of the respective accomplishments, needs, and challenges. It will also highlight advances in synthetic approaches, novel experimental and theoretical methods, and new applications for electrochemical processes. This will expedite the transfer of knowledge and technical know-how across different sub-fields of electrochemistry and materials science.

Enabling Technologies for Synthesis & Molecular Processing
Amanda C. Evans, California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA
Ian Baxendale, University of Durham, Durham, UK
Geoff Tranmer, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Christopher J. Welch, Merck & Co., Kenilworth, NJ

This conference aims to showcase the latest approaches used to manipulate chemical entities, empowering chemists to understand and thus apply new enabling technologies for making molecules. Current techniques have allowed chemists to successfully create complex molecular structures and explore their biological and physical functionality. However, there are many aspects of our existing methodologies that still need improvement, such as the lack of reproducibility, poor efficiency and significant safety and control concerns. It is therefore essential to continue to develop novel interdisciplinary understanding and to stimulate discussion about optimizing chemical reactivity. It is necessary to move beyond the discipline of chemistry and “enable” the bench chemist to adopt a more integrated approach to synthesis.

Enabling technologies for synthesis and processing, such as continuous processing methods, are not only used by the petrochemical and bulk chemical industries but are increasingly being adopted by the pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries due to their efficiency, economy and sustainability. The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, is actively investing in exploring continuous process manufacturing approaches, including end-to-end production. Control and containment under continuous processing conditions increase safety, scalability, and reproducibility and enable more sustainable reaction approaches. Improvements in synthetic efficiency can be further gained by combining continuous processing approaches with other enabling technologies such as bioprocessing and ‘the Internet-of-Things’ (IoT).

In order to continue to develop enabling technologies such as continuous processing for synthetic application, experts from a variety of different disciplines (such as Chemistry, Physics, Engineering/Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Biology and Materials Science) require a roundtable environment in which progress can be discussed and new approaches can be critically considered and evaluated for use. The reputation and infrastructure of a Gordon Research Conference (GRC) would provide an ideal forum for these conversations and revolutions to occur.

New approaches to processing and synthesis will require innovative instrumentation for both reaction optimization and analysis. The last decade has already witnessed a burgeoning number of reactors combined with in-line analytics for characterization (such as desktop NMR spectrometers and in-line miniature MS detectors) and enabling technologies remains a growing field for instrument providers and reactor designers.

The primary goals of this conference would be as follows: To provide a cross-disciplinary symposium for discussion and development of enabling technologies; To support further innovation and international collaboration in this increasingly important field; To encourage researchers to share new approaches and best practices.

The questions to be addressed at this conference will be: How can we utilize multidisciplinary principles to improve reaction/process design? How do we develop sustainable and evolvable chemical processes? How do we increase automation of chemical processes to expand the scope of available chemical reactions and to improve both efficiency and safety?

Epigenomics of Diabetes and Other Metabolic Diseases
Assam El-Osta, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital
Ronald Ching Wan Ma, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Juliana CN Chan
, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Mark E Cooper, Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia

The prevention and successful management of diabetes and its complications are issues of utmost health importance. Over 380 million people are living with diabetes and up to one in three adults will develop diabetes or pre-diabetes in their lifetime. The major costs of diabetes relate to the development of diabetic complications, including blindness, amputations, heart attacks and strokes, kidney failure and premature mortality.  However, the burden of complications is unequally shared across individuals with diabetes. A prolonged duration, inadequate metabolic and/or blood pressure control may explain some cases. Yet even with intensive intervention and dedicated compliance, complications still occur. Moreover, the long term survival of some of Banting and Best’s original patients stand as a testament to the fact that some individuals appear to be ‘protected’ despite many decades of marked hyperglycaemia. It is not simply genetics, as the genetic variability cannot explain why some individuals and some families seem programmed to have an inordinate burden of complications. Studies now indicate that specific epigenetic events contribute to programming for the development and progression of diabetic complications.

Epigenetic modifications are one of the most important means for the temporal and spatial control of gene activity; in essence to store, retain, and recall past experiences in a way to shape present and future behavior in what has become known as cellular memory. Over the last decade studies have shown that key epigenetic changes regulate the expression of genes following exposure to high glucose levels. In addition, this epigenetic programming directly contributes to persistent up-regulation of pro-inflammatory pathways by hyperglycaemia in cells, animal models and in humans, in what has become known as ‘metabolic memory’. These recent discoveries may partly explain the sustained ‘legacy’ of beneficial effects arising from improved glucose control in patients with diabetes, as well as contribute to the irreversible legacy of vascular damage observed in clinical trials of glucose lowering in patients with longstanding diabetes. In this meeting we will explore the legacy of hyperglycaemia and other environmental stimuli that confer epigenetic programming, which promotes sustained activation of pathogenic pathways. Not only will this meeting cover current trends and developments, topics will discuss the functional legacy of prior hyperglycaemia of diabetic complications including atherosclerosis and neuropathy and explore where exactly memory resides.

Food Allergy
Kari C. Nadeau, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA
Gideon Lack, King’s College London, London, England

Food allergy is a complex, multifactorial disease that is quickly becoming a global health concern, and the field of food allergy research is becoming one of the most quickly evolving fields in immunology, producing numerous high-impact basic and translational research articles.  Rapid advances in understanding the differences in immune cell function in food allergy and in health are beginning to shed light on the etiology of this life-threatening disease, as well as to provide insight into the fundamental mechanisms of immune system more generally. 

Food allergy is currently understood as the dysregulation of normal immune tolerance, in which innocuous antigens like food proteins do not elicit a pathological response.  While the mechanisms of immune tolerance remain largely unknown, exciting immunological mechanistic research suggests that several antigen-presenting immune cells, such as T regulatory cells, B cells, dendritic cells, and macrophages, mediate the suppression of inappropriate immune responses.  The pathogenesis of food allergy involves interactions between genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors, so that the prevalence of food allergy is highest in developed areas and rises with economic development.  Epigenetic studies may explain how environmental factors modulate gene expression, leading to the dysregulation of immune tolerance and the development of food allergy.  The pressing need for effective therapies for food allergy can only be met by developing a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of immune system function in health and disease. 

We aim to convene and amplify the increasing momentum of research advances in food allergy with a new Gordon Research Conference focused specifically on its basic and translational aspects from diverse disciplinary perspectives.  Leading researchers from around the world with expertise in immunology, molecular and cell biology, and computational biology who are interested in understanding healthy and food allergic immune function will be featured, including those who study emerging problems such as the role of the microbiome in food allergy, and the mechanisms of desensitization achieved through emerging therapies such as oral immunotherapy.  The many fascinating, pertinent topics flourishing in immunology and omics research alone would fuel the GRC in Food Allergy for years to come.  We are dedicated to attracting the top researchers in the field and promoting fruitful interactions that reflect the true diversity of global food allergy research.  This commitment will distinguish our GRC series from other immunology meetings that tend to focus on allergic responses more generally.  We are very eager to establish a dedicated Gordon Research Conference series for this emerging field of high and increasing impact. 

Lasers in Micro, Nano, and Bio Systems
Xudong (Sherman) Fan, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Seok-Hyun Andy Yun
, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Cambridge, MA
Teri Odom
, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Axel Scherer, Nanofabrication Group, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

The goal of this proposed Gordon Research Conference (GRC) is to provide an open and interdisciplinary forum for researchers from a wide range of areas to discuss and initiate exploration of microscopic and nanoscopic lasers, as well as biological lasers, from a perspective of fundamental physics, materials sciences, enabling engineering technologies, biological sciences, and applications.

The subjects of the GRC are focused on (1) new laser phenomena; (2) unconventional lasers such as plasmonic lasers and phonon lasers; (3) recent advancements in laser gain media; (4) novel laser cavity designs; (5) cutting-edge micro/nano engineering that enables and benefits micro/nano lasers; (5) bio-inspired and bio-integrated lasers; (6) and forward-looking applications of micro/nano/bio-lasers.

Gregg T. Beckham, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO
Lindsay D Eltis
, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Ana Gutiérrez
, Instituto de Recursos Naturales y Agrobiología de Sevilla, Sevilla, Spain
Yuriy Román, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Lignin is a heterogeneous, alkyl-aromatic polymer ubiquitously found in terrestrial plant cell walls. In plants, lignin plays a key role in water and nutrient transport, imparts rigidity and structure to plant tissues, and defends against pathogens. The heterogeneous, recalcitrant nature of lignin leads to a huge number of technical challenges in understanding lignin’s structure in plant cell walls and extracting it in a useful form from plant biomass for various target applications. Indeed despite nearly a century of efforts, the cost effective valorization of lignin, with a few notable exceptions, still remains elusive for nearly all biorefinery applications.

The goal of this proposed GRC on lignin is to bring together leading researchers, postdocs, and students involved in multiple aspects of lignin including its characterization, in planta engineering, depolymerization and upgrading, and material science. Interaction and discussion between plant researchers, chemists, engineers, and material scientists working on this recalcitrant polymer is critical to move the field forward. Overall, a GRC on lignin would serve the growing, multidisciplinary community of lignin researchers to foster new collaborations and accelerate the science of lignin forward. We are confident that the community would enthusiastically support a “Lignin GRC”.

Magnetic Nanosystems
Rafal Klajn, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
Jinwoo Cheon, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea
Benjamin B. Yellen, Duke University, Durham, NC
Wolfgang J. Parak, Philipps Univestität-Marburg, Marburg, Germany

We propose to create a new Gordon Research Conference entitled Magnetic Nanosystems. This series of conferences will focus on the synthesis, properties, and emerging diverse applications of nanosized crystals (nanocrystals) composed of magnetic materials. The nature of the field of Magnetic Nanosystems is truly interdisciplinary. Colloidal chemists develop solution syntheses of nanoparticles; physicists study and help us better understand the intriguing magnetic properties of these tiny magnets. Biologists investigate magnetic nanomaterials found in living organisms as diverse as magnetotactic bacteria, pigeons, and salmon, where they act internal “compasses”, allowing the host organisms to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field – a fascinating mechanism these animals developed in the course of evolution. Colloidal chemists benefit from a detailed understanding of the formation of these nanoparticles in nature, and synthesize the particles with improved control over their size, shape, and dispersity. They also develop ways to organize magnetic nanoparticles into regular arrays and study their emergent properties; engineers utilize these arrays to fabricate magnetic information storage media. Concomitantly, organic chemists employ surface-functionalized magnetic nanoparticles as an attractive class of recyclable catalysis; in contrast, materials chemists use them as building blocks of novel adaptive / stimuli-responsive materials. Finally, magnetic nanoparticles make their way back to biological systems, where they are used to study, alter, and fix various biological processes in mammals. To meet the diverse interests and needs of these different groups of scientists, we have launched a multidisciplinary program that includes all of these research groups in an effort to create a broad interdisciplinary forum for fostering interactions between them, encouraging collaborations, and facilitating further development of the field. Moreover, the proposed participants will comprise a balanced mix of both established researchers as well as emerging investigators in the field. We strongly believe that GRC, with its great tradition of fostering an open exchange of ideas and presenting the most recent results, will serve as an ideal home for this forum for discussions at the frontiers of the field of Magnetic Nanosystems.

Membrane Proteases
Sin Urban, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
Karin List, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI
Stefan Rose-John
, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany
Lucía Chávez Gutiérrez, VIB Center for the Biology of Disease, Leuven, Belgium

Membrane proteases are integral to biology and medicine, from differentiation and development, to dysregulation and disease, including cancer, inflammation, metabolic disorders, and neurodegeneration. Membrane proteases process growth factors, cytokines, receptors, adhesion molecules, and other membrane protein substrates to release soluble products. The balance between membrane bound and soluble forms determines health or disease. Current research in membrane proteases is now at a crossroad. There have been recent failures of intramembrane proteases in the clinic for Alzheimer’s disease, prompting investigators to re-evaluate their use. However, due to their good safety profile, a subset has emerged as pharmaceutical targets for cancer. Clinical and preclinical trials with inhibitors of many membrane proteases are ongoing for diseases ranging from viral and parasitic infections to cancer. This meeting will address many aspects of membrane proteases, including clinical trials, and recent advances in biochemistry and biology.

Mesophotic Coral Reef Ecosystems
Michael P. Lesser, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Marc Slattery
, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS

We propose a New Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems (MCEs).  These unique and understudied ecosystems are low-light adapted deep reef communities that occur from ~30-150m.  These reefs are typically further offshore from anthropogenic stressors (e.g., coastal development run-off and point-source discharges), are below the depth limits of most natural stressor events (e.g., storm events and the effects of temperature stress) and the habitat available for the development of MCEs has been variably estimated at three to ten times the known areal extent of shallow coral reefs (<30 m).  As such, MCEs are increasingly recognized as potentially important refugia for a variety of shallow reef species, many with broad depth distributions, which have been impacted by these stressors.  There is evidence that some MCE species have distinct populations with unique molecular and physiological adaptations along a shallow to deep depth gradient.  Additionally, there are several examples of commercially important fishes and invertebrates where MCEs are utilized at some point in their life history, such as for spawning aggregations, before migrating back to shallow reefs.  Moreover, MCEs have been proposed to be more stable than their shallow counterparts but that appears to be context-dependent; and variability in several factors such as geomorphology, light levels and proximity to urban centers can influence this stability significantly. 

Thus, there is a critical need to address many questions regarding the structure and function of MCE communities in their own right, but also in the broadest sense that includes their role in the ecology of shallow coral reef communities.  The group of scientists studying MCEs is growing rapidly and includes coral reef ecologists, molecular biologists, oceanographers, physiologists, biogeochemists, paleo-climatologists, fisheries biologists, microbiologists, chemical ecologists, population geneticists and managers interested in resource conservation to name just a few.  There has also been considerable interest and investment in MCEs research by the federal agencies, of many countries worldwide, in recent years.  The technical aspects of conducting research in this unique habitat results in slow progress in increasing our knowledge base on this subject but with the advent of multiple training programs on technical diving at academic institutions around the world that limitation is quickly disappearing and will result in the addition of many new coral reef scientists studying MCEs.  In this proposed GRC we want to bring together all of the sub-disciplines of study being applied to MCE research and provide a forum to present the latest research results that would lead to a comprehensive understanding of MCE structure and function.  This will also provide a platform for the community to develop the next set of critical questions from a basic science perspective. Our lack of knowledge about MCEs has impacted our broader understanding of the biodiversity, ecology, and connectivity of all coral reef communities and this GRC also presents the opportunity to develop coordinated conservation efforts for both MCEs and their shallow water counterparts.  This will be a unique forum open to the community of current, and future, researchers and managers of MCEs.

Microbiology of the Built Environment
Jordan Peccia, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Jessica Green
, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other biogenic particles and chemicals that are present in indoor air, on building surfaces, and in premise plumbing exert both beneficial and adverse influences on human health. In the developed world, humans spend more than 90% of their time indoors where the majority of a human’s inhalation, contact, and ingestion exposures occur. The field of building microbiology is concerned with understanding how building design, occupancy, and operation impact human exposure to microbes and ultimately how these microbial exposures impact wellbeing.

Building microbiology research is interdisciplinary and includes microbiologists and microbial ecologists, engineers and building scientists, and human health researchers. A single conference venue is required to sustain this interdisciplinary community. We envision that the “Microbiology of the Built Environment” Gordon Research Conference will become the premier—and only—venue for researchers from academia, national and governmental labs, and industry to share scientific findings related to interactions between humans, microbes, and buildings. The proposed 2018 meeting will be a unique forum for recognized leaders in microbiology, building science, and human health fields to meet and interact with young scientists including senior PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. The conference will highlight the physical factors that influence the microbiology of buildings, how building microbiomes affect the human microbiomes and human health, and novel bioinformatic, molecular biology, and building science methodologies.

Speakers and participants from a diversity of fields and range in experience, including outstanding early career researchers, are expected to share new, evolving, and unpublished ideas and research findings. The presentations will be chaired by recognized leaders in each of the topical areas under discussion. The conference format includes programmed morning and evening lectures, free afternoons and poster sessions to provide significant time for informal interactions, community building, and the exchange of ideas.

Neuroelectronic Interfaces
Ulrich G. Hofmann, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
Jeffrey R. Capadona
, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Thomas Stieglitz
, University of Freiburg - IMTEK, Freiburg, Germany
Takashi Kozai
, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Recent developments in basic neurosciences at the intersection of computer science and micro-engineering in principle enable high data-throughput interfaces to the nervous system and thus bring neuroprosthetic devices closer to reality. Unfortunately, after a very promising start over a decade ago, these technologies were “lost in translation” on the way to clinical applications and widespread use - mainly due to fast deterioration and loss of signal from the micro-implants meant to acquire a relevant neuronal population signal. One major reason hypothesized to limit practical clinical translation is the poor understanding of failure modes of current high channel count implanted microelectrode arrays. Among several classes of multi-modal problems encountered, the strong foreign-body-response and thus an electrical decoupling of implanted devices from the brain are identified as major obstacles on the path to chronic applications in humans.  We propose with this application for a Gordon Research Conference to turn back to the drawing board of basic materials research armed with emerging basic neurosciences knowledge and bring together a multi-disciplinary team of leading experts in cellular neuroscience, brain pathology, neuro-technology and materials science in order to discuss and eventually solve or discard the obstacles on the quest for a chronically useful and reliable neural interface.

Neuroplasticity of Sensory Systems
Jufang He, City University of Hong Kong Kowloon, Hong Kong
Josef P. Rauschecker, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Anna Wang Roe, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
Jan Schnupp
, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

The theme of the meeting series is “Neuroplasticity of Sensory Systems” and is focused on neuroplasticity in the auditory, visual and somatosensory systems. In this meeting series, we will endeavor to foster exchange and collaboration between scientists working at different levels, including in-vivo systems, molecular, cognitive, computational, and clinical neuroscience. By fostering exchange between investigators using different approaches, we will provide much needed opportunities for collaborations between colleagues working on related problems, and to draw inspiration, more generally, for interdisciplinary and intermodal interactions.  

Over the past decades, we have gained a great deal of understanding of neuroplasticity of the brain. Sensory induced organization and re-organization happens at every level in the processing hierarchy, from subcortical pathways to primary and associative cortices. It is mediated by both ascending and descending (top-down) pathways. And it manifests in modifications at molecular, synaptic, circuit, and behavioral/cognitive levels. We shall discuss neuroplasticity in terms of homeostatic to experience-dependent mechanisms and from unimodal to cross-modal interactions.

The field has progressed sufficiently that avenues to translational applications are emerging, which we also intend to showcase by highlighting the role of neuroplasticity in of disorders of the nervous system, either in terms of pathological causes or as a potential pathway for treatment. Neuroplasticity plays an important role in shaping sensory systems, during ongoing neural processing, development, and response to injury. Understanding these processes will be important for investigations of adaptation to sensory environments, development of sensory prostheses, as well as maladaptive plasticity in disorders such as tinnitus, chronic/phantom pain, or amblyopia. 

Tinnitus in the auditory domain will form one of the topics. Chronic tinnitus affects about 10-15% of the population, and is often triggered by hearing loss. There are no effective medications, nor scientifically-validated cures for most types of tinnitus. Analogous to tinnitus, phantom pain is an unpleasant phantom sensation which occurs in the absence of external stimuli in the somatosensory domain. Phantom pain has also been compared to other forms of chronic pain. There is evidence that tinnitus and phantom pain are the result of maladaptive neuroplastic changes, and both have been linked to activation of the limbic system. In both these pathologies, plastic changes of the thalamocortical projection pathway are also thought to play a role, which is why we propose to schedule sessions focusing on fundamental neuroplasticity research in both limbic and thalamocortical circuits, which may help shed light on the common underpinnings of these conditions. We aim to contrast these two plasticity disorders against another in the visual system: amblyopia, or “lazy eye”. In amblyopia, a perfectly healthy eye fails to develop normal connections to visual cortex during an early sensitive period of brain development.  To restore functional vision in an amblyopic eye, it is therefore necessary to facilitate and enhance plasticity of the adult visual system. The final topic will be sensory prostheses and their links to neuroplasticity. Sensory prostheses provide solutions to a number of diseases and conditions related to neuroplasticity. Cochlear implants are an established success story in the auditory system, but still need further improvement for the perception of speech and music. Crossmodal plasticity has been exploited for sensory substitution devices in the blind, as other sensory systems take over functions of the deprived visual cortex. It is widely recognized that the area needs a better understanding of neuroplasticity, and the usefulness of these devices often depends largely on the brain's ability to adapt and learn how to make the most of these technologies.

Ocean Mixing
Matthew Alford, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, CA
Jennifer MacKinnon
, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, CA
Jonathan Nash
, Oregon State University, OR
Kurt Polzin
, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MA

Turbulent mixing results from complex and chaotic motions that spans a large range of spatial and temporal scales.  As such, it is particularly challenging to measure and model (e.g., turbulence remains unsolved as one of the Clay Mathematics Institute’s $1M “Millennium Prize Problems”).  Yet it has vast and important consequences.  In the ocean, turbulent mixing controls transport of heat, freshwater, dissolved gasses, and pollutants. It is crucial for ocean biology because it both determines the flow field for the smallest plankton, and it sets large-scale gradients of nutrient availability.  It is also central to understanding the energetics of the ocean and reducing the uncertainties in global circulation and climate models: recent work has shown that the spatial and temporal non-homogeneity in deep-ocean mixing may play a critical role in climate; understanding the physics that drives the distribution of deep-ocean mixing intensity is critical.  Yet even after a half a century of efforts to understand its global distribution, observations are still sparse; a variety of direct and indirect methods are still needed to characterize the dynamical processes that lead to turbulence, and inferences of mixing from larger scale budgets. As such, the physics of ocean mixing is actively studied using a variety of observational techniques (direct measure of velocity and temperature fluctuations at the smallest (mm) scales, inferences from large-scale turbulent overturns, observations of net mixing by purposeful dye release) numerical and theoretical approaches, as well as laboratory experiments. Finally, the consequences of mixing for larger scale climate models (which do not directly resolve mixing) are addressed by turning dynamical insights of the previously mentioned work into practical parameterizations. As a concrete example, using different mixing schemes in numerical climate models changes predicted tropical ocean temperatures by more than a degree and predicted sea level rise by more than 30 cm.  Mixing is one of the greatest sources of uncertainty plaguing today’s models with impact of great societal relevance. 

The purpose and scope of the proposed GRC is to provide a forum for discussion of the rapidly evolving field of ocean mixing. Emphasis is threefold: observations of mixing in the world, new insights into dynamics that control mixing rates, and impacts of mixing on regional and global circulation and budgets. The latter two include development of parameterizations to turn dynamical insights into useful things to include in regional models and global numerical climate models.

Oxidation & Corrosion at the Nanoscale
Judith C. Yang, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Laurence Marks
, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Corrosion is the deterioration of a material (usually metals) and/or its properties due to chemical reactions with the environment.  The total cost of corrosion in the United States was $276 billion in 1998, about 3.15% of GDP, and is critically important for applications ranging from microelectronic devices to bridges, oil pipelines and metal implants in humans. Despite its importance, we still do not understand the key processes that take place in the early, critical stages of corrosion, the science that underpins one of the most expensive and socially important topics — rust. Much of our current understanding is based upon work in the mid to late 20th century at the mesoscale, too coarse a size scale for a full understanding. The fundamental limitation has been methods, both experimental and theoretical, capable of unravelling the atomic processes taking place.

The last decade has seen an explosion of experimental methods to interrogate complex materials at the atomic scale made possible by technological breakthroughs in aberration-corrected electron microscopy, (including environmental TEM and low-energy electron microscopy), scanning probe microscope (for both liquid/solid and gas/solid interfaces), and near-ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (NAP–XPS) applied to gas/solid interfaces and solutions to name only a few. Simultaneously there has been substantial improvements in ab-initio methods so they can now achieve the level of accuracy required to accurately model the multiple processes taking place in these complex systems. This was recognized in a 2011 report Research Opportunities in Corrosion Science and Engineering by the National Research Council, which pointed out the opportunity to reinvent our understanding of corrosion at the nanoscale. Five years on we are just starting to see scientists exploiting this opportunity with significant new information coming out, but there is far more to be done in this emerging field.

The goal of this GRC is to foster these new efforts to elucidate the fundamental processes taking place at the nanoscale by creating a forum for those starting to exploit these new tools to better understanding corrosion to discuss and interact both with experts in the specific tools and methods as well experts who are more application oriented. We believe that fostering these interactions which will be across the fields of physics, chemistry, materials science and engineering is ideally suited for a GRC.

Psychiatric Genetics
Kenneth Blum, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
Mark S. Gold
, University of Florida College of Medicine
Jean Lud Cadet
, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Baltimore, MD
Philip Gorwood
, Centre Hospitalier Sainte-Anne, and Paris Descartes University, France

Understanding mental health and related brain disorders is indeed very relevant to every aspect of society. We are faced with an epidemic in the area of addiction liability, in America. The statistics are staggering, about 10% of the population in the United States abuse legal or illicit drugs or suffer from addiction-related personal or social problems.  The cost is horrific in that about $500 billion of social wealth is spent per year on Reward deficiency related medical and social issues.

Serious mental illnesses, which afflict about 6% of American adults, cost society $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year, according to findings published in American Journal of Psychiatry. Serious mental illness was defined as a range of mood and anxiety disorders, including suicidal tendencies, which significantly impaired a person's ability to function for at least 30 days over the past year. Researchers determined that individuals, suffering from Serious mental illness as defined above, earned at least 40% less than people in good mental health. "The results of this study confirm the belief that mental disorders contribute to enormous losses of human productivity," says Ronald Kessler, a Harvard professor of health care policy and lead author of the study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

There is an imperative need to gain a better understanding of mechanisms of all mental illnesses. Gaining a greater understanding of neurogenetic and epigenetic effects of, reward genes, for example, will pave the way for major new developments of more efficient prevention diagnostic and treatment strategies.

The increased interest stems from advances in molecular genetic techniques, the genome project, the neurosciences, enhanced public awareness of the role of genes in somatic disease and the finding of genes in complex mental disorders. While somewhat controversial scientists are finding genes and their variants for such important mental illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) behaviors, including substance use disorder or obesity, internet gaming, sexual addiction and even violent behaviors.

As researchers in mental illnesses found that the more they worked, the more appreciative they became of the complexity of the field we refer to as “Psychiatric Genetics”. Indeed it is this complexity that requires scientists from all over the world share their latest findings in a Gordon Research Conference (GRC) setting. From experience (I have founded and chaired two alcohol GRC’s) this proposed conference could translate into further enormous advances leading to potential diagnostic and therapeutic benefits for the millions of people faced with mental illness challenges across the globe.

We are therefore proposing to establish a new Gordon Research Conference on “Psychiatric Genetics.” The conference will be devoted to the neurogenetics and epigenetics related to the neurobiological and theoretical advances in mental illnesses. Instead of treating patients based on a cluster of symptoms, the particular emphasis would be on beginning to understand and address the cause of the mental disorder. The scope of the conference will include both animal and human studies on molecular mechanisms involving, genetic, epigenetic, synaptic, and neurotransmitter interactions. Important topics such as the behavioral mechanisms of reward deficiency and even drug addiction and relapse will be covered. The rationale for this important focus is that discussion of emerging ideas and findings in both domains neurogenetic and epigenetic will stimulate, cutting-edge research in psychiatric medicine, and will eventually contribute to new approaches to identifying and overcoming present pitfalls and obstacles.

The discussion of new findings within the GRC intellectual model is ideal for identifying important research avenues and promising new discoveries, as well as fostering new collaborations. Expression of complex human behaviors involves both gene and environmental (epigenetics) effects. Plomin and associates assert that the success of molecular genetics in elucidating the genetic basis of behavioral disorders has largely relied on a reductionist one gene, one disorder (OGOD) approach. However, over the last 25 years, scientists have been faced with many more questions than answers because of the complexity and polygenic inheritance of mental illnesses. It is our belief that by bringing together the premiere scientists from multiple disciplines aligned with the unique GRC platform will attract the leaders of the field including young independent investigators, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students to prominent neuroscience researchers. 

Streptococcal Biology
Victor Nizet, Center for Immunity, Infection & Inflammation, UCSD School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA
Nina M van Sorge, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Kelly S. Doran, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Shiranee Sriskandan
, Imperial College London, UK

The genus Streptococcus harbors many species that cause diseases in animals and humans. Streptococcal diseases have been recognized for thousands of years and remain today as a serious cause of worldwide health problems. Humans are frequently colonized by pathogenic species of streptococcal bacteria: the throat and skin by Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus; GAS), the upper respiratory tract by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus, SPN), the lower intestine and genital tract by Streptococcus agalactiae (group B Streptococcus; GBS) and Enterococcus, and the oral cavity by various oral streptococci including the following groups: Mutans, Salivarius, Sanguinis, Anginosus, and Mitis. This microbial–host association usually occurs in the context of asymptomatic colonization or superficial mucosal infection, but each of these pathogens can also cause severe, invasive, even life-threatening, diseases. GAS causes a wide range of diseases, including pharyngitis, cellulitis, puerperal sepsis, necrotizing fasciitis, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, and rheumatic heart disease, making it one of the top 10 causes of infectious mortality. SPN is a similarly prevalent human pathogen responsible for greater than one million annual deaths by pneumonia and meningitis, especially in young children. GBS is a common cause of neonatal sepsis and meningitis, making it an important cause of infectious morbidity and mortality among infants in many countries throughout the world. Oral streptococci are associated with various oral diseases, including dental carries, and in some cases are known to cause infective endocarditis when disseminated through the blood stream.

The ability of streptococci to promote the development of infection and disease is dependent on interactions with host cells, the immune system, tissue components and in some cases resident bacteria. The inflammatory response is a key component during infections with all of these pathogenic streptococci. Inflammation can be protective by preventing bacterial colonization, replication, invasion, and dissemination; or it can promote host tissue injury complicating the severity of disease progression. This GRC seeks to provide a comprehensive platform on the research on Streptococci, including its basic biology, genetics, and pathways that facilitate interaction with the host, which result in infection and disease. The meeting will focus on interdisciplinary approaches to study streptococcal diseases integrating the disciplines of bacterial genetics, eukaryotic cell biology, immunology, and omics. We seek to attract scientific leaders in the field, and invite several key speakers in connected fields with demonstrated expertise in host cell biology, immunology and the microbiome. The meeting will provide an in depth focus on the approaches that are being used to elucidate the mechanisms of pathogenesis, as well as promote the exchange of cutting edge ideas and collaborative science.

Systems Aging
Vadim N. Gladyshev, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Johan Auwerx
, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

We propose a new GRC on "Systems Aging" to be held in the summer 2018. Research on aging has been on the rise, and a particularly exciting and emerging area is the systems biology of aging, for which there is currently no avenue for engaging the community as a whole. This is a rapidly developing area, due to the recent availability of high-throughput experimental and computational tools and due to the fact that aging is a systemic process. The proposed GRC will fill this niche, bringing together researchers in diverse fields that apply these approaches to understand aging and control of lifespan in both fundamental and patient-based settings. The conference will focus on integrative, systems, theoretical, demographic, omics, quantitative, evolutionary and whole-organism approaches.

We estimate that the size of the research community dedicated to systems biology of aging is 100-200 PIs, and the community rapidly grows (based on the increase in the number of publications, new NIH programs specific to systems biology of aging, etc.). This growth and the importance of systems aging is also illustrated by the fact that several companies have been established in the last 3 years that focus on this topic; this further increases the community and will also help us raise funds for the proposed GRCs. We think that the number of registered participants for the 2018 meeting will be around 150, and it will grow once the news spreads about the meeting.

The systems focus of the proposed conference will be distinct from the single existing GRC on Biology of Aging, which is held in the summers of odd-numbered years. This meeting is also unable to represent the expanding field, as it covers aging broadly. Much of the aging research is also scattered across several GRCs in the form of talks and sessions, but the community is not organized. Therefore, the System Aging GRC will be both distinct and complementary to other existing GRCs.

The proposed chair (Gladyshev) previously organized several meetings and has spoken or chaired sessions at more than 20 GRCs, so he is familiar with the system. He also has experience in organizing a new GRC meeting: in 2006, he established a GRC on “Thiol-based redox regulation and signaling”, which is now a regular and successful meeting. The proposed vice-chair (Auwerx) is a leading scientist in the field who is similarly very familiar with the GRC system. We feel strongly that the research community will very much benefit from the GRC on “Systems Aging”. We would like to organize a superb and balanced program (e.g. adequate non-US, junior PI, gender, industry, government, etc. representation) and will chose many presentations from abstracts. We will apply for various sources of funding (NIH, industry, foundations, and private sources).

Systems Chemistry
David G. Lynn, Department of Chemistry, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Gonen Ashkenasy
, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva, Israel
Sijbren Otto
, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Rein Ulijn
, CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, Hunter College, New York, NY

The main difference between man-made processes and products and those found in the living world is that the former are typically passive and static while the latter are active and dynamic. Life is the product of complex systems of molecular reactions; connections and interactions giving rise to a highly dynamic and functional whole. While research into the nature of complex systems is by now well established in some related scientific disciplines (e.g., physics, biology, computer science), chemistry embraced a ‘systems’ view only very recently. It is now possible that the ability to control such dynamic chemical systems may pave the way to understanding the emergence of function in early evolution, and consequently, for the design and preparation of functional biomimetic systems as complex as artificial cells and tissues. Furthermore, it is anticipated that developing such systems can deliver, in the short and long term, radically different approaches in areas ranging from materials science to evolvable biologics for medicine. The design and study of complex systems, i.e., of dynamic, self-organized, multi-component chemical networks, has been integrated under the umbrella of the recently inaugurated discipline of Systems Chemistry.

The proposed conference will offer a first and much needed international venue for presenting and discussing breakthrough results in systems chemistry, for sharing new emerging methodology, and for refinement of the ideas coherently across these rapidly emerging new research directions. With the recent advances in instrumentation and analytical tools, complex chemical systems are opening new approaches for the construction and design of dynamic mesoscale materials. Coherence remains limited by the diversity of disciplines involved, with chemistry, physics, bio-engineering and structural biology scientists all independently converging on the central topic of complex chemical systems. This diversity applies equally to scientists from communities studying (i) supramolecular chemistry, (ii) origins of life, and (iii) far-from-equilibrium systems. A confluence of these fields could catalyze the rise of new emergent functions not apparent in the system’s components.

While the study of complex chemical systems provides many opportunities to track new phenomena, in particular with respect to highlighting new emergent functions, some major questions for the conference include:

  • The emergence of function in self-organized multi-component systems. We seek to develop a fundamental understanding of the functions that emerge from network behavior vs. those associated with the activity of single molecules; to define the efficacy of exploiting chemical and physical energy inputs that shape the self-organization topology and functions of complex systems.
  • Replication systems. We will seek to extend to alternative chemical scaffolds the high fidelity template-directed transfer of chemical information in all its forms and push such systems towards Darwinian evolvability.
  • Design and analysis of functional chemical systems operating far from equilibrium. We will seek to define oscillatory, bistable and multi-stable behavior in (bio)chemical networks, and to realize external triggering to affect and switch these systems from one state to another.
  • Chemical evolution of complex systems. We seek to exploit bottom-up design of functional mesoscale assemblies to achieve mutualistic networks of synthetic materials. Taking advantage of new synthetic availability to biopolymers, and the existing atomic-resolution structural methods, new functional materials with binding, catalysis, and replication capability will be exploited through automated discovery and robotic platforms.
  • Explorations of the living/non-living interface. We seek to extend the functional connections between animate and inanimate matter, building on and extending to alternate chemistries of life that transition to robust and progressive evolution of new functions that benefit and extend evolutionary potential. We will seek work on alternative information systems, new energy sources, and surface template effects that benefit from the interface.
  • Extending the theory/experiment continuum. We seek to combine computational and experimental approaches to benefit the directed discovery of multicomponent assemblies of simple molecules with minimal life functions: chemical catalysis, molecular recognition and compartmentalization.

In summary, the community is at a critical threshold, with proposed emerging functions becoming reality as evidenced, for example, by the rapid growth in highlighting systems chemistry and citation in recent publications (from practically zero in 2004, to 50 and 1400 publications and citations a year, respectively, according to the Web of Science). This raises hopes for the development of artificial cells with life-like evolvable behavior in the foreseeable future. The proposed Gordon conference offers a timely opportunity to reduce the barriers for coalescence and catalyze the growth of globally connected advanced Systems Chemistry community.

Translational Cancer Genomics
Jun Yu, Director of Research Laboratory of Institute of Digestive Disease, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong
Xin-Yuan Guan
, Director, Laboratory of Cancer Genetics, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

The advent of next-generation sequencing technologies that involve massively parallel sequencing of the whole genome or targeted regions of the genome has allowed detection of mutation on a genome- or exome-wide scale. Such efforts have not only depicted the genomic landscapes of different types of human cancer, but also identified new cancer driver genes and potential druggable targets that opened up novel therapeutic avenues. These genetic changes have been shown to interact with various environmental factors, such as diet, smoking, alcohol and microbiota in determining the occurrence of cancer. Importantly, utilization of such “big data” for molecular typing now becomes feasible with evolving molecular disease classification and new prognostic markers under development. It is hopeful that such advancements will accelerate the interpretation of cancer genomic data for personalized intervention and thus improve the standard of care in oncology practice.

The proposed program includes presentations by world-renowned speakers from the United States, China, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong on the latest findings on genomics covering different cancer types, including liver cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and gynecological cancers. All common cancer globally will be included, although Asian prevalent cancers such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma, liver cancer and gastric cancer will be one focus given the large population and therefore the total mortality and morbidity. Prominent researchers with expertise in related areas, namely cancer metagenomics and epigenomics, will also be invited. The conference is intended to be held in Hong Kong and is expected to generate substantial interests from big research communities in cancer biology, bioinformatics, pathology and oncology. Large conferences on cancer genomics (e.g. International Conferences on Cancer Genomics) have regular participation of over 500 delegates.

The conference seeks to capture the state-of-the-art developments in cancer genomics with particular emphases on their potential clinical utilities, including risk prediction, diagnosis, molecular typing, prognostication and prediction of treatment response. Apart from human and the tumor itself, the conference also seeks to embrace a broader definition of genomics to include the metagenomic aspect, as an increasingly recognized factor contributing to the pathogenesis of various cancers. This conference also serves as a platform for cultivating international collaboration among cancer clinicians and scientists around the world to create a joint effort for promoting clinical utilization of cancer genomic data.

Venom Evolution, Function and Biomedical Applications
Mandë Holford, Hunter College and The American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
Raymond Norton, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville, Australia
Marymegan Daly
, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Glenn King
, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD, Australia

Venomous animals have a storied history as agents of mystery and danger. The capacity to deploy venomous toxins has arisen multiple times in animals as diverse as snails, spiders, snakes, and mammals. This diversity within the animal tree of life is mirrored by diversity at the molecular and genetic level, as the proteins that make up venoms and the genes that specify these proteins evolve rapidly in response to natural selection. Animal venoms are among the most complex biochemical natural secretions known and comprise a mixture of bioactive compounds often referred to as toxins. Despite their complexity, there is significant similarity throughout the animal kingdom in the basic molecular structure and targets of toxins, which include most major physiological pathways and tissues accessible by blood. These features make venom an extremely successful evolutionary innovation whose components are ideal candidates for discovery and development of  drugs that act as anti-tumor agents, heart stimulants, therapies for neurological diseases including chronic pain, and many other diseases. 

The evolutionary diversity of venom-producing animals and the diversity of perspectives from which venom has been studied have confounded the development of a cohesive research community.  The proposed Venom GRC will engage experts in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, toxicology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, and chemical biology to foster innovation in the study of venom and its applications.  Our goal is to define key areas of this emerging field, establish collaborations to advance the unique perspectives to be gained from an interdisciplinary approach to venom research, and evaluate present-day needs and future opportunities. We envision this GRC as fostering a focused, novel program encompassing research on venom diversity that combines the conceptual perspective of evolutionary biologists with the methodological expertise of toxinologists, and that leverages the diversity of venomous animal lineages, venom genes, and biochemical compounds.

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