Report on the 5th APPA Conference at Bangsaen, Thailand

The 5th Asia Pacific Protein Association Conference was held in conjunction with the 12th International Symposium of the Protein Society of Thailand (and thus designated APPA/PST2017) at The Tide Resort, Bangsaen, Chonburi, Thailand, 11th to 14th of July, 2017. It was hosted by the Protein Society of Thailand and the Chulabhorn Research Institute, with Burapha University acting as local organizers. The meeting was held in honor of the 60th birthday of Professor Dr. H.R.H. Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol, the President of the Chulabhorn Research Institute.

This APPA/PST2017 conference was nicknamed “Proteins on the Beach” to indicate that the conference was held just across the street from a popular local tourist beach, but the high quality of the science was able to entice the 401 participants from 18 countries to stay in the lectures or posters and exhibits much of the time. The program included 7 plenary lectures, 43 invited lectures, 3 luncheon lectures, workshops on computational and systems biology and synchrotron protein science, as well as a special session in honor of Prof. Jisnuson Svasti on the occasion of his 70th birthday, as well as poster and exhibit sessions in the morning and afternoon on July 12th and 13th. The main meeting was preceded by a two day young scientist program, hosted by the Faculty of Science, Burapha University, commemorating 20 years of their Biochemistry Department.

The plenary lectures began after the opening ceremony on July 11th, with Nobel Laureate Thomas Steitz describing the progress made on ribosome structures and its use in antibiotic design following the. On the second day, plenary lectures included the PST keynote lecture of M.R. Jisnuson Svasti, President of the Protein Society of Thailand, describing his experience and contribution to the development of protein science in Thailand, followed by the EMBO Keynote Lecture by Madan Babu, in which he described the investigation of protein unstructured regions at the genomic level. The plenaries on July 13th served up a healthy dose of structural biology, as So Iwata described the use of free electron laser radiation to investigate the time course of light-initiated reactions and Ruiming Xu described the structural basis of epigenetics, focusing on histone acetylation and deacetylation. The final day concluded with plenaries by Akhilesh Pandey, who described the identification and validation of protein-protein interactions in living cells, and Protein Society President Carol B. Post, who described an unusual mechanism by which phosphorylation can affect protein-protein interactions.

The 43 invited lectures featured outstanding scientists from around the Asia Pacific region and Joan Steitz from the USA and were primarily presented in parallel sessions, usually 2 at a time, with the workshops functioning as a third parallel session on the afternoons of July 12th and 13th. Of these, 13 speakers were APPA Council members, 2 were former presidents, and 2 APPA council alumni, while the rest were speakers recommended by the international and local program committee members. The inclusion of speakers from Bangladesh and Pakistan allowed their attendance at the APPA Council meeting on July 12th, leading to the expansion of the APPA Council to include representatives of these new member countries soon afterward.

Outstanding oral and poster presentations, both by senior and younger scientists, also led to much lively discussion. The poster sessions, including approximately 150 posters, were surrounded with the exhibits from 22 sponsor companies and held together during the breaks, allowing the participants to also learn more about the new products from companies to help in their research. Twenty-two of the posters were provided by young scientists who also submitted proceedings papers, which were collected in a book with ISBN number.

Enjoyable times included the Opening Reception on July 11th, in which several APPA council members and speakers were enticed to dance along with local Thai dancers, and the Banquet on July 13th evening, which was entertained with local Thai music. In between, a special Speakers’ Dinner on July 12th tested the speakers’ and APPA council members’ ability to eat spicy Thai foods, along with cool beverages. Morning and evening strolls along the beach were also enjoyed by many of the participants, along with local sightseeing and market excursions. The APPA/PST2017 meeting was successful in bringing together scientists from the Asia Pacific region and the world, developing new friendships and collaborations and promoting new ways of thinking about protein science problems. As such, it has achieved the goals of both the APPA and PST, thereby providing a basis for more successful protein research and conferences in the future.

Further information and photographs can be found at a conference report published in Biophysical Reviews (DOI: 10.1007/s12551-017-0318-y) and on the Protein Society of Thailand website.