Category Archives: News

Thank-Science-Giving: The Nobel Prize, Science Now and Science Future

Picture from http://funmike.com/

Every year in early October the Nobel Prize winners are announced.  For those of us in Canada, this coincides with our Canadian Thanksgiving, which is celebrated the second Monday in October every year.

Call me a NERD but to me this is an appropriate pairing:  Thanksgiving — a time to reflect on what we have in our lives — and the Nobel Prize – a time to reflect on a person’s lifetime of achievement.  Importantly, the contributions of the named Nobel Laureates have often have had an enormous impact on scientific methodology, scientific theory and/or the quality of health and life in general.  For instance, this includes recognition for the discovery of HIV (2008), development of the gene silencing (2006), and discovery of protein ubiquitination (2004).  And where would we be without PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)?  The Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to Kary Mullia and Michael Smith in 1993 for their discovery and work on PCR.

The achievements recognized in this year’s awards resonate through many aspects of our lives, from the optimism for the possibilities offered by therapeutic stem cells to the stabilization of the global economy.  Hopefully the dividends from these discoveries will be evident in the years to come.

If you knew me during the first couple of years of my PhD, then you heard me talk endlessly about Robert Lefkowitz and the biology of the trimeric G-protein protein couple receptors (GPCR) chemokine receptors.  I am sure all of Queen’s University heard my ramblings — I was GPCR OBSESSED.  Without Dr. Lefkowitz’s work, I probably would not have a PhD today, and for his work on GPCRs I am grateful.  Specifically Dr. Lefkowitz has made a significant impact on the field of drug development by elucidating the signalling, activation and desensitization of GPCRs which has been applied for the treatment of conditions such as ulcers and hypertension.  Therefore, I was super pumped to hear of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year going to Dr. Lefkowitz and Brain K. Kobilka”for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors“. 

The announcement for the Chemistry Nobel Prize on GPCRs got me thinking, “Who will win next year?  What researcher, technology or development has impacted the other areas of my scientific career or science and society in general significantly enough to be deserving of the NEXT Nobel Prize?”

I believe a new tone has been set for global science and health care. Specifically, the work by  Grand Challenges Canada is leading the way for global scientific development.  Their platform encompasses the utilization of scientific innovation to improve health care and build scientific discovery in low-income countries.  Grand Challenges Canada has received global attention by Scientific and Global Health Organizations including the prestigious scientific publication Nature, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and USAID.  Grand Challenges Canada has implemented programs for solving health-care challenges through the following in initiatives:  Stars in Global Health, Saving Lives at Birth, Saving Brains, and Global Mental Health.  Importantly, the Stars in Global Health programme supports collaborations between Canada and lower income countries  for the development of scientific innovations for resolving global health challenges.  Essentially, its aim is to utilize scientific discovery to directly improve the health problems in lower income countries. I believe that the work being conducted requires both scientific and health-care novelty and knowledge and will have a significant global impact.  To me, I can’t think of anything more fabulous than using science, scientific initiatives and global collaborations to directly solve world issues and I feel these efforts should be recognized.

Now I ask YOU.  What researcher or what technology do you see as deserving of a Nobel Prize?  Or what innovation do you see as having a significant impact on science or society in the next 10 years?  What Scientific Discovery are you personally thankful for? I would love to know your thoughts…

Alyson

This year the awards were as follows:

My Post on The Book The Grandest Challenge by Dr. Abdallah S. Daar and Dr. Peter A. Singer can be read here

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MUMMIES, BONES, and ANCIENT PATHOGENS: CONFERENCE PROGRAM 7-8 September 2012

Below is the Program for the Conference MUMMIES, BONES, and ANCIENT PATHOGENS to be held in Sardinia, Italy 7-8 September 2012.  You can find a PDF for download at the bottom.  I hope everyone has an incredible time!

Alyson

MUMMIES, BONES, and ANCIENT PATHOGENS:  CONFERENCE PROGRAM

7-8 September 2012

STINTINO Palazzo Comunale, Sala Consiliare – Stintino, Sardinia, Italy

DAY 1

9:45-10:15 Opening of the Meeting
Salvatore Rubino, Co-chair Organizing Committee
Antonio Diana, Mayor of Stintino
Francesco Tamponi, Responsabile Regionale per i beni culturali ecclesiastici

Daniela Rovina, Soprintendenza Archeologica per le Provincie di Sassari e Nuoro
Attilio Mastino, Rector, University of Sassari

10:15-12:00 Session I: Archaic and Modern Genomes

Piero Cappuccinelli (Session Chair) Introductory remarks

10:15-10:45
Susanna Sawyer
Department Evolutionary Genetics, Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Archaic Genomes: A Story Written in Neanderthal and Denisova DNA

10:45-11:15
Carsten Pusch
Institute of Human Genetics, Division of Molecular Genetics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
First Insights into the Metagenome of Ancient Egyptian Mummies Using Next Generation Sequencing

11:15-11:30 Coffee break

11:30-12:00
Paolo Francalacci
Dipartimento di Scienze della Natura e del Territorio, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Placing the Sequence of “Ötzi the Iceman” in the High Resolution Y chromosome Phlylogeny by Whole Genome Sequencing

12:00-15:15 Session II: Evolutionary Medicine, Ancient Pathogens and Pathologies

David Kelvin (Session Chair) Introductory remarks

12:00-12:30
Bernardino Fantini
Institute for the History of Medicine and Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
The Convergence of Genomic Studies and Historical Analysis of Infectious Diseases: the Case of Black Death

12:30-13:00
Marco Milanese
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
The Biological Archives of Alghero: Archaeological Questions and Expectations from Biohistory and Biotechnology Projects in the Study of Human Remains from Urban Populations during the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries

13:00-14:30 Lunch Break

14:30-16:00 Session II: Evolutionary Medicine, Ancient Pathogens and Pathologies (Continued)

14:30-15:00
Gino Fornaciari
Division of Paleopathology, History of Medicine and Bioethics, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine
Medical School University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Cancer and Infectious Diseases: the Challenge of Soft Tissue Paleopathology

15:00-15:30
Frank Rühli
Centre for Evolutionary Medicine, Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Evolutionary Medicine: Ancient Mummies and More…

15:30-16:00 Coffee break

16:00-17:30 Session III: Ancient Pathogens

Giovani Fadda (Session Chair) Introductory remarks

16:00-16:30
Eugenia Tognotti
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Università degli Studi di Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Epidemics and Plagues in Sardinia from the 15th to the 20th Century

16:30-17:00
Raffaella Bianucci
Department of Anatomy, Pharmacology and Legal Medicine, University of Turin, Turin, Italy
Vector-Borne Diseases in Ancient Human Remains

17:00-17:30
Helen Donoghue
Centre for Infectious Diseases and International Health, University College London, London, UK

Insights into Ancient Tuberculosis and Leprosy

17:30-18:00 Sparkling Wine Cocktail (Brut/Prosecco!)

End of the first day

DAY 2

9:30-12:15 Session IV: Bioarchaeology, Modeling, and Perspectives on Ancient Pathogens

Mohammed Al Ahdal and Marco Milanese (Session Chairs): Introductory remarks

Archaeology of Sant’Imbenia

9:30-9:40
Elisabetta Garau, Marco Rendeli
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Seeds for Thought: Overview of the Archaeology of Sant’Imbenia

9:40-9:50
Rossella Filigheddu
Dipartimento di Scienze della Natura e del Territorio, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Phenotypic Analysis of Seeds from Sant’Imbenia

9:50-10:00
Alberto Leon
University Health Network, Toronto, Canada
Summary of Sequencing of Seeds from Sant’Imbenia

Analysis of a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

10:00-10:10
Franco Campus
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Bioarcheaology of a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

10:10-10:20
Andrea Montella, Vittorio Mazzarello
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Histological Analysis of Mummified Tissue from the Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

10:20-10:30
Luca Simbula, Gianni Meloni, Paolo Lampus
Dipartimento di Scienze Chirurgiche, Microchirurgiche e Mediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
X-Ray Examination of Mummies and Bones from a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

10:30-10:40
Cristiano Farace, Roberto Madeddu
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
A Possible Estimation of Historical Pollution Increases by Heavy Metals Analysis in Ancient Bones: Emerging Data from Castelsardo Mummies and Comparison with Mummies from Other Centuries

10:40-10:50
Manuela Murgia, Bianca Paglietti
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Identification of Sporigens in a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

10:50-11:00
Claudia Viganò, Patrizia Marongiu
Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Analysis of Pathogens Using PCR of Biomaterial from a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

11:00-11:20 Coffee

11:20-11:30
Luca Ruiu, Ignazio Floris
Dipartimento di Agraria, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
First Report of Insects and Other Arthropods on the Mummies Found inside a Crypt of the Castelsardo Cathedral (Sardinia, Italy)

11:30-11:40
Nikki Kelvin
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Mother-and-Infant Deaths from a Crypt of Sant’Antonio Abate Cathedral, Castelsardo

Historical Modelling and Perspectives

11:40-11:50
Alessandro Ponzelleti
Art Historian, Sassari, Italy
Practices and Burial Crypts in Churches of Sardinia: Some Examples

11:50-12:00
Luca Sanna
Dipartimento di Storia, Scienze dell’Uomo e della Formazione, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
An Integrated Bioarchaeology Project in North-West Sardinia: the Contribution of Preventive Archeology

12:00-12:10
Dario Piombino-Mascali
EURAC, Bolzano, Italy
The Sicily Mummy Project

12:10-12:20
Giampaolo Piga, Assumpciò Malgosa, Antonio Brunetti, Simona Spada, Stefano Enzo.
Dipartimento di Chimica e Farmacia, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Anthropological and Chemico-Physical Studies on the Mummies of Peter II of Aragon and Blanca d’Anjou

12:20-12:30
Pierre-Olivier Méthot
Institute for the History of Medicine and Health, Geneva University, Geneva, Switzerland
What is a Pathogen? Perspectives (and Problems) from Medical Bacteriology and Pathogenomics

12:30-12:50 Concluding Remarks

David Kelvin
A Cryptic Approach to Future Studies

Salvatore Rubino
Closing Remarks

End of the Meeting

Organizing Committee
Salvatore Rubino (Co-Chair), David Kelvin (Co-Chair)
Attilio Mastino, Marco Milanese, Bruno Masala, Nikki Kelvin, and Andrea Montella

Sponsors
University of Sassari
• “International PhD School in Biomolecular and Biotechnological Sciences”
• Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche
• Scuola di Dottorato, “Storia, Letterature e Cultura Mediterraneo”

International Sponsors
• University Health Network, Toronto, Canada
• IDR, Canada
• Shantou University Medical School, Shantou, China
• Journal of Infection in Developing Countries

This meeting is in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the University of Sassari.

Organizing Secretariat: Segreteria Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Viale San Pietro 43 B, 07100 Sassari segrdip@uniss.it

To register or receive more information or submit an abstract: rubino(at)uniss(dot)it or nkelvin(at)jidc(dot)org

Mummies, Bones, and Ancient Pathogens Conference Program

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Mummies, Bones and Ancient Pathogens — The Official Conference Poster

Below is the Official Poster for the Ancient Pathogens Conference in Sardinia, Italy.  More posts on the conference are to come including the full conference program.

And until then, here is a link to a past post on pathogens — My search for the Contagion Sign in Toronto.

http://blog.jidc.org/2011/09/16/some-friday-science-fun-contagion/

PDF of the Poster for Download:  AncientPathogensConference_SardiniaItaly

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A Plague of Bones: Conference!

Without a doubt, my favourite research project I have ever been a part of is the ancient Pathogens project. This was my research focus during my Visiting Professorship at the University of Sassari, Sardinia, Italy in 2010. This was my Indian Jones moment, except the treasure was not rare artifacts but the discovery of ancient pathogens.

In Sardinia there is an abundance of ancient and medieval mass graves (see burial map).  Although these mass graves data back more than 3,000 years, the reason for the mass grave construction still remains a mystery.  Thereby a fascinating scientific problem exists:  What did these people buried together die from?

Archeology of Sardinia

We hypothesized that by sequencing the nonhuman DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of the victims in the mass graves, we could identify a pathogen that may have infected these people and caused their death.   Our list of pathogenic suspects that may have caused death included Yersinia pestis, Salmonella enterica, Bacillos anthracis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  This mode of attack, sequencing ancient DNA to determine cause of death, is not new and previous examples include identification of Salmonella enterica enterica serovar Thypi as the causative agent of the ancient plague of Athens in 430 BC [1] and Yersinia pestis as the agent of the Black Plague [2–4] although the later has been disputed [5].   Importantly, mass graves are commonly devised during a disease outbreak to limit the spread of disease, as in Europe during the Black Plague.  Therefore, we speculated that the people buried together in the mass graves of Sardinia died of the same cause, a disease epidemic.  By identifying and studying the causative agent of ancient plagues, we hope to learn about the evolving nature of human and animal modern pathogens so that we can model current and future epidemics.

Since I left Sardinia and my little project, the ancient Pathogen Project has grown enormously.  And that brings us to the announcement of the Ancient Pathogens meeting hosted by Professor Salvatore Rubino in Sardinia, Italy, in September.  The conference is sponsered by JIDC, University Health Network, Shantou University Medical School, Immune Diagnostics and Research, Comune Di Stintino, University of Sassari. This is an exciting opportunity!

Mass grave excavation in Alghero, Sardinia

Titled Mummies, Bones, and Ancient Pathogens, the conference will take place 7-8 September 2012, in Stintino, Sardinia, Italy, at the STINTINO Palazzo Comunale. Over the course of the two days, four sessions on “Archaic and Modern Genomes”, “Evolutionary Medicine, Ancient Pathogens and Pathologies”, “Ancient Pathogens”, and “Bioarchaeology of Sardinia and Sicily” will be held. Several of Europe’s foremost researchers in the fields of Archaeology, Bioarchaeology, the History of Medicine, and Ancient Pathogens are featured speakers, including Prof. Carsten Pusch of the Institute of Human GeneticsUniversity of Tübingen, Germany;  Prof. Bernardino Fantini University of Geneva, Switzerland; Prof. Marco Milanese, University of Sassari; Susanna Sawyer University of Tübingen, Germany; Prof. Raffaella Bianucci University of Turin; Prof. Paolo Francalacci University of Sassari; Prof. Marco Rendeli, University of Sassari; Elisabetta Garau, Unversity of Sassari; Rossella Filigheddu, University of Sassari; and Dr. Alberto Leo Shantou University to name a few. Just to tantalize you, here are some titles of the exciting presentations:

“Archaic Genomes: A Story Written in Neanderthal and Denisova DNA”

“Placing the sequence of “Ötzi the Iceman” in the high resolution Y chromosome phlylogeny by whole genome sequencing”

“Cancer and Infectious Diseases: the Challenge of Soft Tissue Paleopathology”

“Vector-Borne Diseases in Ancient Human Remains”

“The Sicily Mummy Project”

“First Insights into the Metagenome of Ancient Egyptian Mummies Using Next Generation Sequencing”

“Sequencing DNA from Ancient Seeds with Medicinal Properties”

For more information including registration, please visit the conference website http://www.mummiesbonesandancientpathogens.org/  or email Prof. Salvatore Rubino at rubino(at)uniss(dot)it

Reference List

    1.    Papagrigorakis MJ, Yapijakis C, Synodinos PN, Baziotopoulou-Valavani E (2006) DNA examination of ancient dental pulp incriminates typhoid fever as a probable cause of the Plague of Athens. Int J Infect Dis 10: 206-214. S1201-9712(05)00178-5 [pii];10.1016/j.ijid.2005.09.001 [doi].

2.    Raoult D, Aboudharam G, Crubezy E, Larrouy G, Ludes B, Drancourt M (2000) Molecular identification by “suicide PCR” of Yersinia pestis as the agent of medieval black death. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 97: 12800-12803. 10.1073/pnas.220225197 [doi];220225197 [pii].

3.    Drancourt M, Aboudharam G, Signoli M, Dutour O, Raoult D (1998) Detection of 400-year-old Yersinia pestis DNA in human dental pulp: an approach to the diagnosis of ancient septicemia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 95: 12637-12640.

4.    Drancourt M, Raoult D (2004) Molecular detection of Yersinia pestis in dental pulp. Microbiology 150: 263-264.

5.    Gilbert MT, Cuccui J, White W, Lynnerup N, Titball RW, Cooper A, Prentice MB (2004) Absence of Yersinia pestis-specific DNA in human teeth from five European excavations of putative plague victims. Microbiology 150: 341-354.

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And it was a SUCCESS! — JIDC, OA Week Reception at Toronto General Hospital

To join in the Open Access Week festivities, we hosted an OA Week Reception in Toronto at the Toronto General Hospital.  The reception was held on Friday 28 October and focused on gaining knowledge and discussing points of Open Access and the role of JIDC.  AND it was FABULOUS!  Thanks to everyone who was involved and attended. And special thanks to Donna Okubo at PLoS for all her help!

I was thrilled by the people who came out and their interest in JIDC and Open Access publishing. 

I was so excited to have Dr. Lorelei Silverman and Dr. Rosalind Silverman, who established the Models of Human Disease Conference, attend the event.  The conference is annually held in Toronto, Canada.  The purpose of the conference is to serve as a forum for scientists from around the world to exchange their ideas on model organisms or cells to better understand various diseases.  Model organisms include the following: rodents, yeast, Drosophila, C. elegans, zebra fish, chicken, Dictyostelium, snail, crayfish, etc.  What an important concept to have a conference focusing on ”The Use of Animals Models to Improve the Investigation of Human Diseases”.  It is summed up by their tag line: “Better models for better drugs!”   Look for future posts on the Models of Human Diseases Conference and how JIDC will be working with this event.

Me with Lorelei and Rosalind

I had sent one of the students from the lab to this conference this summer and it was a great experience for him—it served as a springboard for him to develop his PhD project into a paper!

I was also pleased to have a JIDC author attend our reception.  It was great to congratulate him on his JIDC paper.  We also discussed the mentoring system, open access publishing and the frustrations of writing a paper and getting it published.

Me with a JIDC Author!

Thanks to everyone else who came out.  It was so great to meet all of you and hear your thoughts on Open Access and JIDC!

Alyson

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THEY’RE HEEERREEE! The JIDC Ts!

Eeeeeee!  The JIDC T-shirts came in from the printers this week.  In the office we were all very excited.  And today I have just finished sending the shirts to some of the JIDC Open Access Week winners and JIDC Editors.  Can’t wait to everyone to receive the shirts!

Want to join the JIDC T-shirt wearing team? Send in a picture of you wearing your JIDC for posting on the Blog or feel free to post your picture to the JIDC Facebook page.

Here we are at JIDC Canada wearing our JIDC Ts proudly!

It's not too COLD in Canada to wear our JIDC T!

If you are interested in obtaining a JIDC T-shirt and you were not a winner in our T-shirt contest, please contact me at akelvin(at)jidc(dot)org.

Happy Friday Everyone!

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The Birth of JIDC…A new kind of Journal

In the beginning . . . there was . . . an Idea . . . JIDC

There is an old saying that “Success has a thousand mothers and failure has none”. JIDC, I am proud to say, has thousands of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Truly, thousands. The success is of JIDC is the fruit of the dedication and hard work of editors, mentors, proofreaders, page setters, reviewers, web designers, web wizards, translators,  and of course the authors who contribute their precious work to JIDC.

Interestingly, I am frequently asked how JIDC began. In a way it began overlooking a mountain in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in May of 2006. A great number of my associates were attending a meeting—the first International Meeting of Infectious Disease in Central Asia, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We had many intense discussions on the problems facing scientists from developing countries attempting to publish in predominantly western journals and from these discussions evolved the unorthodox idea of a journal that was dedicated to scientists and infectious disease in developing countries.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan AdvanTours Photo

Many of us had long recognized that scientists and infectious disease science from developing countries were dramatically underrepresented in journals published in western countries. The underlying  science from infectious disease clinicians and scientists, we believed, was of a high calibre, but often the writing and presentation within manuscripts were not.  The solution, we summarized, in the majestic scenery of Bishkek, was to provide assistance in the writing and presentation of data for scientists’ draft JIDC manuscripts.  We thus added to JIDC a mentor system to guide and aid authors from developing countries with both writing skills and manuscript organization.

But alas, finances presented the greatest hurdle for scientists to publish and for the JIDC to function. Many journals require a payment of sorts to be made for accepted manuscripts to be published. The average going rate of $3,000 USD in western journals is manageable by western scientists, but the amount is simply out of the reach for many scientists and clinicians in developing countries. In fact, this may represent nearly one half a year’s wages in some developing countries. The JIDC, we declared, must be free of fees for those who cannot afford them. JIDC today is open access, free to submit, and the publication fee is waived for those who cannot afford the modest fee of 200 euros. The financial burden of maintaining JIDC is shouldered by volunteers of JIDC and grants from foundations and organizations such as the Foundation of Bank of Sardinia, Sardegna Ricerche, the University of Sassari, Shantou University Medical College, the Li Ka Shing Foundation, and the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to these people and organizations.

Through the months and years that followed the Bishkek meeting, JIDC was able to attract the dedicated team that now manages submitted manuscripts, reviews manuscripts, edits manuscripts, and publishes papers. The success of JIDC is the success of the many people who have joined in this exciting and rewarding journey! As we look forward to our fifth an

niversary in 2012, the future is in our hands and it is a glorious sunrise.

Salvatore Rubino, Editor in Chief humble servant…..

JIDC Website:  http://www.jidc.org/index.php/journal

JIDC Editorial Meeting 2011 in Stintino, Sardinia

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