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Vol. 27 No. 5
September-October 2005

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org../../../../symposia

Carbohydrates

by Elizabeth Hounsell

Known to most as an important food type, carbohydrates are critically involved in nutrition and metabolism. They also have profoundly important roles in the exciting new area of nutraceuticals, and in materials science. Carbohydrates possess greater potential diversity than proteins and this enormous variety of structure and activity has led to their use in fields as diverse as cancer therapy and toothpaste manufacture. Carbohydrates are already a multimillion dollar business, but their importance in research, medicine, agriculture, and industry will grow enormously in the future.

Carbohydrates are the “next frontier” in biomedicine. Cell surfaces are made up of proteins and lipids, but attached to these are carbohydrates. These form a critical interface by which the cell communicates with the outside world. It is the cell’s ‘telephone line’-alerting, for example, the body’s defenses to an infection or, unfortunately, telling an invading cancer cell where a new home might be found. Other examples include organ transplantation, auto-immunity, allergy, and blood transfusion. No surprise then to discover that carbohydrates have already been involved in making vaccines, anti-inflammatory drugs, and drugs effective against HIV. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

These exciting developments and much more were the focus of the 22nd International Carbohydrate Symposium, which was held 23–27 July 2004 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center (SECC), Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

The symposium began with a sponsored reception at the Science Center just across the river Clyde from the SECC. This location offered a commanding view of the SECC and the University of Glasgow campus and provided a good orientation to the layout of Glasgow and the close-by student and hotel accommodations. The reception was a convivial and intellectually stimulating venue for introductions and meetings with old friends.

The first day of the symposium started with the opening ceremony, followed by the presentation of the Whistler Award to Anne Imberty (Grenoble) and Thomas Peters (Lubeck). The opening ceremony was presided over by Bob Stick (Perth), chairman of the International Carbohydrate Symposium. Hans Vliegenthart (Utrecht) gave a presentation in his role as representative of IUPAC. The president elect and chair of ICS-22, Elizabeth Hounsell (London), introduced the Deacon Convener of Glasgow City Chambers, who gave, on behalf of Glasgow’s Lord Provost, a welcoming speech from the city.

The meeting covered new and emerging trends, with particular emphasis on synthetic methodology and applications in the design and synthesis of bioactive organic compounds. The program, which included relevant aspects of biologically active natural products and materials chemistry, catered to a wide range of interests in contemporary carbohydrate chemistry, biochemistry, and medicine, and offered a visionary perspective on future challenges and opportunities.

The program consisted of a mix of plenary, keynote, and shorter contributed lectures, as well as two formal poster sessions on the themes: “Carbohydrate Chemistry and Enzymology,” “Carbohydrates in Medicine and Biology,” and “Carbohydrate Materials and Biopolymers.”

The scientific committee for the meeting consisted of the immediate past presidents of the RSC Carbohydrate Group: David Crout (Warwick), Rob Field (Norwich), and Hounsell (chair). They consulted widely within the groups mentioned above for choices for the plenary and invited keynote speakers (10 and 22, respectively). The symposium featured 67 oral presentations—selected from 128 abstracts that were submitted—and 491 poster presentations. A highlight was a buffet lunch sponsored by Elsevier for the student poster presenters to meet with the speakers and the editorial advisory board of Carbohydrate Research.

The meeting attracted 764 scientific contributors and 74 accompanying guests. Attendees were geographically diverse: Japan (110), Australia and New Zealand (29), South Korea (14), Taiwan (13), UK (161), Germany (55), and USA (55). There were 238 registered students, which reflected the availability of inexpensive student accommodations and the overall low registration fee, a result of having the meeting in Glasgow.

Elizabeth Hounsell <e.hounsell@bbk.ac.uk> is a professor of biological chemistry at Birkbeck College (London, UK). She was the chair of ICS-22.


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