A Report on the 2nd PEPPERSchool

2nd PEPPERSchool
Virtual event, 15 -18 March 2021.

The second edition of the international thematic school Peptide and Protein Engineering: from Concepts to Biotechnological Applications (PEPPERSchool) was held from the 15th to the 18th of March 2021 in a virtual format since the COVID-19 sanitary conditions in Europe and around the world at the beginning of 2021 created a large uncertainty over the “in-site” organization of PEPPERSchool, as planned initially with the support of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

This international thematic school brings together chemists and biologists interested in engineering peptides and proteins endowed with tailored functionalities and useful for solving current societal challenges in the areas of Health, Energy and Environment. The first edition was organized at Carry-le-Rouet (France) from the 14th to the 18th of May in 2018. The school was a successful event and underlined the need of the scientific and educational community for this type of multidisciplinary teaching at the interface of chemistry and biology. This success motivated us to organize the second edition of PEPPERSchool (https://eventos.fct.unl.pt/pepper_school/pages/home). The school was focused on teaching the basics of the field with special emphasis on methodologies that can be easily developed and adapted in all laboratories and addressed important axes that were not covered in the first edition such as the folding of proteins. This thematic school had a high attendance gathering a total of 74 participants (foreseen for 60 participants initially) from different countries (Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA) and from which 54% and 46% were females and males, respectively, and PhD students and postdoctoral researchers represented 60% of the total participants.

The organizing committee was composed of Dr. Margarida Dias, Dr. Ana Sofia Pina and Prof. Ana Cecilia Roque (UCIBIO, NOVA School of Science and Technology, Portugal); Dr. Kamel Mabrouk (ICR UMR 7273 CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, France); Dr. Oleg Melnyk (CIIL UMR 8204 CNRS, University of Lille, France); Dr. Elisabetta Mileo (BIP UMR 7281 CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, France) and Dr. Olga Iranzo, Dr. Maylis Orio, and Dr. Pierre Rousselot-Pailley (iSm2 UMR 7313 CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, France).

The school started with a session where the participants presented themselves with a slide (Flash presentations) and allowed to know each other background/expertise. The school program included seven lectures and two case study sessions given by national and international experts in the field: Chemical Synthesis of Proteins by Dr. Oleg Melnyk; Protein and Peptide folding by Dr. Vladimir Torbeev (Institut de Science et d’Ingénierie Supramoléculaires, Université de Strasbourg, France); Gene libraries construction and Phage Display by Prof. Patrice Soumillion (Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium); Ribosome Display by Dr. Frédéric Pecorari (Centre de recherche en cancérologie et immunologie Nantes-Angers – Inserm 1232, Université de Nantes, France); Selective Chemical Modification of Peptides and Proteins by Prof. Omar Boutureira (Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Spain) and Biological Tools: Non-canonical amino acids as building blocks by Prof. Birgit Wiltschi (Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology – ACIB GmbH, Graz, Austria). Each lecture was followed by a Discussion with the Speaker session where participants, divided in small groups, could talk with the speaker. These informal discussion were fruitfulness on terms of solving doubts and broadening knowledge. Importantly, the school also included a Contest for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers led by Dr. Oleg Melnyk and Dr. Vladimir Torbeev. Basically, the participants were faced with an actual research problem and had to present their strategy/approach to solve it on the last day of the school. They were divided in groups, combining always chemists and biologists, and they were provided with interactive tools and different time frames along the school to prepare for the contest. The first (Aromal Asokan, Yasmine Boughanmi, Nicolas Capit, Carlos Costa, Giorgia Ferretti, Maxime Naudé, Anna Puszko, Gabrielle Schanne) and second (Karen Cárdenas-Martínez, Egor Chirkin, Iago De Assis Modenez, Andrea Fasano, Inês Padrão) winning teams were awarded with a copy of the books Total Chemical Synthesis of Proteins (Wiley) and Peptide and Protein Engineering (Springer Protocols), respectively.

The six lecturers. From top to bottom from left to right: Prof. O. Boutureira, Dr. O. Melnyk, Dr. F. Pecorari, Prof. P. Soumillion, Dr. V. Torbeev and Prof. B. Wiltschi

The pedagogical, interdisciplinary, interactive and high-level scientific program, combined with the expertise of the lecturers, made this school a great success, as testified by the very positive feedback received from participants.

The organizing committee would like to thank the CNRS, the European Peptide Society, the Fédération Chimie Marseille, the Société Chimique de France – Section Régionale PACA, our gold sponsors Agilent and Biotage, as well as CEM, GenScript, SB peptides, Sigma-Aldrich and X’Prochem for their financial support. We acknowledge the Groupe Français des Peptides et Protéines and the Institute of Microbiology, Bioenergies and Biotechnology of Aix-Marseille Université for giving grants to cover the registration fees of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Wiley and Springer are acknowledged for providing the books for the contest awards.

Contributed by Olga Iranzo.

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