LA SCS 2018 Keynotes

Francisco Melo, Ph.D

Full Professor, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Francisco Melo general research line studies the relationship "sequence/structure/function" in proteins. This can be divided into two parts that in principle can be considered as independent, but in practice are interrelated: on the one hand the sequence/structure relationship and on the other the structure/function relationship.

Talk: "A perspective about doing research in molecular Bioinformatics from Chile: from past to present (and future …) challenges"
In this talk, I will refer to my vision, based on my own experience, about past, present and future challenges in molecular bioinformatics research from the perspective of being located in Chile. The case of Chile can be generalized in most of the cases to any Latin American country, therefore not limiting the scope of interest to the expected audience.
Special focus will be given to those areas of scientific research where bioinformatics or computational biology has a major impact. A certain bias towards my own research area experience will be evident, particularly in the specific example cases that will be presented. I advance that more than a presentation of a list of facts, many open questions will be stated, which should stimulate creative and deep thinking. I expect that this vision may be useful to orient the future research training and careers of the potentially broad and young audience of this talk.

 

David S. Holmes, Ph.D

Head of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genome Biology at Fundacion Ciencia & Vida, Chile

David Holmes is director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genome Biology at the Fundación Ciencia & Vida, Santiago, Chile and is Full Professor at the Universidad Mayor. He received a BA (Genetics) from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (1969) and his Ph.D in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology, USA (1973). He was a Damon Runyon Fellow in the Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Caltech from 1973-76. He then held several academic positions from Assistant Professor to Full Professor in the USA and also worked for 6 years (1980-86) at the Research and Development Labs of General Electric. Dr. Holmes has over 180 publications (https://scholar.google.cl/citations?user=2mFt-0MAAAAJ&hl=en). One of his papers became a Scientific Citation Classic (1994). In 2015 he was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology and received a Life Time Achievement Award. He is a founding member of the Iberoamerican Society for Bioinformatics (SOI-BIO) and has worked in Chile for the past 25 years. He has been cited as one of the most influential scientists in the development of Latin American Bioinformatics.

Talk: "Earth Environments as Analogs for Extraterrestrial Life"
The discovery of planets in our galaxy that lie within the habitable zones of their respective stars and the recent observations that perhaps Mars, Venus and the icy moons Enceladus, Europa and Titan could now, or in the past, harbor life are driving inspiration and innovation in the search for extraterrestrial life. The immensity of this challenge requires a focused search that involves setting constraints on where life, as we know it, may or may not be possible. Analog sites on Earth are those that share past or present characteristics with other planetary bodies, providing natural systems for studying the limits of life. This talk will explore examples of analog sites including the cold, hyperarid core of the Atacama desert, the Altiplano, Antarctic subglacial lakes, mineral assemblages and the deep subsurface. These sites provide information on how physical and chemical conditions interact to form environments conducive to life. They also suggest what kind of molecular fossils might be preserved as indicators of past life on exoplanets and moons. Analog sites also provide information that contributes to origin of life and synthetic-biology research. In the latter, genomics is being used to tease out essential genes and metabolisms needed to tailor-make microbes for applications in extra-terrestrial environments.

 

Wendy Gonzàlez, Ph.D

Head of the Center for Bioinformatics and Molecular Simulation, Universidad de Talca, Chile

Wendy Gonzàlez currently works at the Center for Bioinformatics and Molecular Simulations (CBSM) at Universidad de Talca, Chile. Wendy does research in Biophysics and Molecular Modeling of ion channels. Her current project is: "Understanding the structural mechanism of selective blockers of pH- gated K2P channels”. Also, Dr. González is co-researcher of the Millennium Nucleus of Ion Channels-Associated Diseases (MiNICAD).

“Molecules Son*: the dance I am trying to learn”
For me, Bioinformatics is the use of computational approaches to answer biological questions and the general question that I am trying to answer since 2004 is how the biological molecules dance? Dancing is not easy, molecules follow a mechanical rhythm enclosed in a force field song. My favorites dancers are the ion channels. With their concerted motions to open and close the gate, ion channels turned into an intriguing question for me.
More interesting is the coupling dance of the ion channels with drugs that modulate them to control several illnesses. This dance is very well paid: worldwide sales of ion channels drugs are greater than 12 billion USD per year. In my group, we found recently new drugs targeting the two-pore domain potassium channels TASK that could be effective against cancer and atrial fibrillation. How these drugs dance with TASK channels and (perhaps) with other ion channel dancers is the problem I am trying to solve!
*Son is a genre of music and dance that originated in Cuba during the late 19th century