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FAOBMB Annual Conference Held in the Philippines

by Paul Gleeson, FAOBMB Representative from Australia, reports on the FAOBMB Conference and Council Meeting held in Manila, the Philippines, during December 2016

Professor Gracia Fe Yu in formal Filipino attire in the opening of the Conference

The 25th FAOBMB International Conference and 43rd Annual Meeting of the Philippine Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (PSBMB) was held in Manila at the Philippine International Conference Centre from 5–7 December, 2016. The convenor was Professor Gracia Fe Yu from the University of the Philippines, and the meeting’s theme was focused on Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Health and Wellness, with an emphasis on translation of natural products.

The local organising committee, comprising Professor Gracia Fe Yu, Dr Apolinario Yambot (President of PSBMB) and Dr John Donnie Ramos (Immediate Past President of PSBMB) delivered a lively and highly interactive meeting. There were more than 575 participants, including 60 foreign delegates, of which there were nine plenary speakers. Particularly notable were the vibrant interactions between students and international delegates, and the organisers should be congratulated for facilitating sessions to maximise student involvement.

The meeting commenced with welcome addresses from the FAOBMB President Professor Kiyoshi Fukui (Japan), the FAOBMB President-Elect, Professor Zengyi Chang (China) and the IUBMB President-Elect Professor Andrew Wang (Taipei, China). All three highlighted the importance of the regional alliances promoted by the FAOBMB and enthusiastically promoted further expansion of the organisation.

Chinese colleagues at the Conference. From left: Professor Cong-Zhao Zhou (delegate of CSBMB), Professor Rongwu Yang (winner of FAOBMB Education Award), Professor Feng Shao (winner of FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence) and Professor Zengyi Chang (incoming FAOBMB President).

Highlights from the scientific program included the nine plenary lectures and Award presentations. These included a presentation on the history of the discovery of conotoxins in the Philippines by Dr Lourdes Cruz; an exhilarating presentation by Dr Danilo Tagle (NIH) on the advances in microfabricated devices to engineer ‘organs on chips’ for drug testing, a field which has now progressed to include multiple organs on a chip to analyse physiological systems; and an elegant presentation by Professor Ricky Johnson (Peter MacCallum Institute, Melbourne) on epigenetic regulation and the potential of HDAC inhibitors for treatment of leukemia.

Professor Feng Shao receiving the FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence (including certificate and trophy) from Professor Kiyoshi Fukui (FAOBMB President), with Professor Zengyi Chang (FAOBMB President-Elect) at left.

The winner of the 2016 FAOBMB Award for Research Excellence was Professor Feng Shao (National Institute of Biological Sciences, Beijing, China) who gave an outstanding plenary lecture on host–pathogen interactions, in which he described his contribution to unravelling the mechanisms underlying the necrotic cell death pathway, pyroptosis, and the major role of this pathway in innate inflammatory responses against bacteria. He described his very elegant approaches to define the intracellular sensors and effector machinery associated with pyroptosis. His studies have also revealed the unexpected finding that pyroptosis may well be the underlying mechanism for the non-classical secretion of IL-1b.

​The winner of the 2016 FAOBMB Education Award was Professor Rongwu Yang from Nanjing University, China. In his lecture, Professor Yang presented his personal experience on teaching biochemistry with his very enthusiastic style. His vibrant presentation stressed the importance of a passionate approach to teaching and he highlighted multiple mechanisms for engagement with students during lectures. He also presented examples of a range of creative prompts he uses to promote visual understanding of the concepts of biochemistry. Professor Yang has kindly consented to his talk being made available at the following link:

Paul Gleeson with a group of young Filipino scientists.

There were other excellent talks in the Education Symposium, including those given by Associate Professor Susan Rowland (Australia) and Professor Hoon Eng Khoo (Singapore); their presentations can also be found on the link above.

Dr Lahiru Gangoda (Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, La Trobe University) was one of eight Young Scientists who were successful in obtaining FAOBMB Travel Fellowships to attend the conference and to deliver oral presentations of their work. A unique feature of the program was the special young scientist forum, in which outstanding Filipino undergraduate research students presented their laboratory-based research projects. Five finalists were selected from over 30 applications for oral presentations in a very well attended session and all talks were of a very high standard. The international FAOBMB judges, including Wayne Patrick (New Zealand) and Paul Gleeson (Australia), awarded the best presentation to Arman Ali Ghodsinia (National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of the Philippines) for his research on PI3 kinase mutations and oncogenesis.

The FAOBMB Council meeting was held prior to the conference program (Sunday 4 December, 2016), with Paul Gleeson as the Australian delegate (ASBMB representative).

The meeting was attended by delegates from 15 of the 21 constituent member countries and was chaired by the FAOBMB President, Professor Kiyoshi Fukui (Japan) (2014–2016) and the Secretary-General, Professor Phillip Nagley (Australia). The President highlighted in his report the initiatives by the FAOBMB, particularly in education and in strengthening the relationship with IUBMB. Three FAOBMB members are now serving on the Executive Committee of IUBMB, namely Professor Andrew Wang (Taipei, China) as President-Elect of IUBMB, Professor Janet Macaulay (Australia) with the portfolio of education and training and Dr Avadhesha Surolia (India) as member for publications. Professor Zengyi Chang, President-Elect for FAOBMB at the time of the Council meeting, took over as President from January 2017. Paul Gleeson indicated the considerable enthusiasm of the ASBMB to bid for the IUBMB congress in Melbourne in 2024 and the FAOBMB Council was supportive of this potential bid.

Traditional Filipino dancers at the cultural evening of the Conference.

The 26th FAOBMB Conference will be held in Kobe, Japan, 6–9 December 2017, as a joint meeting with a large consortium of biological science societies (ConBio2017). The next triennial IUBMB Congress will be held as a joint meeting with the FAOBMB Congress in Seoul, Korea, 4–9 June 2018. In 2019, the 27th FAOBMB Conference will be held in Malaysia.

​Thanks to Phillip Nagley for his input and some of the photographs.

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