Highly successful sixth Annual Symposium for Edinburgh Infectious Diseases

The sixth Edinburgh Infectious Diseases Annual Symposium was held on Thursday 1 June at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, Pollock Halls. 

Professor Ross Fitzgerald Director of Edinburgh Infectious Diseases welcomed everyone to our biggest symposium to date with over 210 people attending an excellent day of talks and poster presentations.  We were also delighted to receive support from BioLegend, Eurogentec, Merck Sigma and Thermofisher.

Watch the video here

Very broad programme

The programme was extremely varied, highlighting the enormous breadth of infectious disease research currently underway in Edinburgh.  In the first session we heard Keith Matthews from the School of Biological Sciences speaking about cell to cell communication in African trypanosomes as a strategy for transmission; Meriem El Karoui, also from the School of Biological Sciences, spoke about her new work understand the contribution of DNA repair mechanisms to antibiotic tolerance in E. coli.  Bruce Whitelaw (Roslin Institute) gave an excellent introduction to genetics and the power of genome editing and Michelle Taylor (School of Social and Political Science) put much of our work in infectious diseases into the broader context of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.

After the coffee break we returned to hear Jo Stevens (Roslin Institute) discussing actin based motility in the pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei, Luke McNally (School of Biological Sciences) describing the evolution of host manipulation by the microbiome, and Sarah Reece (School of Biological Sciences) outlining biological rhythms in malaria parasites and the implications for treatment and prevention strategies.  Debby Bogaert (Centre for Inflammation Research) then gave a fascinating talk on the establishment of the microbiome in infants and its correlation with susceptibility to respiratory pathogens.  The final talk of the morning was by David Dockrell (Centre for Inflammation Research) on the apoptosis-associated microbicidal response in macrophages.

Lunch was a great opportunity to network, to go round the more than 45 posters being presented, and to visit the exhibitors stands, with their tempting giveaways!

The afternoon sessions were just as stimulating as those in the morning.  Daire O’Shea (consultant in infectious diseases at the Western General Hospital) kicked off the presentations with his insights into treating CMV infection in transplant patients.  Rosalind Allen (School of Physics and Astronomy) very elegantly demonstrated how in-silico modelling elucidate bacterial responses to antibiotics in vivo.  Tom McNeilly (Moredun Research Institute) shared his work on the immune regulation of ruminants and Paul Sharp (School of Biological Sciences described the origins of Malaria.  The session was concluded by Eleanor Silvester (School of Biological Sciences and 2017 winner of the Ker Memorial Prize for the best PhD thesis in Infectious Diseases), describing her work with Keith Matthews on the conserved quorum-sensing signal in Trypanosoma species.

Poster prize winners

During the coffee break the poster judges had to make difficult decisions about which of the many excellent student and postdoc psoters should win this year’s £100 prizes. 

In the end Maria Contreras from the Roslin and Moredun Research Institutes, won the Student Prize for her poster "The role of microRNAs in ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma”, and Laura McCulloch from the Roslin Institute was the worthy winner of the Postdoc Prize for her poster “Stroke increases infection risk via dysregulation of innate-like marginal zone B cell function”.

Ker Memorial Lecture

The Symposium was brought to a close by this year’s Ker Memorial Lecture, given by Professor Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London.  Peter has had a long and distinguished career as a physician and scientist studying viral lung disease and gave some fascinating insights into the immunopathogenesis and treatment of disease caused by respiratory viruses, such as RSV and influenza.

Once again the symposium provided an excellent opportunity to bring together the community of infectious disease reearchers in Edinburgh – to share the superb work that is currently being carried out, and to continue development of  programmes that will continue our achievements into the future.

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