AIMMS 2019 Annual Meeting: a closer look at each other’s research

On Thursday 18 April 2019, the 9th Annual Meeting of the Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems (AIMMS) took place.

05/06/2019 | 10:47 AM

On Thursday 18 April 2019, the 9th Annual Meeting of the Amsterdam Institute for Molecules, Medicines and Systems (AIMMS) took place. Around 150 researchers, teachers, staff members and students attended the different parts of the day and were provided with a diverse programme, highlighting the broad range of science done within AIMMS.

Introduction
The 9th AIMMS Annual Meeting started with a word from Bas Teusink, the director of AIMMS. He announced the future name change of AIMMS: the Amsterdam Institute for Molecular and Life Sciences. Bas Teusink explained that this alteration is necessary, because AIMMS is not only focussing anymore on medicines, but also on the environment thanks to the joining of the department E&H of the VU. AIMMS will continue to do fundamental research and translate this into advice for policy and regulations. The change of the name of AIMMS will be officially launched later this year.

Bas Teusink continued his introduction with mentioning the staff members of AIMMS and paying special attention to the new department head of CPS Matthias Bickelhaupt. Furthermore, he talked about the achievements researchers have made and that we can further improve this by more collaborating together. Although the O|2 building is very nice, members of AIMMS do not see each other as much as in the previous building. AIMMS plans to organise more social events to improve this.

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AIMMS PhD Council
Next Jelle van den Bor introduced the AIMMS PhD Council. The AIMMS PhD Council was established for PhD students to help peers. PhD students can ask questions to the AIMMS PhD Council about their road towards becoming a PhD. There is a rotation of members and members are from the different departments. The AIMMS PhD Council also helped to organize the first AIMMS introductory course last March which was a success.

AIMMS PI session
Next the principle investigators (PIs) from AIMMS showcased the broadness of the high-quality science that is done within AIMMS. Majorie van Duursen presented some of the work on endocrine disruptors. She talked about the health effects of endocrine disruptors such as BPA (plasticizer) and 8PN (found in hop, beer). She further explained how you can identify causality and which regulatory guidelines you need to take into account. 

The second speaker was Alex Speer, who showed a new target for drugs against tuberculosis: the type VII Secretion system. Alex Speer explained the problem with multidrug resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis and that there is an urgent need for new antibiotic targets, in order to still being able to treat tuberculosis. He explained how he identified a promising compound against the type VII secretion system.

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The last PI speaker was Maikel Wijtmans who talked about the photopharmacology of GPCR receptor proteins. He explained the use of azobenzene in light-induced modulation of molecular shapes, which then can be used for bioactive ligands and allows you to play with protein signalling. Maikel Wijtmans was able to make several of these bioactive ligands with azobenzene. He first talked about his successes, but also mentioned the many failures during the research and what he learned from this.

Poster competition
During both the coffee and tea break, AIMMS researchers ranging from senior scientists to students, showed their work in a poster session. In total, there were around 40 inspiring posters presented, which led to many interesting discussions and exchanging of ideas. All posters were also visited by a jury committee, selecting the best poster and its presenter. 

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Oral PhD competition
After lunch, six AIMMS PhD students presented their work within 12 minutes. For the presenters this was a good practice in being short and broad, a skill that is useful for many conferences. The winner of the oral PhD competition was elected by a jury committee and the audience, both being responsible for half of the points. The audience could vote for their favourite talk via an electronic voting procedure made possible by Maikel Wijtmans and Danny Scholten.

Keynote lecture
The scientific part of the 9th AIMMS Annual Meeting was closed by Rob Wolthuis. Rob Wolthuis works at the Cancer Center Amsterdam, is theme leader of the department Tumor Biology and the head of the Section of Oncogenetics. He talked about the use of Next-Gen CRISPR Screening to connect genes to molecules, medicines and systems. The CRISPR-Cas technique has been used mainly in cancer research, but can also be used for other diseases. Rob Wolthuis thinks there are also some collaborations possible between his group and AIMMS researchers.

Award winners
The day was closed by Bas Teusink. Two prizes were awarded: a prize for the best poster and one for the best oral contribution by a PhD student. The winner of the poster prize was selected by a jury committee of AIMMS PIs. Several aspects were taken into account such as the enthusiasm of the person standing next to the poster, poster layout, and the clarity of the poster. The jury decided that the poster of Vidya Chandrasekaran was the best.

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For the best oral presentation, both the jury committee as the audience voted for Sandra Ortega Ugalde to be the winner for her talk on ‘Suicide inhibitors for Cytochrome P450 enzymes from Mycobacterium tuberculosis’. She stood out because of the clear slides, good timing and both verbal and non-verbal skills.

Both winners got a certificate and 250 euros to spend on something science-related. The day ended in a more informal way, with a beer and tasty food in the form of an Indonesian buffet.

The AIMMS management team and the organizing committee would like to thank all attendees for their presence and contributions, and looks forward to meeting all of you again at next year’s Annual Meeting.