19 October 2016
The annual International Fellow Symposium was held at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research for the sixteenth time on October 17th. This year, the Symposium focused on the emerging field of neurogenomics, which seeks to understand the brain and its diseases by linking genomics and neurobiology.
The Symposium is a significant event in Garvan’s annual calendar. First held in 1998, it brings together leading researchers from across Australia and overseas, and culminates in the Leslie Lazarus oration.
This year’s Leslie Lazarus Orator, Professor Sten Linnarsson of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, spoke on the topic, “Cellular identity and dynamics in the mouse brain by large-scale single-cell RNA-seq”. In his talk, Prof Linnarsson described his laboratory’s groundbreaking work in obtaining gene expression profiles from individual brain cells. Using oligodendrocytes (cells that provide electrical insulation to other brain cells) as an example, he showed how gene expression can differ between individual cells of the same type, and how gene expression changes over time as individual cells mature.
The Symposium’s other keynote speaker, Assistant Professor Eran A. Mukamel of the University of California, San Diego, gave a talk entitled, “New contexts and potential roles for DNA methylation in brain development and plasticity”. A/Prof Mukamel explained how his laboratory uses large-scale computational analysis and machine learning to characterise the highly dynamic epigenetic landscape (the pattern of chemical ‘decoration’ of DNA) in developing brain cells.
Associate Professor Antony Cooper, Head of Garvan’s Neuroscience Division, organised and chaired this year’s Symposium.
A/Prof Cooper said, “It was wonderful to hear the exciting discoveries in this rapidly expanding field from both our national and international speakers. The approaches, effort and findings of Sten Linnarsson in single cell sequencing of different brain cell types was outstanding and inspiring.”
The Leslie Lazarus Oration, which was initiated at the 2007 Garvan International Fellow Symposium, honours Professor Leslie Lazarus AO, Garvan’s first full-time Director. Prof Lazarus is a key figure in Garvan’s development; he was co-director during the first few years after Garvan opened in 1963, and became sole director in 1969, leading the institute for the next 20 years.
The list of Leslie Lazarus Orators is as follows:
2007: C Ronald Kahn – “Insulin action in the liver and metabolic syndrome”
2008: Sir Greg Winter –“The antibody revolution: science, invention and startups”
2009: Stephen O’Rahilly – “Genetics of human obesity”
2010: David A Sinclair – “Sirtuins: new insights into why we age and what we can do about it”
2011: Gerald I Shulman – “Obesity, insulin resistance and metabolism”
2012: John Stamatoyannopoulos – “Gene regulation and common disease”
2013: Bruce Spiegelman – “Brown and beige fat: basic biology and novel therapeutic opportunities
2015: Michael Karin – “The oil that feeds the flame: how obesity and metabolic stress beget liver cancer”
2016: Sten Linnarsson – “Cellular identity and dynamics in the mouse brain by large-scale single-cell RNA-seq”