SIMB Annual Meeting: Select Session Highlights

Posted 5/10/12 by . Filed under News and Updates, SIMB 2012 Annual Meeting.

SIMB’s 62nd Annual Meeting will be August 12-16 at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Here are some selected session highlights. For more info, visit the meeting web site.


Enzyme engineering and directed evolution
Convener: Nobu Tokuriki, Univ. of British Columbia
Directed evolution has been applied to many enzymes and successful to engineer their properties. Recent theoretical and technological advances expand a potential to create novel enzymes for industrial applications. In this session, we will discuss a frontier in enzyme engineering and directed evolution.

Enzymes for biomass treatment
Convener: Debbie Yaver, Novozymes

To enable second generation ethanol and advanced biofuels production from lignocellulosic biomass enzymes for cost effective hydrolysis are needed. This session will focus on recent discoveries in enzymes for biomass hydrolysis including high temperature and halophillic cellulases. New insights into mechanisms of fungal glycosyl hydrolases and oxidative enzymes will also be discussed.

Environmental Microbiology

Bioremediation and Biodegradation
Convener: Melanie Mormile, Missouri M&T

The use of microorganisms for remediating contaminated sites provides more environmentally friendly methods than more conventional methodologies. In our session, we will cover topics ranging from metal (chromium and mercury) remediation, the latest insights into hydrocarbon biodegradation, and the state of the science for munitions degradation.

Biohydrogen Production
Convener: Melanie Mormile, Missouri M&T

Due to depletion of fossil fuels and the effects from burning these fuels, it is crucial that new forms of energy, especially renewal sources, be developed. Hydrogen is attractive as an alternative form of energy as it can be formed from biomass and when used, produces water as an innocuous waste product. Our session will cover the latest research on biohydrogen production. The topics covered will include dark fermentation reactions, hydrogen production from cyanobacteria, the use of thermophiles for hydrogen production to genetic modifications to microorganisms to enhance hydrogen production.

Advances in microbial fuel cells
Electroactive biofilms (EABs) are heterogeneous microbial community that conserve energy through extracellular electron transfer to solid surfaces and electrodes. The session will focus on EABs and their application to bioelectricity production in Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs). In the first part, the speakers will report recent fundamental advances in EAB characterization through direct electrochemistry and microbiological methods. In the second part, the focus will be on MFCs for wastewater treatment and bioremediation, both at laboratory and pilot plant scale.

Zero waste technologies for biofuels production: Impacts of extremophiles and their enzymes
Convener: Rajesh Sani, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

It is now widely accepted that extremophilic microbes including thermophiles are recognized as one of the most efficient microbial groups in the conversion of solid wastes including lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels. For example, advantages of using thermostable cellulases, xylanases for lignocellulose degradation include higher stability (greater half-lives, allowing elongated hydrolysis times), low viscosity (increased solubility of reactants and products), increased flexibility for the process configurations, reduced risk of contamination, and lower energy cost for cooling in case of thermal pre-treatment of substrates. Therefore, carrying out hydrolysis and/or fermentation at higher temperature will ultimately lead to improved process performance through decreased enzyme dosage and reduced lignocellulose degradation time, thus, resulting in decreased costs. This session will discuss advantages and limitations of solid waste conversion technologies using Extremophiles and Their Enzymes.

Fermentation and Cell Culture

Evolution, adaptation, mutation and selection in fermentation
Convener: Helia Radianingtyas

Evolution, adaptation and selection in fermentation This session will focus on the advances in microbial dynamic under specific environment, as well as the impact of selective pressures and changes on population selection. Furthermore, the implication of this prolonged treatment at genome level will also be discussed.

Metabolic Engineering

Specialty chemicals/materials from renewable resources
Convener: Kristala J. Prather, MIT

New tools, methodologies and pathways in metabolic engineering have brought forth a number of systems for the biological production of chemicals, with many heading towards commercial production. This session will focus on advancements for the microbial production of specialty chemicals and materials from renewable resources.

Natural Products

Natural product biosynthesis, structure, and function
Convener: Douglas Mitchell, U. of Ill

Topics for this session cover diverse examples of natural product biosynthesis, including the elucidation of chemical structure and biological function. Although ribosomal and non-ribosomal peptide derived compounds are of interest, our talks are not restricted to such natural products.

Natural products from unusual sources
Convener: David Newman, NIH

Antibiotics in the widest sense of the term have usually been found from terrestrial sources via fermentation, but the search using microbes has dwindled due to “finding the same old, same old compounds”. However, with the discovery that microbes have significant numbers of “cryptic secondary metabolite clusters,” has come the realization that control of these clusters may well produce molecules that have not been reported from microbes, be they well studied or not even known previously. This symposium will help to show how modification of assays and fermentation conditions coupled to a knowledge of genomics may well be the “new frontier” in discovery, utilizing sources old and new.

Special Sessions

Synthetic Biology Tools and Applications
Convener: Christopher Voight, MIT

This session will focus on methodologies to accelerate genetic engineering. Topics will include next-generation computer-aided design (CAD), the characterization of genetic parts, and the construction of large genetic systems.

Roundtable on Women in Science
Convener: Joan W. Bennett, Rutgers

Included in this year’s program is a roundtable entitled “Women in Science with an emphasis on the role of women in SIMB, and how to inspire young women to pursue a career in the sciences. During the history of SIMB eight women have served as presidents, three have won the Thom award, and seven women have been appointed Fellows. The overall theme for discussion will be what inspired the participants to get involved in industrial. Participants will also share the importance of mentors, obstacles, and the individual perspective of women in science now. Attendees then will be encouraged to share their experiences as students and professionals in science. Based on the discussions and feedback, consideration will be given to the formation of a women’s committee to promote contributions by women to SIMB.

Next generation DNA sequencing technologies and applications
Convener: Jon Armstrong, Cofactor Genomics, Inc.

Next-generation sequencing and analysis provides the ability to assess the genomic organization and regulatory processes of organisms at a previously unimagined resolution. This session will bring together execution and thought leaders, from molecular biology and bioinformatics, to present current strategies and challenges associated with generating, analyzing, and utilizing next-generation sequencing data.

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