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Vol. 31 No. 3
May-June 2009

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

Biotechnology for the Sustainability of Human Society
by Fengwu Bai

Our society is facing unprecedented challenges such as a shortage of resources, threat of infectious diseases, loss of biodiversity, deterioration of the environment, and an imbalance of economic and social development. The 13th International Biotechnology Symposium & Exhibition (IBS-2008), held 12–17 October 2008 in Dalian, China was more timely than ever: Its theme was Biotechnology for the Sustainability of Human Society.

Werner Arber (left), Nobel Laureate from the University of Basel, Switzerland, with Zhu Chen, Minister of Health in China.

The 2001 Nobel Laureate Barry K. Sharpless, from the Scripps Research Institute, USA, opened the plenary session with a lecture on the “Secret Lives of Enzymes,” in which he explained “Click Chemistry.” Click chemistry is the use of chemical building blocks tailored to generate substances quickly and reliably by joining small units together. Combined with combinatorial chemistry, it makes new drug discoveries faster, more efficient, and predictable. The next lecture was delivered by Huanming Yang, founder of BGI, a state-of-the-art genome research institute, and coordinator in China of the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium. His lecture reported on the breakthrough in genomics and its impacts on various aspects of human society.

Research in marine biotechnology is addressing largely unexploited biological resources. Jan A. Olafsen, of the University of Tromsoe, Norway, and president of the European Society for Marine Biotechnology and International Marine Biotechnology Association, highlighted the prospects and challenges of marine biotechnology. Guo-Hua Miao, director and general manager of the DuPont China R&D Center, illustrated achievements in the application of biotechnology for the production of biofuels and biobased-chemicals from renewable biomass resources. Tohru Nishiyama, the former president of Ajinomoto Co., Inc., Japan, reviewed the history, current status, and prospect of bioscience and bioindustry in Japan. David A. Fischhoff, vice president of the Technology Division at Monsanto Company, USA, emphasized the importance of biotechnology in improving crop yields and traits, such as tolerance to abiotic stresses, to meet expanding demands on food, feed, and fuels.

On the last day of the conference, Zhu Chen, minister of health in China, presented the government’s roadmap for the biopharmaceutical and healthcare industries, which includes a commitment of the government to the sustainability of the largest population in the world. The next plenary lecture was delivered by Werner Arber, the Nobel Laureate awarded for his discovery of restriction enzymes. Arber discussed the many positive impacts of biotechnology on society.

The awards ceremony for young scientists and students at IBS-2008.

In addition to the 8 plenary lectures, 57 keynotes, 142 invited lectures, and 149 oral presentations were made during the 47 sessions of the conference’s 9 parallel sections: I) Systems Biology, II) Tissue Engineering and Cell Cultivation, III) Medical Biotechnology, IV) Agricultural Biotechnology, V) Industrial Biotechnology, VI) Marine Biotechnology, VII) Environmental Biotechnology, IIIV) Food Biotechnology, and IX) Biosafety and Bioeconomy.

In addition, three special sessions were organized in conjunction with the conference. They addressed international collaboration, professional training and education, and development of the biotechnology industry in China and Asia . More than 2000 delegates from academia, industry, and government attended the conference. Among them, 1146 were from 80 countries other than China.

With the sponsorship of Elsevier, the proceedings of IBS-2008, including 1755 abstracts selected by the scientific committee, were published in the Journal of Biotechnology as a supplement (136S, October 2008).

IBS-2008 featured the first-ever Young Scientists and Students Awards, sponsored by British Petroleum. The awards showcased the best of the next generation of biotechnology research leaders and their research endeavors. Twenty award winners from Australia, China, Croatia, Germany, Japan, the USA, Russia, and South Korea were honored before the closing ceremony. A medal and prize of USD 1500 were awarded to each of them by Werner Arber and Yulin Dai, deputy mayor of Dalian.

The IUPAC Subcommittee on Biotechnology held its member meeting during IBS-2008. At the meeting, it was decided to hold the IBS series every two years instead every four due to the explosion of knowledge in the field. The 14th IBS will be held 15–19 September 2010 in Rimini, Italy. For more information, visit
<www.ibs2010.org>.

Fengwu Bai <fwbai@dlut.edu.cn> is a professor in the Department of Bioscience and Bioengineering at the Dalian University of Technology, China. He is a member of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology.


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