[2017-06-22] More than 300 people participated on the 19 June at the Symposium "Infection Research to Meet Current and Future Challenges", which was organised by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and Umeå University to celebrate the 100-year's anniversary of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The chairman of the programme committee, professor Bernt Eric Uhlin and his colleagues at Umeå University and Karolinska Institutet invited international leading scientists to Umeå.
Together with the Vice-Chancellors of both universities in Umeå, professors Hans Adolfsson and Peter Högberg, Bernt Eric Uhlin welcomed the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the guests at Umeå University. He gave a short overview over long tradition of infection research at Umeå University. The strong research is today represented by the two research environments, The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS) and the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research (UCMR), and the National Doctoral Programme in Infection and Antibiotics (NDPIA), all funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR).
Peter Wallenberg Jr, Chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and professor Göran Sandberg, Executive Director, presented the foundation’s impressive contribution to Swedish basic research and the universities in Umeå.
The host of the jubliee symposium, professor Göran Hansson, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences introduced to the symposium which is one of six jubilee symposia which are organised during 2017 by the Academy to celebrate the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
Several of the speakers referred to their collaborations with the infection biologists at Umeå University. Philippe Sansonetti, Institut Pasteur in Paris, opened the scientific programme with presenting highlights of his research on Shigella mucosal colon infection and possible treatment by commensals. A part of his research area is continued in Umeå by MIMS group leader Andrea Puhar.
Bonnie Bassler, professor at Princeton University in US, focussed in her talk on inter-communication of bacteria in biofilm formation. She is an expert in bacterial quorum sensing and its control and showed how cutting edge imaging methods and biochemical and genetic methods sharpen her models on biofilm formation.
From Umeå University, MIMS group leader Nelson Gekara, presented resent findings on how DNA damage has an influence on innate immunity, infections and inflammatory diseases and can result in cancer, a totally new research area which he set up at Umeå University since his recruitment in 2010.
Stewart Cole, professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, was early in his career postdoc at Umeå University. “One of the best decisions I have ever made and had a very strong influence on my career, “ he commented his time in Umeå in the beginning of his presentation about Leprosy, Microbacterium leprae infections.
Elaine Tuomanen, professor and chair at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, introduced the audience to the pneumococcus infections, one of the most common infections in children, and brain damage caused by bacterial meningitis. The scientist has roots in Scandinavia and gave a lot credit to the Wallenberg Foundation who enables scientists “to scratch below the surface” and “visit research places you never knew about before”.
Umeå University Honorary Doctor Scott Hultgren, professor at Washington University in St Louis, USA, has longterm collaborations with the chemical biologists at Umeå University. Also he is a former postdoc at Umeå University studying urinary infections caused by E.coli and the possible treatment disarming the bacteria by blocking their pili formation.
Virus infection research was covered by Peter Sarnow, professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, USA, who presented a nice example of “from bench-to bedside” research on Hepatitis C Virus infection treatment by MicroRNAs.
Emmanuelle Charpentier, now visiting professor at Umeå University and professor and director at Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin. She presented her discoveries on CRISPR-Cas9 and research which she performed during her time as group leader at MIMS until 2013, before she moved to Germany.
Staffan Normark, professor at Karolinska Institute, introduced the panel discussion with a short overview over the history of the infection research in Umeå, which started already 50 years ago when Hans G Boman became professor in Umeå had a research programme about penicillin resistance on E. coli.
The MIMS coordinated National Doctoral Programme in Infections and Antibiotics (NDPIA) organised additional activities for PhD students and postdocs. In parallel with the symposium 30 NDPIA members presented their posters. Several of the world-leading researchers stayed for one more day in Umeå and participated at the Meet the speakers workshop organised on the 20 June at MIMS.
Later in 2017, The Swedish Television will publish the symposium on the television channel "Kunskapskanalen" and the internet channel "UR Play".
Link to the programme of the jubilee symposium in Umeå (website of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
Link to the abstracts of the presentations (pdf file, published on the website of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)
(text: Eva-Maria Diehl)