2 December 2019

Bringing together molecular, cellular, plant and pharmaceutical sciences

Science for Life Conference 2019

This year’s Science for Life conference certainly delivered on its promise to bring together a broad collection of both national and international research scientists, encompassing the fields of molecular, cellular and pharmaceutical sciences as well as plant biology.

Jan van Deursen

With speakers such as Jan van Deursen, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota USA, whose presentation on "Senolysis - an emerging therapy for disease of again" revealed how the Western World has extended its life span from 30 to 80 years, simply due to improvements in environmental conditions. While we enjoy the benefits of an extended life span, this post reproductive phase of life, comes at a price. The majority of this aging population develop chronic diseases due to the influence of cellular senescence (a state in which cells can no longer divide). The laboratory of Dr. Jan van Deursen are investigating how these chronic diseases’, some of which include IPF (Progressive fibrosis of the lung), osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis, can be slowed down by removal of senescence cells. 

Helen Saibil, Department of Biological sciences, ISMB, Birkbeck College, London, works on Huntingtin’s disease, an inherited neurodegenerative disease, for which there is currently no cure or treatment, her research could point the way to a new approach in preventing progression of this illness.

Ton Schumacher

Ton Schumacher, NKI, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, outlined the importance of T- cell recognition of human cancer and how tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy in treating melanoma patients shows robust, reproducible, clinical responses in clinical trials executed in several specialized centers over the world. The future potential of TIL therapy for other tumor types is ongoing.

Identification of new genes for inherited disorders affecting the human brain is a research interest of Andrew Jackson, MRC Human Genetics, University Edinburgh, Scotland. Using plants, as an experimental system to address the question of reprogramming cell identity and function in response to developmental and environmental changes, was quite an informative presentation by Doris Wagner, Dept. of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Parallel sessions

In case these research topics didn’t whet ones appetite, the Science for Life parallel sessions had something for everyone. These sessions saw presentations from the different Hubs within the Life Sciences arena at Utrecht University and covered the areas of Organoid Technology, Bioscopy, Future Food and Advanced in Vitro Model Hubs.

The diversity of science on offer at this conference was also reflected in the poster session, of which 70 scientists were available to discuss their experimental efforts. The posters encompassed research from Utrecht University and the University Medical Centre Utrecht and included representatives from the Utrecht Molecular Immunology Hub as well as the Utrecht Advanced In Vitro Model Hub.

Poster session

The poster session gave many researchers the chance to catch up with developments within the life science field. It provided a medium for scientists to engage with each other, discuss theories, methods and develop collaborative research initiatives. 

The winners of the poster prize went to representatives from the Faculty of Science, Nicholas Pearce, Re-factoring the B-factor: enabling intuitive structural-disorder analysis, Laura Demmers (Utrecht Molecular Immunology Hub) “Single Cell: Clonal Diversity in HLA Class I Peptide Ligand Presentation” and Maaike de Vries, UMCU, for her poster Stem cells are the principal intestinal epithelial responders to bacterial antigens.

The next edition will take place on 16 November 2020. See you next year?​