Brazilian university will host an international conference to discuss advances in biochemistry | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

The event will bring together plant biotechnology researchers, the pharmaceutical industry and editors of the journals Nature Chemical Biology and Nature Biotechnology (image: Wikimedia)

Brazilian university will host an international conference to discuss advances in biochemistry

March 05, 2014

By Noêmia Lopes

Agência FAPESP – The School of Medical Sciences at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) will be the site of the April 28-29 event, Chemical Probe-based Open Science: Uncovering New Human and Plant Biology, presented by the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and Natureconferences and funded by FAPESP.

The conference’s main objective is to discuss how biochemistry can quickly and significantly advance from the current knowledge in the fields of biomedical sciences and plant science.

“Biochemistry focuses on identifying molecules that connect to very well-defined targets – in other words, proteins – in order to manipulate and make use of human and plant biological systems. One important group of proteins widely used in the pharmaceutical industry are signaling proteins, such as kinases,” said Paulo Arruda, Unicamp researcher and event organizer.

According to Arruda, little is known about these proteins. “Of the more than 500 present in the human genome, only about 40 have been studied in any detail. With regard to those that originate from plants, the scenario is even worse – close to nothing is known about molecules that may be used for studies in signaling [the capacity of cells to perceive stimulation and react to it] and the regulation of important biological processes,” said Arruda.

During the two-day event, plant biotechnology researchers, experts associated with the pharmaceutical industry and editors of the scientific journals Nature Chemical Biology and Nature Biotechnology will discuss ways to overcome these gaps and use the knowledge already acquired through the biomedical sciences to expand on the few discoveries in plant science – and vice-versa.

“To this end, we’re establishing a partnership with the SGC – one of the most successful public-private organizations and global leader in the field – to set up a biochemistry platform at Unicamp. It will be the third of its kind in the world [the other two are at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the University of Toronto in Canada] and the only one designed for use not only in medical science but also in plant science,” Arruda commented.

One of the driving forces cited by the researcher is the fact that the plant genome, like the human genome, has proteins such as kinases, which confers the potential for plants to have yet-unknown molecules that could give rise to the development of new medicines.

“All of this work is part of the Open Innovation field that seeks to freely share the discoveries of new molecules with the entire interested academic community, unhindered by patents and circumventing the current ‘blackout’ of new drugs we’ve been witnessing due to the absence of a basic understanding of how the proteins work,” Arruda stated.

Brazil’s inclusion in what is known as Open Access Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry, in which over 40 countries already participate, is also a goal of the April conference.

The event schedule will be divided into four sections: “Protein kinases: Exploring the untargeted kinome,” “Roundtable discussion: How can Brazil lead a scientific revolution for open access?”, “Plant systems: Chemical probes and basic plant biology” and “Open science: Sharing chemical probes.”

Among the speakers already confirmed are Brazilian and foreign researchers and leaders associated with Oxford University, the University of Toronto, the University of California (United States), FAPESP, Unicamp, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and companies such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer CropSciences, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Monsanto.

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