VAAM Symposium 2023: Biology of Bacterial Natural Product Producers

HIPS Researchers organize symposium with leading international experts from the field

Saarbrücken, October 23, 2023 – This year’s symposium of the VAAM Expert Group “Biology of Bacterial Natural Producers” took place in Saarbrücken from 20 – 22 September. It was organised by HIPS group leaders Christine Beemelmanns, Julian Hegemann, Alexey Gurevich and Kenan Bozhüyük. With over 170 participants, this expert group meeting was very well attended.

The “Vereinigung für Allgemeine und Angewandte Mikrobiologie” (VAAM) annually hosts a symposium at changing locations in Germany. Additionally expert groups hold section meetings with a focus on special topics. The topics of this year’s symposium for natural product producers span from microbial physiology, ecology, genomics and metabolomics to natural product discovery and natural product-based drug discovery. All participants have special interest in the role, function and origin of natural products that are produced by microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and microalgae. The program included five keynote lectures by invited speakers, two topic speakers, 25 selected presentations by PhD students, postdocs and junior group leaders. Furthermore, 76 scientific posters were presented during the three-day symposium, of which four won a prize for best poster. Additionally, two presenters were awarded a prize for best presentation. Besides these outstanding achievements on site, the "Hendrik Wolff Prize for Mass Spectrometric Methods in Microbiology" was awarded to Nadya Abbood. The prize is presented annually at the VAAM section meeting in memory of the scientist Dr Henrik Wolff.

The first keynote lecture was given by Marnix Medema from the Wageningen University (The Netherlands). Medema presented bioinformatics tools to decipher the chemical language of microbiomes. Joleen Masschelein from the KU Leuven (Belgium) gave the second lecture. She showed her work on zeamines, a group of unusual antibiotics with long-chain polyamines. Pierre Stallforth, from Leibniz-HKI in Jena, gave an insight into the role of natural products in interactions between microorganisms, as well as his work in palaeobiotechnology. The fourth keynote lecturer, Barrie Wilkinson from the John Innes Centre in Norwich (United Kingdom), presented his group's research on the biosynthesis and mechanism of action of obafluorin, an inhibitor of threonyl-tRA synthetase.

Topic speaker Daniel Petras, from the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen, demonstrated how metabolomics can be used to study the functions of molecules within microbial communities and Lena Barra, University of Konstanz, showed how NAD is used as a building block in secondary metabolite biosynthesis. The symposium ended with a keynote lecture by Helge Bode, from the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, who presented methods for optimising the heterologous production of natural products and illustrated how NRPS machinery can be reprogrammed to produce new peptide compounds.

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