Friday, April 18, 2014

ENC 2014 Post 1

SPECIAL NOTE:  I wrote this post at the ENC, but for some reason it never got posted.  (I blame the crappy wi-fi in my hotel!).  Sorry ...

Day 1 of the 2014 ENC

The first session was the Laukien Prize session.

The prestigious Laukien prize is given to recognize excellence in experimental nuclear magnetic resonance published within the last three years.  The 2014 Laukien prize is awarded to a group of six leading solid-state NMR spectroscopists for their development and application of magic-angle spinning (MAS) ssNMR experiments for the determination of 3D protein structures and the study of associated molecular dynamics processes.

The winners are:

Marc Baldus - Utrecht University
Mei Hong - Iowa State University
Ann McDermott - Columbia University
Beat Meier - ETH Zurich
Hartmut Oschkinat - Leibniz-Institute (FMP) Berlin
Robert Tycho - NIH

Each winner was given 15 minutes to give a research overview, which was very exciting!

The second session was called "Electron Meet Nuclei", which was a cute title for a DNP session.  The organizers pointed out that 2014 is the 70th anniversary of the discovery of magnetic resonance (MR).  MR was discovered in 1944 by Zovoisky at Kazan University, USSR, who observed the EPR signal of CuSO4 and CuCl2.  The session featured a great talk by Bob Griffin from MIT and I really enjoyed a whirlwind of a talk by Mei Hong about ssNMR to probe plant cell wall structure.

After lunch there was a poster session.  I always love the poster session.  I learn so much.  I really enjoyed a plant metabolomics study of watermelon.  (Poster 167) The presenter (Iqbal Mahmud from Claflin University in South Carolina) looks for biomarkers that correlate with resistance to Powdery Mildrew (PM), a nasty fungus that ruins crops and costs growers a lot of money.  He found several and made a hypothesis regarding the pathways upregulated in PM resistant varieties.  Now collaborators at the Department of Agriculture are treating watermelon to engage this pathway to see if it confers resistance.  What I really liked about his poster was the experimental design.  The presenter and collaborators made grafts to assess the translocation of biomarkers, instead of just hunting through watermelon juice with no hypothesis.  I guess you could call this work "untargeted metabolomics", but, by good experimental design, the authors certainly increased their odds of finding a relevant target!

Day 2

The AM session began with the presentation of the JMR awards.  2014 is the inaugural year of this award, which is picked from abstracts submitted from graduate students and post-docs and includes a one year subscription to JMR and $350.  The winners are

Joseph Courtney UIUC
Michael Loretz ETH Zurich
Moritz Zaiss German Cancer Research, Heidelberg


The first session was "Biomolecular Structure and Function".  All talks were outstanding.  I was especially impressed with Jim Prestegard's talk "Sparse-Labeling and Long-Range Constraints: Structure and Function of Glycoproteins".  Professor Prestegard discussed work in his lab using selective labeling and PRE to explore how glycan structure and dynamics impacts function of glycoproteins, in particular, Immunoglobin G (IgG).  Glycoproteins are notoriously challenging to study because the heterogeneity, but the CCRC in Georgia has developed a number of clever tricks to hijack enzymes to selectively label glycans.  The examples discussed in this project all involve labeling galactose on a long branched glycan chain.  There are two galactoses on this glycan and there is evidence of chemical exchange broadening.  Rex measurements result in kex and some structural information on two major species.  It seems the the glycan flips between a "free" and "bound" structure.  The bound structure agrees with crystallography and the sugars are buried inside the IgG.  In the free structures, the glycan hangs out of the bottom of IgG.  A very long (microsecond) MD simulation suggests that the glycan does shuffle between the inside and outside.  Very cool work.

Next, there were parallel session.  I was torn because I wanted to hear some talks from both sessions, but I opted to stay in one room and listen to all the "Drug Design Ligand Interactions" session.  Once again, the talks were excellent.  Kevin Gardner gave a great talk, as always, and two student talks (by Quentin Chappuis from EPFL Lausanne and Johannes Bjornmeras from Stockholm U) were both riveting.  In the afternoon session, there were tutorials, including a lecture by one of the great NMR teachers in the world, Professor James Keeler from Cambridge.  He wrote a great book (which I own and read every chance I get) and posted many lectures on YouTube.  

Overall a great day!  THere is a special workshop tonight regarding the National Research Council Report on High Field Spectrometers in the US, which discusses NSF policy on mechanisms for funding and siting new high field NMRs.  A representative from NSF will be on hand.