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  • Greer Arthur

Highlights from the Summer Meeting 2015

This year's BALR summer meeting “Novel Concepts in Lung Biology” was held in Bath on 3 -4 September, hosted by Mark Lindsay of the University of Bath. The meeting was sponsored by educational grants from Boehringer Ingelheim and Galecto biotech. The opening talk was delivered by Miriam Moffatt, from Imperial College London, on the airway microbiome and its association with lung disease. This was followed by Ben Marsland, of the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland, with a fascinating talk on a related topic, the ability of the gut microbiome to influence the development of allergic lung disease. The next presenter, Simon Brill, from Imperial College London, was the first competitor in the Young Investigator Competition, and closed the session with a well-delivered presentation of his work on COPD and the airway microbiome.

After a quick caffeine top-up in the tea and coffee break, the meeting resumed with Tilman Sanchez-Elsner of the University of Southampton, who gave an absorbing and entertaining talk on a complex topic, faulty communication between macrophages and epithelial cells in asthma and the role of miRNAs and exosomes in the lung. This topic was continued by Mark Lindsay, the host of this meeting, with an in-depth presentation on long non-coding RNAs in the lung. The final talk of the morning was given by Ian Garner, the second entry into the Young Investigator Competition, on gene methylation in pulmonary fibrosis. The talk highlighted a potential implication for lung disease gender bias, and Chris Scotton from the University of Exeter Medical School tweeted “intriguing gender differences in fibroblast methylation status”. The second session began with a presentation from Jonas Erjefalt of the University of Lund, Sweden, with an update on the use of histology and imaging to analyse and decipher the complex nature of lung disease. To add to the impact of the talk, the presentation was decorated with impressive examples of state-of-the-art histological images.

Pierluigi Mauri from the Institute for Biomedical Technologies (ITB-CNR) in Italy was the next speaker, and provided an insightful opinion on the use of clinical proteomics for the characterisation of lung disease. This talk was followed by a presentation from the final entrant into the Young Investigator Competition, Andrew Hutton from the University of Southampton, about the ability of fibroblasts to act as non-professional antigen-presenting cells.

After the final tea and coffee break of the first day, presentations for the Early Career Competition began. Megan Osbourn of the University of Exeter was the first competitor to present, and provided an interesting summary of the therapeutic potential of parasitic worms and their immunomodulatory products in asthma. This talk was followed by Jodie Birch from the University of Newcastle, who described how telomere associated foci can be used to predict age-related airspace enlargement in COPD. The last competitor was Polina Yarova, from the University of Cardiff, with a clear and concise talk on the calcium-sensing receptor targeted by calcilytic drugs to treat COPD.

The first day of the meeting was concluded by a thought-provoking talk from Georg Hollander, of the University of Oxford, about the highly complex and remarkable process of thymic immunological intolerance and recognition of self. The poster competition followed shortly after. The day ended with a delightful conference dinner, featuring wonderful food and some unexpected entertainment of impressively enthusiastic dancing.

The second day of the BALR 2015 Summer Meeting began bright and early with a series of talks highlighting the important movement towards stratification of medicine according to specific disease endotypes. The first talk from Gisli Jenkins, from the University of Nottingham, provided an update in the latest advances in idiopathic research. This was followed by a presentation by Phil Crosbie of the University of Manchester, with the latest findings from lung cancer research. Talks on advances in COPD and asthma research were given after lunch by Peter Barnes, of Imperial College London, and Stephen Holgate, from the University of Southampton, respectively. Together, these talks demonstrated that developing a tailored and personalised approach to respiratory medication by identifying targets relevant to specific patient clusters will be paramount to the development of new therapies.

David Ray, from the University of Manchester, opened the final session of the meeting with an interesting talk on the link between the circadian clock and lung inflammation. Colin Butler, from the University College London, provided the next presentation with an insight into tracheal transplantation and stem cell function. Finally, Andrew Leishman from MedImmune delivered a talk on the use of immunotherapy-based treatment approaches in cancer.

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