Interview

A glimpse into the world of lipids

ASBMB’s Deuel conference provides ‘a bird’s-eye view of the field’
Joshua Tran
By Joshua Tran
Nov. 18, 2022

Scientists, industry leaders and lipid enthusiasts from around the world will meet to discuss current research and pave new directions at the ASBMB Deuel Conference on Lipids in March in picturesque Dana Point, California.

First organized as a small group meeting in 1955, the Deuel conference has taken its place as an international forum for thoughtful, open discussions and a platform to share cutting-edge advances in lipid research. Today a must-attend event for everyone from trainees to experts, the conference showcases the diversity of lipid research and recognizes the scientists who do it.

Robert Farese Jr. is a member of the Cell Biology Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a professor of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and a professor of the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He was co-winner of the 2022 ASBMB–Merck Award and the winner of the ASBMB’s 2016 Avanti Award in Lipids.
Tobias Walther is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the chair and a member of the Cell Biology Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a professor at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and a professor at the Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He was co-winner of the 2022 ASBMB–Merck Award and the winner of the ASBMB’s 2013 Walter A. Shaw Young Investigator Award in Lipid Research.

“I have been attending this conference for over 30 years. It’s a wonderful community of researchers and uniquely collegial,” said Robert Farese Jr., who is co-organizing the meeting with his scientific partner, Tobias Walther. “We hope the conference captures the wealth of knowledge built and refined from previous meetings and reflects the rich diversity of the scientists that make this all possible.”

A dynamic duo, Farese and Walther lead a joint laboratory at the Sloan Kettering Institute that investigates lipid homeostasis and storage as well as neurodegeneration. Together, they won the 2022 ASBMB–Merck Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to research in biochemistry and molecular biology.

The conference will kick off with the Richard J. Havel Lecture by Jay Horton, a physician and director of the Center of Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The annual lecture, named after a lipid metabolism pioneer, honors an outstanding scientist whose work has made significant impacts on the field of lipid biology research.

The Horton lab focuses on building the molecular basis for metabolic disease, with particular emphasis on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

“Jay’s work has changed our understanding of lipogenesis and cholesterol metabolism,” Farese said. “His work on the characterization of PCSK9 protein not only elucidated the molecular interactions and regulation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol receptors but laid the foundation for therapeutic development.” PCSK9 negative regulation of LDL receptors is implicated in the development of hypercholesterolemia. Several PCSK9 inhibitors have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and others are in development.

The conference then will feature five thematic sessions (see box) with presentations by invited speakers and authors who submitted abstracts.

“Tobi and I have done our best to pick a selection of speakers for cutting-edge lipid research,” Farese said, with topics covering all depths and corners of the natural sciences. “It is important for researchers at all stages and backgrounds to get a chance to hear from each other, receive feedback and create opportunities for collaboration.”

In between each thematic session will be robust, engaging poster sessions. Abstracts are due Jan. 10.

 

“For Ph.D. students and postdocs, the conference is an excellent opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the field. Each session provides a different angle to look from and together they build the widely diverse field of lipid research,” Walther said.

Farese agreed: “This conference provides a great platform for trainees to gain new perspectives and to connect with researchers from all different scientific backgrounds and career stages.”

He added that experienced researchers too have much to gain from attending. “For established researchers and those who have been attending the conference for some time, this is a great opportunity to hear about cutting-edge lipid research from diverse areas of biology.”

This is the second time Farese has been a Deuel organizer. “It’s a pleasure to give back to the community that helped to raise me in science,” he said.

The 2023 Deuel conference will take place March 7 – 10 in Dana Point, California.

Thematic sessions

Session 1: Structural biology and biochemistry of lipids

  • Bacterial modification of bile acids alters host physiology — Sloan Devlin, Harvard University.
  • Lysosomal lipid homeostasis in neurodegeneration — Suzanne Pfeffer, Stanford University.
  • Molecular insights into cholesterol metabolism — Xiaochun Li, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Two short talks will be selected from abstracts.
 
Session 2: Lipid cell biology
  • From the biophysics to the cell biology of lipid droplets — Rachid Thiam, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris.
  • Brown fat: From cell biology to physiology and disease — Paul Cohen, the Rockefeller University.
  • Lipid dynamics, membrane contact sites and neurodegeneration — Pietro De Camilli, Yale School of Medicine.
  • Reconstitution approaches for deciphering intracellular lipid transfer processes and designing drugs to target them — Guillaume Drin, French National Centre for Scientific Research.
 
Session 3: Lipids in the brain
  • Sphingolipids and the CNS — Gilbert Di Paolo, Denali Therapeutics.
  • Novel roles for gangliosides in the nervous system: Implications for neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases — Simonetta Sipione, University of Alberta.
  • Selective autophagy of lipid droplets for neuronal lipid metabolism — Jeeyun Chung, Harvard University.
Two short talks will be selected from abstracts.
 
Session 4: Lipids in physiology and disease 1
  • Bioactive lipids and metabolism — Barbara Kahn, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
  • Lipids that matter to beige fat biogenesis — Shingo Kajimura, Harvard University.
  • The role of adipocyte heterogeneity in health and disease — Niklas Mejhert, Karolinska Institute.
Two short talks will be selected from abstracts.
 
Session 5: Lipids in physiology and disease 2
  • Brown fat thermogenesis — Claudio Villanueva, University of California, Los Angeles (Journal of Lipid Research distinguished lecturer).
  • Genetic models of lipid peroxidation — Philipp Niethammer, Sloan Kettering Institute.
  • Insights into vascular cell lipid metabolism — Bill Sessa, Pfizer.

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Joshua Tran
Joshua Tran

Joshua Tran is a Ph.D. student at the University of Geneva. He earned his bachelor's at the University of California, Berkeley.

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