Scientific session snapshots

Published October 01 2018

Below are brief descriptions of the scientific sessions slated for the 2019 American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Annual Meeting scheduled for April 6–9 in Orlando. We asked session organizers for their pithiest pitches of the science they will share.

Lipid metabolism

Brian Finck, Washington University
This session hits on several major themes, including the regulation of lipolysis, metabolites as signaling molecules and integrated control of metabolism. Attendees will learn about the latest from speakers who approach metabolism from different angles and use a variety of experimental systems to test hypotheses.
Keywords: lipolysis, lipogenesis, intermediary metabolism
Who should attend: anyone who has grown tired of the lines at Disney
Theme song: “Lipid la Vida Loca”
This session is powered by caffeine.

Microbiome and disease

Julie Segre, National Human Genome Research Institute
Ever wondered about the bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in and on you? What do they do? How do we begin to understand their biochemical potential and how this is mediated by interactions with the host?
Keywords: bacteria, bioreactor, bioinformatics
Who should attend: the full range from organic chemistry to microbiology, molecular biology, bioinformatics, sequencing, genomics and microbiome
Theme song: “We are Family” by Sister Sledge
This session is powered by ORF function unknown.

Plant biochemistry

Natalia Dudareva, Purdue University
This session is devoted to biochemistry and evolution of plant primary and secondary metabolites and will cover recent innovations in multidisciplinary analysis of plant metabolic networks from transcriptional regulation to synthetic evolution and biotechnological applications.
Keywords: plant metabolic networks
Who should attend: undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate-level students and professional scientists of plant evolutionary biology, plant physiology and botany, as well as researchers working in the fields of secondary metabolites, metabolic biochemistry, genetic engineering, molecular biology and horticulture
Theme song: “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” by Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band
This session is powered by innovations.

Catalysis and enzyme action

Pablo Sobrado, Virginia Tech
The session will focus on macromolecular structure and function, enzymatic reactions, identification of new enzymes in novel metabolic pathways and the evolution of new chemistry.
Keywords: enzymes, spliceosome, protein evolution, enzyme engineering, flavin-dependent reactions
Who should attend: biochemists, enzymologists, chemical biologists, structural biochemists and anyone interested in biological chemistry.
Theme song: “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades” by Timbuk3, because it is a great time to be an enzymologist.
This session is powered by high-affinity interactions.

Inflammation and disease

Judy Lieberman, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Inflammation contributes to almost every disease. This session will highlight new mechanistic insights into how pathogens and danger signals are recognized in cells and trigger the formation of large multicomponent complexes (inflammasomes) that cause inflammatory cell death (pyroptosis) and release of inflammatory cytokines. It will also discuss how these insights could be translated to treat disease.
Keywords: inflammation, inflammasome, pyroptosis, gasdermin, caspase, sepsis
Who should attend: everyone
Theme song: “It’s Too Darn Hot”
This session is powered by feverish energy.

DNA repair, recombination and replication

Anja Katrin Bielinsky, University of Minnesota
This session will feature cutting-edge research at the interface of DNA repair, recombination and replication. Defects in these processes are known to cause human diseases, such as cancer and developmental and neurological pathologies. Our discussion will span a wide array of experimental applications, including single cell/molecule technologies, genomics and proteomics.
Keywords: Genome stability, recombinational repair, replication stress
Theme song: “Extreme Ways” by Moby, because the science in this field is as fast-paced as the soundtrack to the Bourne trilogy.
This session is powered by 3R.


Anne Imberty, French National Centre for Scientific Research
Glycobiology is the study of glycans (sugar chains in oligosaccharides, polysaccharides and glycoconjugates), biomolecules that are involved in a large range of biological processes. We will focus on glycans and receptors in infection and immunity, since viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites use protein–glycan interaction to attach to human tissue or to fool our immune system.
Keywords: Innate immunity, microbiome, polysaccharide
Who should attend: everyone in chemistry, biology, or biochemistry who wants to know how “Create-Read-Update-Delete” coding rules are applied by nature in the complex world of glycosciences
Theme song: “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” because there are “50 ways to bind your sugar”
This session is powered by our sweet tooth.

Epigenomics and chromatin dynamics

Yang Shi, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
This session will discuss dynamic regulation of epigenomes, including covalent modifications of chromatin as well as non-covalent, ATP-driven chromatin remodeling, and the roles and mechanisms of action of these modifications in cancer.
Keywords: epigenome, chromatin modifications, cancer
Who should attend: graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, professors, scientists from pharmaceutical and biotech industries
This session is powered by infinite creativity.

Mitochondrial biology

P. Darrell Neufer, East Carolina University
This session explores the role mitochondria play in creating the continuous flow of energy and electricity that is essential to generating and sustaining cellular life. The session will focus on providing new data on how mitochondrial function is specialized in different cell types, how it is regulated in health and disease, and how it may be targeted therapeutically.
Keywords: bioenergetics, metabolism, disease
Who should attend: those interested in the driving forces central to life and, by implication, disease
Theme song: “Into The Mystic” by Van Morrison — even though “non-equilibrium thermodynamics” is not in the lyrics, that’s what it’s about!
This session is powered by oxygen.

Circadian rhythms

Amita Sehgal, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
The session will cover mechanisms of the circadian (~24-hour) clock across species, from the simple cyanobacteria model to humans, and demonstrate how circadian rhythms pervade virtually all aspects of physiology and behavior. Health consequences of disrupted circadian rhythms will also be discussed.
Keywords: clock genes, protein phosphorylation, transcriptional control, sleep, disease
Who should attend: all who are interested in our daily rhythms (and in sleep)
Theme song: “Day After Day” because it emphasizes the rhythmic nature of life
This session is powered by light and life.

Aging and longevity

Laura Niedernhofer, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
We are facing an unprecedented number of elderly in our world population, most of whom have multiple chronic diseases. This has stimulated tremendous interest and progress in discovering fundamental mechanisms that drive aging and its concomitant spectrum of diseases. In model organisms, tweaking these mechanisms affords greater health and longevity.
Keywords: aging, lifespan, frailty, mitochondria, metabolism, oxidative stress, muscle, microbiome, senescence
Who should attend: everyone; we are all afflicted by aging multiple times during our lifetimes as our grandparents, then parents, then ourselves age
Theme song: “Hope I Die Before I Get Old” (“My Generation”) by Roger Daltry and the Who
This session is powered by confidence — that aging is modifiable.

Synthetic biology

Michelle Chang, University of California, Berkeley
Please join us in discussing the development of new tools and approaches for the design, study and engineering of macromolecular and cell function.
Keywords: synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, bioengineering, directed evolution, genome-scale engineering, protein engineering, biosynthesis
Who should attend: biochemists, enzymologists, protein engineers, molecular biologists, systems biologists, computational biologists, students, postdocs and faculty
Theme song: “Computer Love” by Zapp & Roger
The session may be a little different from traditional areas of biochemistry and molecular biology, but we hope attendees “can share that special love” with us, “thanks to modern technology.”
This session is powered by evolution.

Inequities in precision medicine

Sonia C. Flores, University of Colorado–Anschutz Medical Campus
The future of American medicine depends on the integration of complex data and will require extensive expertise in the utilization of -omics technologies and precision medicine, and the relevant interpretation of data generated using these technologies. However, disparities in the application and interpretation of genomic data to populations with African or other ancestries have been identified. These issues present challenges with implementation, interpretation and cost-effectiveness of precision medicine initiatives when treating minority populations. Our session will focus on strategies to address these issues.
Keywords: ancestry, precision, genomics
Who should attend: anybody interested in using big data analytics (genomics, proteomics, pharmacogenomics) to make inferences about susceptibility to diseases or responses to pharmacological agents in populations of different ancestries
Theme song: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
This clearly betrays my age, but is perfect to describe how the power of big data has built bridges to understanding complex human diseases. The challenge is to make sure the data are interpreted in the context of the troubled waters of marginalized populations.
This session is powered by the need for inclusion and justice.

Autophagy and proteostasis

Beth Levine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute
The turnover of proteins and organelles is essential for cellular differentiation and homeostasis. This session will highlight recent advances related to molecular mechanisms of selective degradation of organelles by autophagy, cross-talk between autophagy and other metabolic pathways, and the role of ubiquitinating factors in remodeling proteomes during cellular differentiation.
Keywords: autophagy, mitophagy, ER-phagy, proteostasis, ubiquitin
Who should attend: all people interested in understanding how cellular degradation and recycling pathways keep our cells healthy
Theme song: “Circle of Life” by Elton John


Yifan Cheng, University of California, San Francisco
With recent technological breakthroughs, single-particle cryo-EM has become a major tool and a game-changer for structural biology. Speakers in this session will highlight both recent technological advances in single-particle cryo-EM and its applications in various biological systems, such as membrane proteins.
Keywords: single-particle cryo-EM, structural biology
Who should attend: anyone interested in how protein or protein machinery works
  Theme song: “All I Want is You” by U2
All anyone and everyone doing structural work wants is cryo-EM because it’s so cool and so hot.
This session is powered by a technology breakthrough.

Single-molecule and single-cell studies

Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, Peking University
Advances in single-molecule and single-cell studies, with new technology and new knowledge continuing to emerge, have changed the way life processes are investigated, making an impact in biology.
Keywords: single-molecule enzymology, single-cell genomics, single-cell transcriptomics, single-cell imaging
Who should attend: enzymologists, biochemists, molecular biologists, cell biologists, systems biologists, genome biologists
Theme song: “When Stochasticity Meets Precision”

RNA structural dynamics

Hashim Al-Hashimi, Duke University
RNA is increasingly recognized as a key player in biology. RNA dynamics play essential roles in the assembly and function of machines such as the ribosome. RNAs exchange between the nucleus and cytoplasm, and their functions are modified by post-transcriptional modifications. This session will examine the dynamic complexity of RNAs.
Keywords: RNA biology, ribonucleoprotein complexes, RNA post-transcriptional modifications
Who should attend: everyone
Theme song: “Dancing Queen”
You’ll have the dance of your life!
This session is powered by dynamics.