Renowned Scientists Present Latest Findings on Inflammation at 49th Miami Winter Symposium

The 49th Miami Winter Symposium, organized in part by Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Miller School of Medicine, attracted 330 researchers, clinicians and students from 32 countries to address one of the world’s most challenging medical issues, “Inflammation — Causes, Prevention and Cures.”

“Inflammation is a far-ranging topic that is becoming more and more important to our understanding of acute and chronic conditions,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Dean of the Miller School of Medicine, in his welcoming remarks. “Rather than focus on a single inflammatory condition, we have brought together experts from many areas of research, including diabetes, cancer, autoimmunity, neurological disorders, stroke and atherosclerosis. That comprehensive approach allows us to learn from each other’s research.”

Other organizers of the conference, held January 24-27, were Scripps Florida, University Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Foundation, Inc. and the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB). The Symposia are managed for the Foundation by Elsevier.

“We are seeking to foster collaborative research initiatives, as attendees share their insights on inflammation, and learn from the wide-ranging papers and presentations at our conference,” said William J. Whelan, D.Sc., FRS, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, who founded the Miami Winter Symposium in 1968. “The myriad new facts and principles presented at the symposium were take-away gifts to our students and faculty.”

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of medicine, biochemistry & molecular biology; Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Pharm.D., Sylvester member, professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute; and Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., Sylvester member, Associate Dean for Therapeutic Innovation, and Leonard M. Miller professor of psychiatry and biochemistry, joined Whelan as directors of the conference.

Peter Libby, M.D., a cardiovascular specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, gave a Monday presentation on “Inflammation and Atherosclerosis: Can We Bring the Discoveries to the Clinic?” He focused on the challenges of translating basic science discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside and the importance of taking a collaborative approach.

“My lab looks at inflammation as a driver of atherosclerosis,” said Libby, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the symposium. “It is not necessarily the causal factor, but it does alter the biology that gives expression to the disease.”

Libby outlined how he and his Harvard colleague, Paul Ridker, M.D., are conducting a “Canakinumab Anti-inflammatory Thrombosis Outcomes Study” that involves a potential inflammation inhibitor.

“Overall, we need to find the ‘sweet spot’ between a weak response, which would not have a clinical benefit, and a strong response that would leave the patient vulnerable to infection,” he said.

Miller School presenters included Glen Barber, Ph.D., Sylvester member, professor and Chair of the Department of Cell Biology, who spoke on “Innate Immune Signaling Pathways in Transformed Cells,” and Andrea Johnstone, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Wahlestedt laboratory, who gave a presentation on “Epigenetic-Mediated Inflammatory Signaling in Alcohol Dependence.”

Angelo Azzi of the IUBMB/Vascular Biology Laboratory at Tufts University and Wahlestedt chaired the program committee for the symposium’s five sessions that focused on the following topics:

• Acute inflammation

• Cardiovascular and metabolic inflammation

• Neuroinflammation

• Cancer and inflammation

• Resolution of inflammation

“While inflammation protects the body, the process can contribute to many types of chronic conditions,” Azzi said. “Fortunately, researchers are identifying new strategies for treating acute inflammation.”

IUBMB President Joan Guinovart, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine at the University of Barcelona, welcomed 16 travel fellows to the symposium and presented IUBMB’s Distinguished Service Award to Azzi.

Five scientists, including Libby, were recognized by their colleagues for outstanding work. Four of the five were from Harvard, including Gokhan Hotamisligil, M.D., Ph.D., the J.S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism and Chair, Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who received the Distinguished Service Award, for his work in inflammation in metabolic disease. The other three award winners were:

• Charles N. Serhan, Ph.D., the Simon Gelman Professor of Anaesthesia (Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology) at Harvard Medical School, who gave the IUBMB Medal and Award Lecture on mediators in inflammation, infection and tissue regeneration.

• Arlene Sharpe, M.D., Ph.D., the George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology at Harvard Medical School, who gave the Lynen Medal award address on the roles of coinhibitory receptors in controlling T cell activation and tolerance.

• Giorgio Trinchieri, M.D., Director of the Cancer and Inflammation Program and Chief, Laboratory of Experimental Immunology, National Cancer Institute, who received the Special Achievement Award for his work in cancer research.

Looking ahead to 2017, Goldschmidt told attendees, “I encourage you to join us next January as we celebrate the 50th Miami Winter Symposium. Our theme will be ‘Diabetes: Today’s Research and Tomorrow’s Therapies,’ and we expect a great turnout.”

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