The 14th ERS Lung Science Conference (LSC) “System Approaches in Lung Disease” was held in the beautiful sunny city of Estoril, Portugal from 10 to 13 March. The four day event was attended by over 165 delegates and hosted the very best of international lung science research. As well as providing updates on the latest innovative research, the conference also highlighted new discoveries likely to impact the future of respiratory medicine and provided a platform for constructive debates and communications between a worldwide mix of PhD students, postdoctoral scientists and established investigators. This year, the LSC organisers continued to fulfil their commitment to encouraging and nurturing future generations of world class respiratory scientists by providing special mentoring sessions. Additionally, a mentorship lunch for bursary winners and junior-focused career sessions were provided, and early career scientists were given the chance to co-chair scientific sessions alongside reputable experts.
After a welcome address by Professor Bruno Crestani the conference was opened by Dr Rui Chen (Roche Sequencing) with a fascinating talk about personal omics profiling. Dr Chen explained how information obtained through omics profiling technologies may facilitate early diagnostics, precision medicine and personalised health monitoring. After an in depth discussion following the talk, the meeting closed for the evening with a selection of fine Portuguese cheese and port.
The first full day of the conference began with a session examining “The unmet clinical needs in lung disease: Is systems medicine the answer?” To kick-start the session, Professor Peter Sterk (Netherlands) provided an update on the U-BIOPRED study and its utilisation of high throughput omics and topological analysis to capture disease by multi-scale, bio-clinical strategies. This was followed by talks from Sabine Bartel (Germany) about miRNAs secreted into exosomes, a method of inter-cell communication in allergic airway inflammation, and Dr Alexander Mazein (Edinburgh) who highlighted differences in eicosanoids levels in two phenotypic severe asthmatic clusters of the U-BIOPRED, providing potential routes of differential treatment for those patients. The final talk of the session was delivered by Dr Rosa Faner (Spain) who discussed how systems biology contributes to a better understanding of the complexity of COPD.
After a serving of tea and coffee in sunshine on the terrace, the meeting resumed with a session focusing on “Methodological advances as enablers”. Dr Yan Xu (Cincinnati, USA) opened with an interesting presentation about the advantages of performing single cell omics analysis during normal lung maturation, and how this could be used to advance our understanding of the pathogenesis of lung diseases. This was followed by a talk by Ms Aina Martin (Germany) who later won the award for Best Oral Presentation. Discussing her research on comprehensive profiling of extracellular vesicles in pulmonary fibrosis, Martin described how these vesicles contribute to impaired cell-cell communication by profibrotic TGFβ-drive non canonical WNT5A signalling. The final talk was delivered by Dr Bertrand De Meulder (LSC 2016 programme co-ordinator) who discussed how to build handprints of complex disease and utilise the large wealth of data amassed during the U-BIOPRED study.
Next, a buffet lunch was served in the main hall, with the mentoring session for bursary winners held at the same time. The succeeding session, “Asthma and Allergy”, then began, and included a presentation by Irina Lehmann (Germany) on epigenetics in asthma ontology, and a talk from Valerie Sirous, who provided an insight into an integrated approach to the exposome. Of note was an interesting presentation by Lida Gharibvand (USA) on the association of ambient air pollution and lung cancer incidence.
The day was then continued with a poster session where some of the latest research and developments in system approaches were displayed. There were over 40 posters displayed divided into 4 groups and the posters were all of a high calibre and one poster from each group was awarded best poster presentation. The winners from each group were;
Mr Dmytro Dvornikov, Heidelberg, Germany - Modelling of TGFβ pathway dynamics in lung cancer cells
Dr Katy Roach, Leicester, UK - A human lung explant model of fibrogenesis for the assessment of anti-fibrotic strategies in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Dr Argyro Chatziantoniou, Heraklion, Greece - A combination of the wells score with multiorgan ultrasound to stratify patients with suspected pulmonary embolism
Ms Malamati Vreka, Patras, Greece - Host-environmental IL-1B drives mutant kras-ikka addiction in malignant pleural effusion
The final presentation of the day was a pre-dinner evening talk delivered by Professor Marcel Salathe (Switzerland), a digital epidemiologist who impressed the audience with the latest tools for epidemiological medical research in the digital age. The day concluded with a fantastic dinner for all the delegates in the ornate high ceiling rooms of Hotel Palacio.
The second day of the meeting started with a session entitled “Experimental models of disease”. Professor Jorgen Vestbo, (Manchester) gave an engaging talk on natural experiments and large databases in respiratory, cardiovascular and tobacco control. Dr Thomas Conlon (Germany) then delivered a presentation about the benefits of treating emphysema with L-cartinine to improve lung function. The session concluded with a detailed presentation on mathematical modelling of the lung by Dr Jason Bates (USA). Together, these talks highlighted novel and existing experimental models of disease and how these findings aid the rapid identification of novel therapeutics targets.
Next, the prestigious Young Investigator Session began, in which the best abstracts from all entries were selected to compete for the William MacNee Award. An elite array of presentations were given, including epigenome-wide mapping of histone modification by Prakesh Chellandurai (Germany), peripheral blood myeloid-derived suppressor cells reflecting pulmonary fibrosis by Issi Enlil-Fernandez (Germany), the identification of biomarkers of exacerbations in asthma from exhaled breath by Sinha Anirban (Netherlands), and the use of microarray analysis gene signalling to determine COPD exacerbation phenotypes by Kenneth Bolger (Ireland). However, there could only be one winner, and this was Dr Eva Maria Garrido-Martin (Southampton) for her abstract presentation entitled “Transcriptomic profiling of macrophages isolated from human non-small cell lung carcinoma reveals novel macrophage subsets with distinct tumour response features.”
Lunch was then served on the immaculately kept garden of the Hotel Palacio, and meanwhile a second poster session was held with a display of over 35 posters. The winners from each group were:
Ms Griet Conickx, Ghent, Belgium - miRNA profiling reveals a role for miRNA-218-5p in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Dr Lieuwe Bos, Amsterdam, Netherlands - Identification of distinct biological phenotypes of ARDS by cluster analysis and association with mortality
Dr Morad Nakhleh, Le Kremlin Bicêtre, France - Exploring mechanisms and early detection of pulmonary arterial hypertension via breath and lung vascular cells’ volatolomics
Dr Ioannis Psallidas, Oxford, UK - Osteopontin as an airway epithelial tumor promoter.
The LSC organisers then held another session aimed at helping junior members “getting the job you want”. This consisted of a two-part session with advice on preparing a CV and cover letter, and preparing for an interview, looking at both industry and academic examples. CV feedback was also provided.
The pre-evening talk on the second day was a phenomenal, thought provoking and technologically advanced talk by Pascal Sempe (IBM). He introduced the LSC conference to IBM Watson: an advisor to medical professionals. IBM Watson is a cognitive system which allows professionals to ask “Watson” a question and then receive an answer immediately. Watson learns a subject and automatically updates itself and then searches millions of documents to collect evidence based on algorithm scoring to the rate of the quality of evidence. This generated a great deal of interest and intrigue in the audience, with many delegates able to clearly visualise the extraordinary potential of this system within their own fields of research.
The evening closed with the Gala Dinner. Delegates were treated to a three course fine dining experience, with dishes such as a freshly caught fish medley. The evening was fantastic and included an Award Ceremony, in which presentation winners were awarded certificates and prizes. The partying continued until the early hours of the morning with many dancing the night away or heading to the famous Estoril Casino to try their luck.
The final day of the conference consisted of two sessions focused on personalised medicine. Each talk was delivered by the leaders of each field, including Dr Soni Pullamsetti’s (Germany) presentation of “Epigenetics in pulmonary hypertension” and Professor Craig Wheelock’s (Sweden) talk on “Metabolomics for molecular phenotyping in respiratory disease”. Professor Oliver Eickelberg (Germany) provided an insight into “Interstitial lung diseases and system medicine”, and was followed by Dr Lindsay Edwards (GSK) who finished the session with an in depth talk on systems pharmacology.
The conference was closed by Professor Bruno Crestani (Director of ERS Conferences and Seminars). Sadly, this year’s conference was the last to be directed by Professor Crestani, and the appointment of the new ERS Conferences and Seminars Director, Professor Rachel Chambers (University College London) was announced. Professor Chambers will continue the work of Professor Crestani and will take on the responsibility of organising the next three conferences, the first of which will take place in 2017.
The next LSC, “Mechanistic overlap between chronic lung injury and cancer”, will take place in Estoril between 23–26 March, 2017.