For the first time, the PPSG Early Stage Researcher Meeting (4th year) was held at the University Durham (Collingwood College) rather than London, making it easier for PhD and Post-Doctoral students from the North of England and Scotland to attend and present their research. Professor Alethea Tabor (University College London) was organising the Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB) sponsored event with the help of Dr Steve Cobb from Durham University. The meeting was also an opportunity for the PPSG to recognise the contribution of Dr Ed Tate (Imperial College London) to the field of protein-protein interaction and post-translational modifications, by awarding him with the MedImmune Protein and Peptide Science Prize 2013.
Nine young researchers had a chance to present 25 minutes of their work and they did not disappoint. A variety of disciplines were touched, such as stapled peptides (David Yeo – University of Leeds), synthesis of natural products (Heather Johnston – University of Edinburgh), upconversion nanomaterials (Chloe Oakland – University of Manchester), computational methods (Pietro Aronica – Imperial College) to only mention a few.
Dr Ed Tate closed the afternoon session with a plenary lecture entitled ‘Adventures in chemical modification of proteins and peptides’ where he described a strategy for site-specific labelling of proteins, using NMT (N-Myristoyl Transferase). In vivo, the enzyme is able to transfer myristic acid from Myr-CoA to the N-terminal Glycine residue of a number of proteins. Chemically functionalising Myr with a terminal alkyne or azide does not affect the enzymatic transfer (which gives a handle for chemical labelling via Click Chemistry to introduce fluorescent dyes and biotin for instance). NMT inhibition has emerged as a novel therapeutic strategy to fight various diseases such as cancer (myristoylation is involved in cellular proliferation) or Malaria (Myristoylation is essential for viability of the parasites). Therefore, inhibitors of NMT that have a high selectivity for parasitic NMT are of high interest.
To close the day, I had the pleasure of presenting the best oral presentation prize sponsored by Cambridge Research Biochemicals (CRB). Congratulations to David Yeo from the Wilson group at the University of Leeds who received a prize of £150 for his excellent presentation on constrained peptides.