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  • Kylie Belchamber

Highlights from the BALR Summer Meeting 2016

The 2016 BALR summer meeting ‘Fight the Good Fight: Host Pathogen Interactions in the Lung’ was held in sunny Sheffield on 27-29th July, hosted by Colin Bingle and Helen Marriott. The meeting consisted of presentations from 15 invited speakers, 9 oral presentations chosen from submitted abstracts, 2 entries to the early career researcher competition, 6 entries to the PhD competition, and 26 posters presentations.

The first session kicked off with a fungal focus, beginning with Jay Kolls from University of Pittsburgh, who highlighted the role of IL21 receptor and STAT3 on fungal clearance in the lung. This was followed by Sara Gago from the University of Manchester who shared evidence for genetic links to A.fumigatus infection. The session closed with a fascinating presentation from Henk Haagsman, who discussed the roles of host defence peptides in fungal defence.

After a wonderful lunch, and many helpings of cheesecake, the second session began with Ralph Tripp from the University of Georgia, who presented a fantastic demonstration on the use of siRNA to study genes involved in infection. Grace Cooper, from the University of Southampton, followed, sharing evidence for different populations of natural killer cells in the lungs. This session was closed by Debby Bogaert from Utrect University, who gave an eloquent and thorough analysis of the impacts of birth and feeding methods on the microbiome of children, and the influence of this in lung disease in early life.

After a tea break, the final session of the day was opened by Andrew Floto from the University of Cambridge, who gave an interesting and worrying talk on transmission of mycobacteria between cystic fibrosis patients using the same hospital room at different times; data that has led to changes in hospital designs. Following along the mycobactiera theme, Stephen Taylor from Public Health England shared data on the differences of the immune response between biofilm and free bacteria in lung cells. The final talk of the day was by Jua Iwasaki from Imperial College London, who discussed interesting data from the 3i consortium, looking at phenotyping knockout mice using influenza infection.

The poster session then got underway, with some fantastic posters being presented, leading to many thought-provoking discussions being had. The day was finished with a BBQ in the sunshine, a few games of pool, and a chance to network over a drink or two.

Day two began with an exciting talk from Becky Ingram from Queens University Belfast, who introduced the idea of memory innate lymphoid cells that are bacteria specific in function. This lead to the first of the Early Career Researcher talks, given by Jonathan Baker from Imperial College London, who discussed the action of microRNA-34a on sirtuin expression in epithelial cells. The second ECR talk was given by Kylie Belchamber, also from Imperial College London, who discussed scavenger receptor expression on COPD macrophages. The final talk of this session stayed on a macrophage theme, and was given by Tracy Hussell from the University of Manchester, who highlighted the TAM family of receptors and their roles in macrophage function.

Coffee break was followed by Jerry Brown from University College London, who gave an interesting talk on the induction of heterologous immunity to S.pneumonia in mice. This was followed by Emma Connolly from the University of Manchester, who discussed neutrophin activation of macrophages and their communication with the epithelium. The session was closed by Anne Tunbridge, who gave an enthralling talk on tracking patient zero during the pandemics of SARS, Swine flu, Bird flu and MERS, and highlighted the important job of sential chickens who are warning systems for West Nile Virus, and thus protecting the world!

A delicious warm lunch followed, and many profiteroles were consumed. Stepping in for Stephen Holgate, who could not make the meeting, was Andrew Thorley from Imperial College London who discussed epithelial cell:macrophage crosstalk in the lungs. This was followed by Angela Essex-Lopresti from DSTL, who discussed her fascinating work finding novel treatments for soldiers exposed to highly virulent bacteria. The session ended with Simon ‘not a lungologist’ Foster from University of Sheffield who showed data on the use of zebrafish to study the synergy found between organisms to generate infection, and highlighting the small number of pathogenic bacteria required to cause infection.

After tea break, the highly competitive Student Investigator Presentations began. The first was by Shameem Ladak from University of Newcastle, who discussed the important of the miRNA 200 family in airway remodelling. Grace Manley from University of Sheffield shared her data on the role of DUSP proteins in regulating rhinovirus infection, and Liza Selley from Imperial College London discussed brake abrasion dust toxicity in macrophages. Jessica Tilman from Imperial College London showed evidence that lung macrophage phenotype cannot be altered by growth factors, and Jake Mills from University of Sheffield discussed the role of tenasin-C in response to rhinovirus. The final talk was given by Joshua Wallington from University of Sheffield, who discussed responses of mucosal associated T cells to H.influenzae infected macrophages.

The conference dinner was held in the beautiful Cutlers Hall in Sheffield. After a delicious three course meal, BALR chair Louise Donnelly thanked the meeting organisers, and past chair Terry Tetley had the honour of awarding the prizes. The Early Career researcher prize was won by Kylie Belchamber, the Student Investigator prize was won by Grace Manley, and the poster prize was won by Kirsty Meldrum.

The final day of the conference was opened by Robert Snelgrove from Imperial College London, who discussed the PGP pathway in neutrophils in mice. Host of the 2017 BALR meeting, Bettina Schock from Queens University Belfast then gave a talk on the DREAM regulator in lung inflammation. James Steward from the University of Liverpool followed by discussing BPIFA/SPLUNC1 in influenza infection, and he was followed by Wendy Barclay from Imperial College London, who presented factors that influence the severity of influenza infection in humans.

Coffee break was followed by the final scientific session, initiated by Simon Carlile from Queens University Belfast, who discussed the protective effects of Hc-CATH in acute lung inflammation. This was followed by Elizabeth Marsh from the Univertsity of Sheffield, who gave a talk on pellino1 in viral stimulated epithelial cells. The last talk of the conference was given by Gary McLean from London Metropolitan University who gave a brilliant talk on the methods being used to develop a rhinovirus vaccine.

After lunch, a funding workshop was given, and attended by many PhD students and early career researchers. It included talks by Colin Bingle on behalf of Stephen Holgate, Stephen Meader from MRC, Ian Jarrold from BLF, and Graham Hughes from the University of Sheffield, who all discussed different funding pathways and fellowship opportunities, with many tips included! The session was finished by BALR committee member Chris Scotton from University of Exeter, who gave an interactive talk on his experience writing, applying for, and being awarded fellowships in the respiratory field. The session was a fantastic opportunity to question representatives from various funding bodies, and get an insight in the academic pathways for career progression.

The next meeting will be held in n 30th August-1st September 2017, at the University of Belfast, and hosted by Bettina Schock.

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