Photo: Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse
Photo: Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse
 

What mechanisms do mosquitos use to locate and sting us? What can Neanderthal DNA reveal about their relationship to modern humans? What’s the latest on protein membranes? These are some of the issues being discussed by the leading researchers (including one Nobel laureate) at the “Molecular Life Science” symposium in Stockholm on 15 September.

‘The life sciences are in the middle of a technology-driven revolution, and we deepen our knowledge about cells and their inner workings as well as our brains, bodies, and evolutionary history every single day. Where are we now and what’s around the corner? These are the questions that I hope the symposium can answer, at least in part’, says Gunnar von Heijne, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at Stockholm University and scientific director for the symposium.

Symposium in Aula Magna 15 September

The symposium, arranged by Stockholm University, the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), and Karolinska Institutet in cooperation with the Royal Academy of Sciences, will be held in Aula Magna, Stockholm University. It is the third of six symposia marking the 100-year anniversary of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in 2017.

‘The life sciences is a really broad research area – it includes every living thing and spans many subject areas. Because of rapid technological developments, progress is swift. The foundational research being done can find applications in medicine, veterinary medicine, biotechnology, plant research, forestry and pharmaceuticals, among other areas. This is why the Foundation has earmarked a total of more than 2.5 billion SEK (314 million USD) for life science funding from 2014-2026’, says Marcus Wallenberg, Vice Chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, who will participate in the centenary celebrations together with Göran Sandberg, Executive Director.

The symposium’s four main speakers are world leaders in their fields:

Svante Pääbo, Professor at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, will talk about what Neanderthal DNA can reveal about their relationship to modern humans and on the development of different genetic traits. In his research, he has developed techniques that make it possible to analyse DNA that is thousands of years old.

Leslie Vosshall, Professor at Rockefeller University in New York, will talk about the neurobiology of the world’s most dangerous animal, the mosquito, which transmits diseases like malaria, dengue fever and Zika virus. Among other discoveries, she has identified carbon dioxide receptors in insects, which enable mosquitos to identify their proximity to humans and quickly find a victim.

Rod MacKinnon, Professor at Rockefeller University and Nobel laureate, will talk about ionic channels, a type of protein in the membranes of nerve cells that allows nerve impulses to travel through the body.

Carol Robinson, Professor at Oxford University, will also talk about membrane proteins. Using mass spectrometry, she has broadened our knowledge of protein structures and how energy transport works in cells.

Lecture by David Drew at Stockholm University

Researchers from KTH, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm University and Uppsala University will also talk about how citizen research can be used to map human proteins, how sugar and salt are transported through cell walls, techniques that enable us to understand cognitive processes, and how genetics can show the geographical origins of the Stone Age inhabitants of Scandinavia.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, one of Europe’s largest private research financers, has given a total of 24 billion SEK (3 billion USD) to Swedish research in its first 100 years. Karolinska Institutet, KTH and Stockholm University together have received 6.8 billion SEK, which includes the 3.3 billion SEK from the last ten years alone.

Programme for the anniversary symposium and more information about the celebrations.