A report on the 16th Iberian Peptide Meeting

The 16th edition of the Iberian Peptide Meeting (16EPI), an EPS-sponsored reunion, was held at the auditorium of the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park on February 5-7, 2018, in conjunction with the 4th Meeting of the Chemical Biology Division of the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry (RSEQ). Held for the first time in 1988, the EPI (Encuentro Peptídico Ibérico) is among the longest-running peptide events supported by the EPS. In this edition, jointly organized by Pompeu Fabra University and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), a close hyphenation between peptide and chemical biology talks resulted in a highly integrated, appealing program that retained a strong peptide flavor (roughly 70% of presentations), spiced with contributions from other fields, mostly glycobiology.

Definitely non-Mediterranean weather on day one

The chilly, rainy, definitely non-Barcelona weather on opening day, followed by similarly nippy –though gradually sunnier– days, discouraged any temptation of a seafront promenade-cum-beer and ensured a steady attendance of the 200 participants (more than 50% EPS members) during all sessions. In tune with its Iberian character, delegates came mostly from Spain (156) and Portugal (21), but also from elsewhere in Europe (UK, Italy, France, Germany, Denmark), North America, Australia and South Korea. The scientific sessions included 4 plenary (45 min) talks, 12 invited (30 min) talks, 20 oral (15 min) presentations plus an exciting session where 16 flash (5 min) talks, selected from 88 poster presentations, were given.

Meeting session at the PRBB auditorium

Among the highlights, and at risk of neglecting other worthy contributions, one would mention, on day one (February 5), a thorough overview of mechanistic and cellular aspects of medically relevant glycosidases, by Gideon Davies (U. York); a broad survey of native ligation techniques for the total synthesis of proteins, by Oleg Melnyk (CNRS-Pasteur Institute, Lille); an enticing talk by Marc Vendrell (a Barcelona native, now at Edinburgh U.) on the possibilities of activatable peptide fluorophores for live cell imaging, and last but not least an insightful talk on azapeptides and their therapeutic promise, delivered with the usual flair by Bill Lubell (U. Montreal). This was followed, on day two, by an absorbing lecture by Knud Jensen (U. Copenhagen) on DNA and carbohydrate-mediated building of artificial proteins and nanoassemblies; an elegant update on peptide-conjugated nanomaterials by Lino Ferreira (U. Coimbra); an exciting account of how antibiotic resistance can be combated by disabling key enzymes in bacterial metabolism, by Concepción González-Bello (U. Santiago de Compostela), plus a detailed analysis of gomesin-membrane interactions and their antimicrobial and anticancer outcome, by Sónia Henriques (U. Queensland), and a very engaging lecture on CPPs as probes to study structure and function of GPCR oligomers, by Leonardo Pardo (Autonomous U. Barcelona). Finally, on day three, Marc Torrent (Autonomous U. Barcelona) gave a perspicuous talk on how new antibiotics –peptide or otherwise– can be unveiled by inhibiting host-pathogen protein interaction networks, and Salomé Veiga (U. Lisbon) discussed the antibiofilm activity and mechanism of Dengue virus-derived pepR.

Oleg Melnyk hard at work

In tune with EPI tradition, and in addition to the above leading contributions, a substantial part of the scientific program was dedicated to oral and flash communications by junior scientists from Portugal and Spain, covering a broad range of subjects, mostly peptide-related, with emphasis on therapeutic and nanomaterial opportunities, and again with fruitful dialogue with other areas of chemical biology. There was broad consensus among participants that the meeting was a success. In the words of a seasoned participant: “Although a few more sunnier days could have added to the program […] the science was impressive. My personal passions for medicinal chemistry and peptides were satisfied by a number of interesting talks, many from young investigators.”  Full details on the program can be found at the meeting website: http://eventum.upf.edu/go/16EPI-4GEQB, and a photo gallery at https://photos.app.goo.gl/4ZNsDsVcuWc0fUr82

Group picture… sunshine at last!

Contributed by D. Andreu, Pompeu Fabra University

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