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  4th May 2009  
  New twists behind scientific understanding of fear, anxiety, ageing & jet lag

First ever meeting of EMBO Gold medalists attracts 300 researchers in Singapore

1. Twelve eminent scientists, winners of the prestigious European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Gold Medal award from 1990-2008, will be in Singapore from 4 to 6 May at the Euro Gold Singapore 2009 symposium. Together with researchers based here, they will discuss a range of topics in developmental, cell and molecular biology which have widespread and profound implications on human health and disease.

2. Some topics that will be covered at the symposium include (Click here for the detailed programme of the symposium):


"Origami with no hands: how genes influence growth and form" - an opening talk by Enrico Coen 1 , from the John Innes Centre, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK. Professor Coen used a combination of approaches to demonstrate how genes modify growth of multicellular tissues to give rise to different 3- dimensional shapes of organisms during development. He has developed models to describe how genes interact to dictate flower and petal formation, and believed that the basic principles could be applied to understand the development of shape and form in animals.


Metabolism to chromatin remodelling: the CLOCK connection" - a talk by Paolo Sassone-Corsi from the University of California, Irvine, USA. Professor Sassone-Corsi will discuss the molecular factors controlling circadian rhythms, which are intrinsic time-tracking systems in the body. Disruptions in circadian rhythms can lead to a host of diseases including depression, insomnia and jet lag, which is a huge concern of frequent intercontinental travellers or those on shift work.


"A paradigm for fear" - a talk by Dr Suresh Jesuthasan from the A*STAR-Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Neuroscience Research Partnership programme. Dr Jesuthasan is studying the mechanisms of fear and anxiety in vertebrates at the molecular level. He will share about his work using stress-induced pheromones to evoke the "alarm response" that leads to behaviour like freezing or darting, and how he uses this response to study the neural circuitry underlying innate fear in the vertebrate brain.


"The role of p38MAPK with advancing age" - a talk by Dr Dmitry Bulavin, from the A*STAR Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology. Dr Bulavin will speak about the factors of aging at the molecular level. He will demonstrate how modulation of gene activity in mice may provide new avenues for treating certain age-related degenerative diseases.

3. Professor Philip Ingham, Deputy Director at A*STARís Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), and the main coordinator for the symposium, said, "We are extremely delighted to have such distinguished colleagues join us at this landmark gathering. We hope that the intellectual discourse and exchange of ideas will foster new collaborations and lead to ground-breaking solutions for existing clinical problems."

4. Said Professor Neal Copeland, Executive Director of IMCB, "This meeting is an excellent opportunity for networking and scientific progress. Increasingly, the Biopolis is becoming the choice meeting point for such high-level, international science meetings, and IMCB is proud to be part of this growth process. This is also in line with IMCBís mission to develop and foster a vibrant research culture in Singapore for the advancement of basic biomedical sciences."

5. Three hundred researchers will attend the Euro Gold Singapore 2009 symposium, which is organized by IMCB and jointly supported by the British High Commission, swissnex Singapore and EMBO. It is incidentally the first organised meeting for EMBO Gold medalists since the inception of the annual award in 1986.

6. Many of the invited EMBO Gold medalists, whose outstanding research contributions had earned them the award when they were under the age of 40, have since assumed key leadership roles in international research institutes. Past EMBO Gold Medal winner Dr Jim Smith who now heads the National Institute for Medical Research in UK, said, "I would like to congratulate and thank Prof Ingham and his colleagues at IMCB for the successful organisation of this event. It is indeed an honour to present my latest research findings at this backdrop of cutting-edge research technologies at the Biopolis."

1 Professor Enrico Coen has won numerous awards and recognition for his work, such as a 1998 election to the Royal Society in Britain and a 2001 election as a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences. He is also author of the book titled, "The Art of Genes: How Organisms Make Themselves", that was published in 2000.

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About the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB)

The Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) is a member of Singaporeís Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and is funded through A*STARís Biomedical Research Council BMRC). It is a world-class research institute that focuses its activities on six major fields: Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Structural Biology, Infectious Diseases, Cancer Biology and Translational Research, with core strengths in cell cycling, cell signalling, cell death, cell motility and protein trafficking. Its recent achievements include leading an international consortium that successfully sequenced the entire pufferfish (Fugu) genome. The IMCB was awarded the Nikkei Prize 2000 for Technological Innovation in recognition of its growth into a leading international research centre and its collaboration with industry and research institutes worldwide. Established in 1987, the Institute currently has 35 independent research groups with more than 400 staff members.

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About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research, or A*STAR, is Singapore's lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based Singapore. A*STAR actively nurtures public sector research and development in Biomedical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, with a particular focus on fields essential to Singapore's manufacturing industry and new growth industries. It oversees 14 research institutes and supports extramural research with the universities, hospital research centres and other local and international partners. At the heart of this knowledge-intensive work is human capital. Top local and international scientific talent drive knowledge creation at A*STAR research institutes. The Agency also sends scholars for undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training in the best universities, a reflection of the high priority A*STAR places on nurturing the next generation of scientific talent.

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About the EMBO Gold Medal
The European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) Gold Medal has been awarded annually since its inception in 1986, in recognition of the outstanding achievements and exceptional promise of a young scientist working in an EMBO member state in the broad field of molecular biology. EMBO Gold Medal winners are regarded as role models for other young scientists in Europe, and have invariably gone on to become leaders in their fields.

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