July 1, 2013

Part II. Dancing with Science Superstars, eating with Mars, learning from Masters

What does awesome mean? Attending the Lindau meeting is providing so many experiences that can only be defined by the word, awesome.

Today has been one of the most awesome days of my life; and it’s just now time for lunch. But not just any lunch, lunch with Pamela Mars, of the nearly 100-year-old international, family-owned business Mars, and her company’s top scientists and executives. Like yesterday’s dinner, we were treated to some of the best food on Lindau, which is saying a lot. Unlike yesterday, we were asked to ask questions, rather than answer them. It’s not entirely trivial to ask an intelligent question, in a room with very intelligent, powerful people, who just helped pay for you to party like a Scientist in Lindau, Germany. However, it sure is fun. I highly recommend it.

After lunch, I attended the Master Class entitled, “New frontiers in deciphering mechanisms of diseases and in drug development” led by Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover. Although I didn’t get to present my own work at the class, I participated in the discussions of cutting-edge research being performed by fellow young researchers from around the world. The science presented and discussed during this class likely represents the direction we will come to understand as the preeminent, forefront of biomedical research years from now.

Mahmoud El-Sabahy presented first, leading a three-talk series on using nanotechnology to deliver chemistry to the cell. Born and raised in Egypt, his representation of Egypt, which is undergoing rebirth in democracy, was amazing enough. But, as with everything at Lindau, it got cooler. He presented his research on the development of easy to synthesize, highly functional nanoparticles (i.e. that safely transport nucleic acids, enzymes, classic small compound drugs).

Nathalie Busschaert, from Belgium, a PhD student at the University of South Hampton, UK, presented supramolecular cation shuttles that can transport calcium ions across the cell membrane, representing a new paradigm in the treatment of many human diseases in which cells need help moving ions into and out of the cell.

Francesca Re developed and tested a potentially transformative method for curing Alzheimer’s disease by using simple chemistry principles and intuitive biochemistry. With simple synthetic micelles, and armed with a hypothesis that the amyloid fibril plaques in the brain that cause the disease are held together by hydrophobic forces, her simple micelles were able to dissolve the plaques and drive them out of the brain.

Whoa.

A discussion with Brian Kobilka and young researchers
Part of the Meeting includes multiple, simultaneous discussion sessions around Lindau where groups of young researchers can take part in group discussions with the laureates. I attended the afternoon session where students got to ask laureate Brian Kobilka questions. Some asked questions like, what does it take to win a Nobel Prize; others asked questions like, what is the future of drug discovery; I asked about modifying a person’s own DNA as part of medical treatment.

Dancing with the Superstars of Science

To top off an awesome, life affirming day the Republic of Korea hosted an International dinner at Inselhalle with the theme, Blue Chemistry. The Ambassador of the Korean embassy in Berlin, Jae-Shin Kim and Former Prime Minister Hwang-Sik Kim delivered inspired talks on the challenges facing our little blue planet. Serious, deep notions of responsibility to save our planet were discussed: carbon dioxide sequestration, waste cancellation, energy neutrality, and rethinking our role as citizens of nature.

Movingly, opera singers sang, a research professor presented specific aims of Blue Chemistry, and we all ate bibimbap!

After the Korean dinner, we all danced - the polonaise - at the Inselhalle. My dance partner and I were dancing right next to Steve Chu and Countess Bettina Bernadotte. Smiles were wide on every face.

… kevin eduard hauser


Photo caption: The author (right) with Steve Chu (center)