February 2011

The Lipid Research Division: director’s update

Daniel Raben, director of the ASBMB Lipid Division, reflects on the division's accomplishments for 2010 and looks ahead to some of the things in store for 2011.

A new year has begun, and it’s time to reflect on our past year as well as look ahead. The Lipid Research Division continues to grow, and we’ve made progress in a number of areas. Two are of particular interest. First, the Steering Committee developed an LRD handbook and bylaws, both of which will be posted soon for all LRD members to review and comment on. Second, thanks to Katherine E. Ward, a graduate student in Rob Stahelin’s laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, our Lipid Corner website has been greatly improved. Ward is our new Web editor and is doing a terrific job. The website has a new look, and we are constantly adding updates, including meeting announcements, award notices and job openings.

The annual meeting

Each year, two LRD members are selected to organize the lipid theme for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting. Last year’s meeting was very successful, largely due to the efforts of Mary F. Roberts from Boston College. The 2010 symposia were well attended, especially the talk by Sarah Keller, who was the first recipient of the LRD Young Investigator Award in Lipid Research. This award, like the senior Avanti Lipid Research Award, is generously supported by Walter Shaw of Avanti Polar Lipids. Shaw also awarded a lipid extruder to a lucky attendee at a lipidology workshop organized by Wonhwa Cho of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Lina M. Obeid of the Medical University of South Carolina and Robert Stahelin of Indiana University. Shaw continues to support the Young Investigator Award and plans on giving another door prize at the 2011 annual meeting lipid workshop.

Speaking of the annual meeting, Vytas A. Bankaitis of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and Teresa M. Dunn of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences have organized a very exciting theme for the 2011 meeting. The theme will cover a breadth of topics, including phosphoinositides, phospholipase D and phosphatidic acid, sphingolipids, and neutral lipid metabolism and trafficking. The sessions will highlight the exciting emerging topics in these fields.

Goals for 2011

There are a couple of important goals ahead of us for 2011. First, the Lipid Advocacy Committee, chaired by Yusuf A. Hannun of the Medical University of South Carolina, is increasing its efforts to address the difficulties of lipid research funding. Hannun has organized a discussion between the Lipid Research Advocacy Committee and scientific research administrators from the National Institutes of Health at the 2011 annual meeting. The hope is to begin outlining the problems and possible solutions to the ever deepening funding crisis. This is the first step in our efforts to address this important issue.

The second goal pertains to some critical LRD administrative issues. One of the important outcomes of formulating division bylaws is the establishment of procedures for nominating and electing new leadership. While I have fully enjoyed being the de facto director for the LRD, it’s time we instituted a system for regular nominations and elections of LRD directors. We plan on holding our elections in alternate years from the election of the ASBMB president. Thus, 2011 will mark the first year in which we hope to nominate a new director. With that in mind, be sure to start thinking of energetic and creative people you believe will help move the LRD even further.

Here’s wishing for another successful year and more exciting science from our members!

Daniel Raben (draben@jhmi.edu) is director of the ASBMB Lipid Division and a professor in the department of biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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