April 7, 2008
ERA Chemistry "Flash" conference draws international researchers to Ireland

An international group of scientists working in the areas of carbohydrate chemistry and chemical biology gathered in the Gleneagles Hotel in Killarney for the third in an innovative series of chemistry conferences. The third ERA Chemistry “Flash” Conference entitled “Carbohydrates at the Interfaces of Biology, Medicine and Materials Science” was hosted under the auspices of the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) from March 9-13, 2008.

Modern carbohydrate chemistry encompasses the synthesis, analysis and study of the carbohydrates which are relevant to biology, biotechnology, medicine and materials science.

Delegates at the ERA CHEMISTRY "FLASH" CONFERENCE in The Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney
Delegates at the ERA CHEMISTRY "FLASH" CONFERENCE
in The Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney

"Flash" conferences were inspired by the Gordon conference model in the USA and aim to bring together experienced and young researchers to discuss topics at the frontiers of chemical research with a focus primarily but not exclusively on European scientists.

The scientific scope of these conferences is concerned exclusively with emerging topics of immediate importance for developing chemical research: "hot topics" are proposed six months in advance by the members of the Scientific Advisory Board of ERA-Chemistry, a panel of European experts nominated by the partner countries. While the conferences are based on a number of high-level lectures by invited internationally renowned specialists, each attendee is encouraged to contribute through poster presentations or short talks.

The Killarney conference drew over 100 delegates from all over Europe as well as representatives from Japan, USA and South Africa. 

Fayna Garcia Martin, Spain, right, Professor Frank Hegarty and Heather Horan, UCD
From left: Fayna Garcia Martin, Spain, right,
Professor Frank Hegarty and Heather Horan, UCD

The focus of the scientific programme was on novel concepts rather than proven applications. A programme of 36 lectures, including a number of talks from PhD students, and 47 posters covered recent progress and challenges in areas which included the synthesis and (chemo)enzymatic synthesis of carbohydrates and glycoconjugates; novel chemical methods for carbohydrate analysis; glycobiology, glycomics; glyconanotechnology, development of therapeutics, vaccines and adjuvants based on carbohydrates; applications of enzymes in carbohydrate synthesis; polysialic acid as well as structural studies and analysis of carbohydrates and glycoconjugates.

CSCB principal investigator Professor Paul Murphy, Chairperson of the conference, commented "The delegates showed that excellent progress has been made in the field recently. Despite these advances, many important problems remain for carbohydrate chemistry.  The conference format will have facilitated generating novel ideas and collaborations to work towards addressing these challenges."

Professor Frank Hegarty, UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Professor Frank Hegarty, UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
admires a poster at the poster session

The international scientific organising committee also included Professor Stefan Oscarson, CSCB; Professor Peter Seeberger, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich; Switzerland; Professor Reko Leino, Ako Akademi, Finland and Dr Angela Savage, National University of Ireland, Galway.  The local organising committee comprised Professor Murphy, Professor Frank Hegarty and Dr Jennifer Brennan. ERA-Chemistry acknowledge the support of Professor Hegarty, in enabling the award of travel grants to 5 promising young European researchers.

For more information on ERA chemistry please visit http://www.erachemistry.net/


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