Lipid News

The International Lipidomics Society: Who we are and where we are heading

Robert Ahrends Kim Ekroos
By Robert Ahrends and Kim Ekroos
March 23, 2021

The human body must regulate lipid metabolism and signaling tightly to maintain homeostasis. Loss of control can result in unwanted cascades of events triggering disorders and diseases such as insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, lipidic storage diseases, neurodegenerative disorders or cancer. Lipidomics technologies have evolved to monitor such changes, with researchers expecting these technologies to provide improved opportunities to study lipids in health and disease and advance lipid biology at systems scale, including complex lipid signaling and metabolism.

Robert Ahrends
The International Lipidomics Society comprises groups that are developing
lipidomics standards guidelines; reference materials; clinical lipidomics;
instrumental and methodological workflows; and tools for applied bioinformatics,
ontology and better understanding of lipid function, thereby stimulating
communication among lipid biology, medicine and surrounding disciplines.

Methodologies, workflows and data presentation differ vastly in lipidomics, and many studies do not report absolute lipid concentrations. This hinders biological interpretation, which only can be done using quantified molecule numbers, such as in moles. The broadly recognized discrepancies in published data, such as misidentification and broader issues of irreproducibility, weaken lipidomics research and hinder its use as noted in a paper by Gerhard Liebisch, Robert Ahrends and other members of the Lipidomics Standards Initiative Consortium in the journal Nature Metabolism in August 2019. This has a negative effect, causing deliveries in market segments to fall short and interfering with advances in drug and biomarker discovery programs, interlaboratory studies and transitions into clinical practice.

To start tackling these challenges, we have formed the International Lipidomics Society, or ILS, with the aim of fostering international communitywide coordination and communication to create lipidomics-specific guidelines for good scientific practice and future development.

We founded the ILS in June 2019 with Gerhard Liebisch, Harald Köfeler, Michal Holčapek, Xianlin Han and Markus Wenk. The society sees itself as the point of contact for lipidomics research, development and commercialization. By working together, we aim to unlock the full potential of lipidomics and its adoption in the clinical arena. 

Our goal is to stimulate conversation with our colleagues in lipid biology, medicine and related disciplines. We intend to engage researchers around the globe who are working on developing lipidomics standards guidelines, reference materials, clinical lipidomics, instruments and methodologies. We also have started interest groups that are working on such hot topics as applied bioinformatics, lipid ontology and lipid function. All these groups are up and running and are engaging with the ILS; the first white papers are on their way to transform lipidomics research.

During the first year of the ILS, we held vibrant workshops on subject areas including lipidomics bioinformatics. Participants discussed topics such as one-stop workflows, data formats, visualization of lipidomes and the engagement of junior researchers. The interest group reference materials included the first intercontinental ceramide ring trial across 47 labs. Similar activities now are being organized by our clinical lipidomics group. The Lipidomics Standards Initiative released updated lipid nomenclature together with our friends at Lipid Maps and currently is publishing new guidelines for lipidomics research.

In total, more than 800 attendees have visited our workshops and symposia and engaged with the most pressing challenges in the field. 

For more information, visit us at and connect with us at

Robert Ahrends
Robert Ahrends

Robert Ahrends is a professor of chemistry in the department of analytical chemistry at the University of Vienna.

Kim Ekroos
Kim Ekroos

Kim Ekroos is the founder and CEO of Lipidomics Consulting Ltd., Esbo, Finland, and president of the International Lipidomics Society.

Related articles

Phospholipids and innate immunity
Valerie B. O’Donnell
A surprising modification lowers the lipid binding affinity of a membrane trafficking protein
Jefferson Knight, Colin T. Shearn & Cisloynny Beauchamp–Pérez
Tour de flippase
Todd R. Graham

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Science

Science highlights or most popular articles

My cat’s coat is mostly white with dark tabby patches. What’s going on?
Science Communication

My cat’s coat is mostly white with dark tabby patches. What’s going on?

Oct. 24, 2021

A researcher uses a tweetorial to figure out the underlying genetics for their cat’s coat.

Dalit scientists face barriers in India’s top science institutes

Dalit scientists face barriers in India’s top science institutes

Oct. 23, 2021

Despite decades-old inclusion policies, Dalits are systematically underrepresented in science institutes in India. Why?

‘It goes both ways’

‘It goes both ways’

Oct. 21, 2021

This year’s theme of “location, location, location” refers to the scenic meeting spot and to a new way of looking at lipids.

From the journals: JLR
Journal News

From the journals: JLR

Oct. 19, 2021

Predicting drug-induced lysosomal fat buildup. Minimizing side effects of atherosclerosis treatment. Finding a key to sepsis diagnosis and treatment. Read about papers on these topics recently published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

A new way of looking at concussions

A new way of looking at concussions

Oct. 17, 2021

Emerging research suggests that even mild hits to the head may damage the tiny lymphatic vessels that clear toxic chemicals and cellular debris from the brain.

COVID immunity through infection or vaccination: Are they equal?

COVID immunity through infection or vaccination: Are they equal?

Oct. 16, 2021

As scientists argue whether a previous bout of covid offers the same amount of protection as vaccinations, people turn to the courts to decide.