Show Preview for ASCB/EMBO 2018: Twice as nice

ASCB and EMBO host their second collaborative meeting focused on cell biology

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American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)
European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
2018 ASCB | EMBO Meeting
San Diego Convention Center,
December 8-12, 2018
Twice as nice
ASCB and EMBO host their second collaborative meeting focused on cell biology
SAN DIEGO—San Diego is known for its beaches, the famous Gaslamp Quarter and warm weather year-round, but in December one of the biggest draws will be the 2018 ASCB | EMBO Meeting, which will run from Saturday, Dec. 8, through Wednesday, Dec. 12. This is the 58th meeting of the ASCB, and the second year that the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) have hosted this joint event. Co-chaired by Thomas Langer of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging and Samara Reck-Peterson of the University of California, San Diego/HHMI, this year’s meeting promises to be “packed with opportunities to learn from and network with the world’s leading cell biologists,” according to ASCB.
The 2018 meeting will naturally focus on a variety of facets of cell biology, from modeling and movement of cells to the role that cellular functions play in disease, though ASCB notes that stem cells will be a prevailing theme this year.
In fact, the ASCB Doorstep Meeting, which is now in its third year, has a theme of “Beyond Homeostasis: Stem Cells Under Stress.” The meeting takes place Dec. 8 in Ballroom 6 A/B of the San Diego Convention Center, with registration opening at 7:45 a.m. and welcome remarks beginning at 8:35 a.m. after a brief breakfast. The Doorstep Meeting ends at 6 p.m. with Sean J. Morrison, director of the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, presenting the keynote lecture for the 2018 ASCB | EMBO Meeting. Morrison is one of the organizers of the 2018 Doorstep Meeting, along with Elaine Fuchs of Rockefeller University.
ASCB describes the Doorstep Meeting thusly: “This doorstep symposium features leaders in stem cell biology who have studied mechanisms by which stem cells respond to stress. One of the most interesting areas of stem cell biology concerns the mechanisms by which stem cells withstand stresses such as tissue injury. So far, most studies of stem cell function have been in normal tissues. Less is known about the mechanisms that maintain stem cells in damaged tissues. Replicative stress and the need to regenerate differentiated cells can deplete stem cells, requiring the induction of distinct mechanisms that ensure stem cell persistence beyond homeostasis.
“The meeting will provide an overview of the field, with significant time allotted for discussion and interaction between audience and speakers, with the goal of inspiring the ASCB community to tackle the cell biology of stem cells and tissue regeneration.”
In addition to the Doorstep Meeting, this year’s conference features a number of symposia and subgroup meetings, as well as three scientific workshops that will run concurrently on the days of the symposia. All told, more than 2,700 poster presentations are expected this year, offering attendees no end of new research topics to explore.
For student attendees, there will be a one-day course for graduate and postdoctoral students on Friday, Dec. 7, at Biocom in La Jolla, Calif., before the official ASCB | EMBO meeting begins. Hosted by ASCB and the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), the 2018 Biotech Mini-Course runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will offer guidance for students in making themselves more competitive in the job market. The deadline to apply for participation is Nov. 15, and it is not necessary to register for the 2018 ASCB | EMBO Meeting to attend the one-day course.
From 8 a.m. to noon, Dr. Steve Casper, Dean of the School of Applied Life Sciences and Henry E. Riggs Professor of Management at KGI, will lead the “Introduction to Bioscience Business” morning session. According to ASCB, this session will familiarize students with the dynamics and commercialization processes of the bioscience industry, exploring common business strategies and how research is translated into industry ventures. Lectures will be combined with discussions based on Harvard Business School teaching cases from the industry. A networking lunch will run from noon to 2 p.m., during which students will have the chance to speak with representatives from local biotech companies.
From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Dr. Randall Ribaudo and Larry Petcovic, co-founders of SciPhD, will present “The Business of Science—Combining Your Scientific, Business, and Social Skills to Make You “Business-Ready” and Competitive for a Professional Career.” This lecture will explore issues such as the career paths that are available for those with PhDs and how to develop a career plan, as well as how to research job requirements, tailor a targeted resume and prepare for interviews.
Beyond the main programming, there are also other satellite events being held in conjunction with the 2018 ASCB | EMBO Meeting that will allow attendees to explore other parts of San Diego while they’re in town. On Friday, Dec. 7, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., the 2018 4DN-ASCB Satellite Meeting will be held at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. This year’s conference, “Bridging the 4D Genome with Cell Biology,” is jointly organized by the 4D Nucleome (4DN) network and ASCB, and will explore “recent technological and conceptual advances in research of the higher order chromatin organization in eukaryotic cells.” Sunday, Dec. 9, will see a panel event at the Omni Hotel Salon from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., hosted by HHMI. This event is part of an international effort to find a scientist—or a team—to head up a new research area at Janelia centered on the life sciences, technology development or a mix of both focal points. Those interested can find more information at And on Wednesday, Dec. 12, an event supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will combine the cellular focus of the ASCB | EMBO Meeting and the coastal influence of San Diego in “Genetic Tool Development in Marine Protists: Emerging New Model Organisms for Cell Biology.” This will be a three-hour event, running from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Santa Rosa Room at the Marriott Marquis, and will offer posters, presentations and discussion surrounding work in developing new model systems in the field of marine protists.

Keynote Lecture and Symposia
Keynote Lecture
Saturday, Dec. 8, 6 p.m.
  • “Niches for Stem Cells in Bone Marrow” by Sean J. Morrison, Children’s Medical Center Research Institute, UT Southwestern/HHMI
Symposium 1: Nuclear Organization
Sunday, Dec. 9, 8 a.m.
  • “Genome Architecture Mapping (GAM): Discovering 3D Chromatin Contacts in Rare Cell Types” by Ana Pombo, Belin Institute for Medical Systems Biology
  • “Super-resolution Imaging of Transcription in Living Mammalian Cells” by Ibrahim Cissé, Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • “Mechanisms of Transcriptional Bursting” by Arun Raj, University of Pennsylvania
Symposium 2: Cell Migration
Sunday, Dec. 9, 9:45 a.m.
  • “Principles of Leukocyte Locomotion and Navigation” by Michael Sixt, IST Austria
  • “Imaging Leukocyte Dynamics In Vivo” by Anna Huttenlocher, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Symposium 3: Neuronal Cell Biology
Sunday, Dec. 9, 9:45 a.m.
  • “Disturbance of Phase Transitions in Neurological Disease” by J. Paul Taylor, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital/HHMI
  • “Dynamics of Autophagy in Neuronal Homeostasis and Neurodegeneration” by Erika Holzbaur, University of Pennsylvania
Symposium 4: Cytoskeletal Dynamics
Monday, Dec. 10, 8 a.m.
  • “Control of Cell Architecture by Microtubule Minus-End Binding Proteins” by Anna Akhmanova, Utrecht University
  • “The Dynein/Dynactin Complex and Long-Distance Transport” by Andrew Carter, MRC Lab Molecular Biology
  • “Multi-component Mechanisms Controlling Actin Dynamics” by Bruce Goode, Brandeis University
Symposium 5: Metabolism
Monday, Dec. 10, 9:45 a.m.
  • “Metabolic Transitions in Cancer: Lessons from Viral Infection” by Heather Christofk, University of California, Los Angeles
  • “Mechanisms and Physiology of Lipid Storage in Lipid Droplets” by Robert Farese, Jr., Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School
Symposium 6: Regeneration and Morphogenesis
Monday, Dec. 10, 9:45 a.m.
  • “Lgr5 Stem Cell-Based Organoids in Human Disease” by Hans Clevers, Hubrecht Institute, Royal Netherlands Academy of Art and Sciences, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Princess Maxima Center for pediatric oncology
  • “Building the Mouse and Human Embryo In Vivo and In Vitro” by Magdelena Zernicka-Goetz, University of Cambridge
Symposium 7: Organelle Communication
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 8 a.m.
  • “The Role of ER Membrane Contact Sites in Lipid Metabolism and Organelle Biogenesis” by Will Prinz, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH
  • “mTOR and Lysosomes in Growth Control” by David M. Sabatini, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Broad Institute, MIT/HHMI
  • “New Insights into Mitochondrial Vesicle Transport” Heidi McBride, Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University
Symposium 8: Quality Control
Wednesday, Dec. 12, 11:20 a.m.
  • “Ribosome Rescue and Homeostasis in Health and Disease” by Rachel Green, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine/HHMI
  • “Targeting the Cell’s Stress Pathways for Therapeutic Benefit” by Peter Walter, University of California, San Francisco

The minisymposia will run concurrently on Sunday and Tuesday afternoons from 4:15 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., on Monday afternoon from 4:30 p.m. to 7:05 p.m., and on Wednesday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.
Sunday, Dec. 9
  • Minisymposium 1: Biology of Stem Cells
  • Minisymposium 2: Cell Adhesion Motility and Mechanics
  • Minisymposium 3: Cellular Stress Responses
  • Minisymposium 4: Microbes and the Cytoskeleton
  • Minisymposium 5: Nucleus
  • Minisymposium 6: An Organellar Perspective on Disease
  • Education Minisymposium: Evidence-Based Education: Promoting Excellence through an Inclusive Environment
  • This time slot also features a workshop on New Fluorescent Probes and High-Throughput Imaging Approaches, and Subgroup U: Physics and the Cell: 2018 and Beyond.
Monday, Dec. 10
  • Minisymposium 7: Motors in Transport and Cytoskeleton Remodeling
  • Minisymposium 8: Neural Development and Neurodegeneration
  • Minisymposium 9: Patterning Tissue Morphogenesis
  • Minisymposium 10: Phase Transitions in the Cell
  • Minisymposium 11: Spindle Mechanics and Chromosome Segregation
  • This time slot also features a workshop on Screening Approaches in Human Cells and CRISPR Methods, NCI-ASCB Emerging Topic Symposium: A New Nuclear-Nexus in Cancer Cell Biology, and Subgroup W: Organelle Interactome and Cell Plasticity Control.
Tuesday, Dec. 11
  • Minisymposium 12: Biomechanics
  • Minisymposium 13: Cell Biology of the Neuron
  • Minisymposium 14: Cell Size, Cell Division, and Contractility
  • Minisymposium 15: Cytoskeleton, Motility, and Cell Mechanics: Tracks
  • Minisymposium 16: Organelle Homeostasis
  • Minisymposium 17: Regulation of Autophagy
  • This time slot also features a workshop on Electron Cryo-Tomography and Correlated Light and Electron Microscopy (CLEM), and Subgroup X: New Tools and Resources for Studies of Stem Cell Biology.
Wednesday, Dec. 12
  • Minisymposium 18: Autophagy and Protein Quality Control
  • Minisymposium 19: Biological Insights from Organoid Models of Health and Disease
  • Minisymposium 20: Cellular Metabolism
  • Minisymposium 21: Centrosomes, Cilia and Flagella
  • Minisymposium 22: Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Minisymposium 23: Organelle Zones
  • This time slot also features Subgroup Y: The Cellular and Molecular Basis of Invasive Metastatic Cancer, and Subgroup Z: Cell Biology of Marine Protists: Toward Functional Genomic Tools for Diverse New Model Organisms.

Scientific Award Lectures
ASCB E.E. Just Award Lecture
Sunday, Dec. 9, 11 a.m.
Regulating Wild Type and Mutant p53 and the Consequences on Tumor Evolution
Guillermina Lozano, MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas
ASCB Porter Lecture
Sunday, Dec. 9, 3:15 p.m.
Germ Cells are Forever
Ruth Lehmann, Skirball Institute, New York University School of Medicine
EMBO Gold Medal Ceremony and Lecture
Monday, Dec. 10, 3:15 p.m.
Type VI Secretion System: From the Discovery to the Mode of Action of a Dynamic Bacterial Nanomachine
Marek Basler, Biozentrum at the University of Basel, Switzerland
New Insights into Causes of Aneuploidy in Mammalian Eggs
Melina Schuh, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
Louis-Jeantet Prize Lectures
Louis-Jeantet Foundation
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 9:45 a.m.
Cellular Interactions and Heterogeneity in the Blood Microvasculature
Christer Betsholtz, Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University
Lessons from the Analysis of the Immune Response to P. falciparum
Antonio Lanzavecchia, Institute for Research in Biomedicine and Università della Svizzera italiana.
ASCB E.B. Wilson Medal Presentation and Address
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 3:15 p.m.
Sex and Death: From Cell Fate Specification to Dynamic Control of X-Chromosome Conformation and Repression
Barbara Meyer, University of California, Berkeley/HHMI

The benefits of on/off control over CAR-T
LA JOLLA, Calif.—Calibr, a nonprofit drug discovery division of Scripps Research, recently announced findings from a new study that show its proprietary switchable chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells may offer therapeutic advantages in addition to being employed as a safety mechanism.
Calibr’s switchable CAR-T cell platform was first reported in 2016 and uses antibody-based switches to control the activation and targeting of the engineered CAR-T cells. This has been previously demonstrated to act as a safety switch by allowing the level of activity to be titrated, or tuned up or down, thus potentially avoiding complications from excessive cytokine release or cytokine storm.
A new paper titled “Switchable control over in vivo CAR-T expansion, B cell depletion, and induction of memory” that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences November issue, now goes beyond these initial findings to demonstrate a therapeutic benefit to switches.
“Conventional CAR-T cell therapies typically involve a single infusion of the engineered T cells, which exponentially expands within the patient, and then contracts over time,” said corresponding author Dr. Travis S. Young, vice president of biologics at Calibr. “Our approach mimics a more natural behavior of a T cell, in that the CAR-T cells are turned on and off in a cyclical fashion, which affords defined expansion and contraction of the CAR-T cell population. Through this, we discovered that the ‘off’ period is highly beneficial—perhaps even more so than the ‘on’ period—for engrafting a robust central memory population.”
The study could have important implications for the rapidly expanding field of CAR-T cell therapies, which harness the power of a cancer patient’s own immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells. While they have delivered remarkable results in late-stage blood cancers that failed to respond to other treatments, not all patients experience a complete and durable response. A significant number also suffer serious adverse events, including cytokine release syndrome, which occurs at the peak of CAR-T cell expansion.

Helping blood cells regenerate after radiation therapy
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Patients with blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma are often treated by irradiating their bone marrow to destroy the diseased cells. After the treatment, patients are vulnerable to infection and fatigue until new blood cells grow back. But now Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have devised a way to help blood cells regenerate faster. Their method involves stimulating a particular type of stem cell to secrete growth factors that help precursor cells differentiate into mature blood cells.
Using a technique known as mechanopriming, the researchers grew mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) on a surface whose mechanical properties are very similar to that of bone marrow. This induced the cells to produce special factors that help hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) differentiate into red and white blood cells, as well as platelets and other blood cells.
“You can think about it like you’re trying to grow a plant,” says Dr. Krystyn Van Vliet, the Michael and Sonja Koerner Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, a professor of biological engineering and associate provost. “The MSCs are coming in and improving the soil so that the progenitor cells can start proliferating and differentiating into the blood cell lineages that you need to survive.”
In a study of mice, the researchers showed that the specially grown MSCs helped the animals to recover much more quickly from bone marrow irradiation. Van Vliet is the senior author of the study, which appears in the Oct. 24 issue of the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
MSCs are produced throughout the body and can differentiate into a variety of tissues, including bone, cartilage, muscle, and fat. They can also secrete proteins that help other types of stem cells differentiate into mature cells.
“They act like drug factories,” Van Vliet says. “They can become tissue lineage cells, but they also pump out a lot of factors that change the environment that the hematopoietic stem cells are operating in.”
When cancer patients receive a stem cell transplant, they usually receive only HPSCs, which can become blood cells. Van Vliet’s team has shown previously that when mice are also given MSCs, they recover faster. However, in a given population of MSCs, usually only about 20 percent produce the factors that are needed to stimulate blood cell growth and bone marrow recovery.
“Left to their own devices in the current state-of-the-art culture environments, MSCs become heterogeneous and they all express a variety of factors,” Van Vliet says.
In an earlier study, Van Vliet and her SMART colleagues showed that she could sort MSCs with a special microfluidic device that can identify the 20 percent that promote blood cell growth. However, she and her students wanted to improve on that by finding a way to stimulate an entire population of MSCs to produce the necessary factors, hence the recently published study. Van Vliet’s lab is now performing more animal studies in hopes of developing a combination treatment of MSCs and HSPCs that could be tested in humans.
“You can’t survive with a low blood cell count for very long,” she says. “If you’re able to get your complete blood cell count up to normal levels faster, you have a much better prognosis for speed of recovery.”
The researchers also hope to study whether mechanopriming can induce MSCs to produce different factors that would stimulate the development of additional cell types that could be useful for treating other diseases.
“You could imagine that by changing their culture environment, including their mechanical environment, MSCs could be used for administration to target several other diseases,” such as Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and others, Van Vliet says.
(Above story edited from the original by Sarah McDonnell of the MIT News Office)

Human cell models could potentially replace animal experiments
CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Elpis Biomed Ltd., a University of Cambridge spinout developing high-quality human cells via its proprietary OPTi-OX platform, announced recently that life-sciences entrepreneur Dr. Jonathan Milner, deputy chairman and founder of Abcam, mentioned the company, stating: “Elpis human cells can fix the broken drug discovery process by replacing animal experiments,” during his plenary lecture at the recent European Laboratory Research & Innovation Group (ELRIG) Drug Discovery Conference.
During his plenary address, titled “Opportunities in the Golden Age of Biology,” Milner asked whether the drug discovery process is “broken,” explaining: “Over the past decades, the return on investment on pharmaceutical research and development has suffered exponential decline. A main contributor to the rising costs of drug development are high failure rates, both at the preclinical and clinical stage. The causes for drug failure are likely due to the biological differences between the current animal models and cell lines used for drug discovery and human biology. The solution to this problem is to integrate human cell models early into the drug development process.”
Although human cells are better models for drugs screening, few were featured at the ELRIG conference, and Milner noted that “The lack of human cell models being utilized boils down to the fact that the current technology for generating patient derived cells does not meet the requirements for drug screening.” Elpis, backed by Milner’s personal investment, “provides the first robust and scalable solution of functional biologically relevant cells for drug development,” he added.
Dr. Mark Kotter, scientific founder of Elpis, said, “Elpis’ mission is to make human cells easy. Our proprietary OPTi-OX technology allows us to produce human cells of unprecedented quality, purity, and consistency. We are developing a wide range of cell products to support the research, drug discovery and cell therapy communities, and are delighted that our technology has been brought to the attention of an audience of drug discovery experts by an industry heavyweight like Dr. Milner.”

Mount Sinai recognized for excellence in mitochondrial care
NEW YORK—The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has been recognized as a certified Mitochondrial Medicine Center by the Mitochondrial Care Network, a newly established collaborative founded by four national mitochondrial disease advocacy groups. The certification recognizes centers for dedication to mitochondrial medicine. Drs. Pankaj Prasun and Bryn Webb, co-directors of the Mitochondrial Medicine Program at Mount Sinai, were also cited as leaders in this field of care.
The Mitochondrial Care Network was formed to formally unify clinicians who provide medical care to individuals with mitochondrial disease; define, design and implement best practices in mitochondrial medicine; and optimize management and care for affected patients. Factors considered by the Network include current and prior patient volume, multidisciplinary approach and hospital/center support.
The Mitochondrial Medicine Program at the Mount Sinai Genetics Faculty Practice combines cutting-edge research, state-of-the-art diagnostics and novel therapies to provide comprehensive disease evaluation, counseling and management for patients suspected of or diagnosed with mitochondrial disease.
“We are honored to join this world-class group of clinicians and institutions to share our experiences and ideas with,” said Webb. “In addition to being a hub of support, we hope this newly formed network will help raise awareness about the prevalence of mitochondrial disorders.”
“Collaborative medicine has time and time again exemplified strength in numbers,” said Prasun. “By leveraging both our partnership with the Mitochondrial Care Network and Mount Sinai’s legacy of genomic research and clinical care in genetics, we hope to bring our pioneering ideas to life and improve the standard of care for those with mitochondrial disease.”

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