A Report on the 1st Chemical Biology Ireland Conference

1st Chemical Biology Ireland Conference
Dublin, Ireland, 8-9 August 2022.

The 1st Chemical Biology Ireland conference was held in University College Dublin (UCD) on 8-9 August 2022.

In 2020, Marina Rubini (UCD) contacted Joanna McGouran and Eoin Scanlan (Trinity College Dublin) with the goal to organise a conference with the aim to provide an international platform for knowledge exchange and networking for Irish scientists working in the emerging field of Chemical Biology and related disciplines at the interface between bioorganic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, and protein/peptide chemistry. Due to the pandemic, the conference had to be postponed twice, but it was worth waiting. In the end, 113 participants from 13 countries all over the world attended the event and even the weather was on our side in sunny Dublin!

Group photo of the congress attendees

Helma Wennemers (ETH Zurich)

The scientific programme started with a brilliant opening lecture given by Helma Wennemers (ETH) on “Synthetic Collagen Peptides – From Structure to Function”. In particular, she showcased the design and synthesis of chemical probes for the simultaneous monitoring and targeting of lysyl oxidase-mediated collagen cross-linking.

Further, Joanna McGouran (Trinity College Dublin) presented the development and use of activity-based probes to study endogenous deubiquitinating enzymes; Nediljko Budisa (University of Manitoba, Canada), gave insight in recent advances in genetic code engineering of Escherichia coli for endowing proteins and cells with new and unusual functions; Kathrin Lang (ETH) highlighted the use of artificial designer amino acids for investigation of protein-protein interactions, while Eddie Myers (NUI Galway) presented novel thermal and photochemical transformation of cysteine derivatives for the development of new linkages for peptide biomaterials.

The scientific programme on the first day closed with the plenary lecture of Ron Raines (MIT) on “Lessons learnt from Collagen”. In his inspiring lecture, he explained how stereoelectronic effects can be exploited for the creation of synthetic collagens for applications in biotechnology and biomedicine.

At the end of the scientific session on the first day, the Conference Get Together next to the riverbank of the Dodder provided the ideal environment to socialise and exchange ideas in an informal and friendly atmosphere.

The programme continued the second day with Andreas Marx (University of Konstanz) who reported on synthetic tools to study post-translational modifications such as ubiquitination and ADP-ribosylation. Further, Stuart Conway (University of Oxford) gave new insight into probing the role of bromodomains in the disease-causing parasitic worms Schistosoma mansoni; Valentin Wittmann (University of Konstanz) showcased the use of chemoselective ligation reactions in metabolic glycoengineering and in the preparation of glycoconjugates; Stefan Oscarson (University College Dublin) reported on chemical biology approaches towards the study of the cell wall of the fungi Cryptococcus neoformans and the development of fungal glycoconjugate vaccines, and Stephen Cochrane (Queen’s University Belfast) reported on synthetic non-ribosomal peptides that selectively target Gram-negative bacteria. The closing lecture was given by Christian Hackenberger (FMP Berlin) on “Next-generation bioconjugates for intra- and extracellular targeting”. His lecture focused on the chemical modification of functional proteins for pharmaceutical and medicinal applications.

The scientific programme included 12 invited lectures, 7 selected oral presentations, and engaging poster sessions (55 posters).

Poster session

We would like to thank the academic sponsors of the conference, the sponsoring companies and exhibitors, the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and of course the European Peptide Society for their support.

Given the positive and enthusiastic feedback from the participants we plan to make “Chemical Biology Ireland” a biannual event. Fáilte go hÉirinn sa bhliain 2024! Welcome to Ireland in 2024!

Contributed by Marina Rubini