2013 Miami Winter Symposium Focuses on Metabolism and Nutrition

More than 200 biochemists and molecular biologists from around the world, many of them luminaries in the growing field of metabolism and nutrition research, are gathered in Miami this week for the 46th annual Miami Winter Symposium to explore the interaction of nutrition, genetics, epigenetics and human health.

“I am delighted that once again we could bring to Miami some of the most brilliant scientists in this area and share new information and, perhaps even more importantly, ideas for future research and future discoveries,” Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., said in welcoming the 2013 Miami Winter Symposium: The Molecular Basis of Metabolism and Nutrition, organized by the Nature Publishing Group, the Miller School, the University Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Foundation, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Scripps Research Institute Florida and, for the first time, the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB).

“Much is still to be discovered in this field,” continued the Dean, who is also Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of the University of Miami Health System. “We really are only scratching the surface of what is important and I have no doubt that collectively as a group you will make discoveries and advances that would not have happened without this meeting. That’s the wonder of these kinds of gatherings.’’

Founded in 1968 by the Miller School’s William J. Whelan, D.Sc., professor of biochemistry and microbiology, the winter symposium brings together investigators from academia and industry to advance the understanding of basic and applied aspects of a specific area of research. As Dean Goldschmidt and symposium co-director Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, noted, few things have a greater influence on good health than nutrition.

“With escalating rates of diabetes and obesity, nutrition is a very timely topic, but there is really little understanding of how things work at the molecular level, and that’s what we need to know,’’ Daunert said. “Then we can really influence how we can change metabolic pathways to improve nutritional health.”

In that context, three of this year’s symposium luminaries were selected to present Feodor Lynen Lectures, named for the German biochemist who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1964 for research on the biosynthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids. They are:

• Ana Maria Cuervo, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the Einstein Institute for Aging Research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and one of the world’s leading authorities on autophagy, the cell’s natural recycling process. She presented “Selective autophagy: Much more than protein breakdown.”

• David M. Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, who as a graduate student identified the protein complex mTOR as the mammalian target of rapamycin, a chemical that causes cells to stop dividing and shrink. He presented “Regulation of growth by the mTOR pathway.”

• Leonard Guarente, Ph.D., director of the Glenn Laboratory for the Science of Aging at MIT, who studies the molecular mechanisms regulating aging. He will present “Sirtuins, aging and disease” on Wednesday, February 13.

Lewis C. Cantley, Ph.D., director of the Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, who discovered a family of enzymes fundamental to understanding cancer, is the Special Achievement Awardee. He will present “PI 3-Kinase and cancer metabolism” on Tuesday, February 12. Bruce Spiegelman, Ph.D., professor of cell biology at Harvard University, who identified the master regulator of fat development, is the Distinguished Service Awardee. He presented “Transcriptional control of brown and beige fat: Toward a new generation of therapeutics” in the symposium’s inaugural lecture on Sunday, February 10.

In addition to Daunert and Whelan, other symposium directors include Angelo Azzi, M.D., Ph.D., past president of the IUBMB and senior scientist with the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory and Vascular Biology Laboratory at Tufts University; Joseph D. Rosenblatt, M.D., chief of hematology/oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center; and Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and associate dean for therapeutic innovation at the Miller School.

Also in attendance is IUBMB President-Elect Joan J. Guinovart, Ph.D., senior professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the University of Barcelona and Director of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), who was Daunert’s first biochemistry professor. Guinovart is also President of the Confederation of Spanish Scientific Societies and President of the Spanish National Committee of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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