A great showcase of infectious disease research in Edinburgh
The eighth annual Edinburgh Infectious Diseases symposium from was held in June 2019, and once again was a vibrant showcase of the enormous variety of research being done across our network.
This year were back at the suitably inspiring Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh) in their newly renovated Queen Mother Conference Centre.
Wide range of excellent presentations
During the day we heard excellent presentations from both established group leaders, and from those just commencing their independent careers.
The proceedings were kicked off by Lisa Boden (Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security) who spoke about the Scottish Government’s Centre of Expertise for Animal Disease Outbreaks; Sarah Walmsley (Centre for Inflammation Research) presented her work on regulation of neutrophil apoptosis by hypoxia; Steven Spoel (School of Biological Sciences) talked about the regulation of gene expression in plant immunity; and David Longbottom (Moredun Research Institute) closed out the session discussing the progression the development of a new vaccine against enzootic abortion in sheep.
Session two was started by Sarah Chan (Usher Institute) who gave a fascinating talk on the bioethics of One Health; Mark Blaxter (School of Biological Sciences) spoke about the evolution of the filarial nematode-Wolbachia symbiont system; Eleanor Gaunt (Roslin Institute) presented work on the role of CpG dinucleotides in regulating virus replication; and Ed Wallace (School of Biological Sciences) gave the last “long” talk, and introduced the audience to the role of dynamic mRNA processing in fungal adaption to stress and infection.
We were also excited to have lightening talks from five postdoctoral researchers – they certainly kept us on our toes! Our speakers were Russell Brown (School of Biological Sciences), Abraham Lee (Roslin Institute), Ritti Soncco (School of Social and Political Science), Bram van Bunnik, Usher Institute and Petra Schneider (School of Biological Sciences).
The afternoon sessions were started by Ross Houston (Roslin Institute) who had the job of keeping everyone alert after their lunch, and appropriately spoke about the genomic advances in improving disease resistance in aquaculture species; Jenny Regan (School of Biological Sciences) explained the importance of sex (differences) when thinking about the immune system; Sander Granneman (School of Biological Sciences) talked about the work just starting in his lab to unravel post-transcriptional regulatory networks controlling host adaptation in S. aureus; and finally Claire Mackintosh (Regional Infectious Diseases Unit, Western General Hospital) gave a most insightful analysis of antibiotic use in secondary care.
Ker Memorial speakers
A highlight of all our annual symposia are the presentations made by the Ker Memorial speakers. These lectures are given in memory of eminent Edinburgh physicians Dr Claude Buchanan Ker (pronounced "car") and his son Dr Frank Leighton Ker.
This year the Ker Memorial Prize for the best PhD thesis in infectious diseases submitted at the University of Edinburgh in 2018, went to Dr Billy Palmer. Billy carried out his PhD with Dr Darren Obbard in the School of Biological Sciences, and presented his work on evolution and genetics of antiviral immunity in Drosophila. He is now a postdoc with Dr Sara Cherry in the Kerelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Ker Memorial Lecturer was Prof Sharon Peacock, Professor of Public Health and Microbiology in the Department of Medicine, and Director of the National Infection Service at Public Health England. Prof Peacock gave a most illuminating presentation on genomic evidence for transmission of human pathogens, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the large audience that stayed until the end of the day to listen.
In addition to the formal presentations, lively poster sessions were held in the coffee breaks and at lunch time. This gave younger researchers the opportunity to present their work to a wide audience, and to stimulate interactions between attendees from the many different research centres in our network.
The poster judges had a busy time assessing the presentations, and awarded the student prize to Rosemary Blake, from Jo Steven’s lab at the Roslin Institute, for her poster on Characterising the early interaction of Mycobacterium avium ssp paratuberculosis and the host using a bovine enteroid system.
The postdoc prize went to Bram van Bunnik in Mark Woolhouse’s lab at the Ashworth Labs, for his work on Global surveillance of antimicrobial resistance. Many congratulations to both our winners!
The day concluded with a convivial wine reception, allowing participants time to relax at the end of another highly fruitful day of infectious disease science in Edinburgh.
Many thanks to all those who attended and contributed to the success of the day!
We are also very grateful to New England Biolabs for generously sponsoring the prizes, and to Eurogentec, Star Labs and Peprotech for their support of the event.