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The International Peptide Symposium Held in Singapore for the First Time

Singapore hosted the 7th biannual International Peptide Symposium (IPS), which was held recently at Matrix at Biopolis from 9-11 December 2015. This was the first time that the IPS was organized in Singapore and the meeting was a great success, with about 280 delegates from 20 countries especially with representatives from China and India. The co-chairs Sir Professor David Lane from A*STAR, Professor James Tam from NTU and the local organizing committee represented the active peptide/protein scientists in the Singapore scientific community. Besides, the meeting was supported by various representatives from the European, Japanese and Australian Peptide Societies as well as leading industrial sponsors.

Exciting talks were presented on the symposium by the top international scientists such as Professor Sir Tom Blundell of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge; and also by Gregory L. Verdine, Erving Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University. On the other hand, IPS also marked the passing of two giants in the field: Drs. Shumpei Sakakibara and Robert Schwyzer. There was a symposium dedicated to Dr. Sakakibara chaired by Kenichi Akaji and Yoshiaki Kiso while the symposium in Dr. Schwyzer’s honor was chaired by Alex Eberle.

There is a difference between peptides and proteins. Peptides are short chains of amino acids which aggregate to form the macromolecules known as proteins. They play a specific role in understanding biochemistry that has impactful applications in different areas. Notably, this symposium highlighted the importance of peptides and proteins, and their medical roles in the treatment of disease. As emphasized by both Dr. Tom Blundell and Dr. Gregory Verdine, peptides are increasingly becoming the new focus of pharmacological development with more emphasis on their structure and function. Dr. Tom Blundell addressed the computational analysis of protein interfaces in multiprotein interactions between the flexible peptides and globular proteins. He went on to show how this was relevant to specific interactions with the well-known BRCA2, which has a role in causing breast cancer. Dr. Greg Verdine examined the problem that 80-90% of all drug targets are considered “undruggable”. Currently, the goal of work in his laboratory is to examine the chemistry of new mini-proteins which are cell-penetrating, and are able to target large, flat surfaces.

Attention was paid to the various applications of peptides and proteins for therapeutics and biomarkers of diseases throughout the 3-day symposium. Dr. Xuechen Li, The University of Hong Kong, spoke about the synthesis of antibacterial cyclic peptides and the recent success of his lab in the synthesis of daptomycin which has provided some new options for analogues. Daptomycin is an important antibiotic effective for life threatening infections from the bacteria known as MRSA.

Victor Hruby, University of Arizona, shared his designed agonists and antagonists for the four melanocortin receptors which can be used in pain modification and other diseases. Dr. Hojo, Institute of Protein Research, Oska University described the synthesis of the glycosylated form of IL-2 which was shown to have full biological activity. Continuing this theme, Irina Vetter, Institute for Moleuclar Bioscience and School of Pharmacy, The University of Queensland discussed her research on inhibitors of Nav1.7, an isoform of the voltage gated sodium channel with a critical role in pain modulation. R. M. Kini, National University of Singapore, has exploited the venom of a highly poisonous snake, the krait, to develop Factor XIa inhibitors as anticoagulants. International trends were lively discussed during coffee breaks and people are looking forward to begin new collaborations for the next meeting in year 2017.

To the commercial end, manufacturing peptides is much different than making small organic molecules and new techniques are necessary in order to supply sufficient quantity of drugs for world-wide clinical use. Some of these issues were addressed by Thomas Meier who is the Vice-president of Manufacturing at Ba’chem AG in Switzerland. He gave a case report regarding the 20 amino acid bivalirudin, a thrombin inhibitor, and highlighted the issues of quality control and various types of synthesis such as solid-state that can be used in this instance.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. David Lane presented travel awards to young scientists. An announcement of the formation of the new Peptide and Protein Society of Singapore was also made, and Dr. James Tam was appointed as the first society president.

You can review the complete program at ips2015singapore.com/.

About the Author

Dr. Roger Beuerman is currently Senior Scientific Director of the Singapore Eye Research Institute, Professor of with the SingHealth Duke-NUS Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences ACP and Professor of Neuroscience and Emerging Infectious Diseases at DUKE-NUS School of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology, Yong Loo Lin, School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore. Roger is involved in developing new antimicrobial peptides and his group has had success in designing new classes of antimicrobials for bacterial and fungal infections and most recently antimicrobial coatings for implants. These new classes of antimicrobials avert the development of resistance. His other area of interest is in proteomic biomarkers. He has contributed to our understanding of dry eye disease and with his colleagues coined the term “functional unit”. Roger has been involved in ophthalmology for some years and has more than 300 publications along with 3 books and has worked with the pharmaceutical industry for many years to develop new products.

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