Recap: 2023 Natural Products Conference

Posted 4/3/23 by . Filed under Featured News, Meeting Calendar, News and Updates.

Fairfax, VA (April 3, 2023) – We were lucky to hold the 3rd Natural Products Conference in January 2020 just as COVID-19 was about to sweep the globe. Three years later, we were so pleased to welcome the 4th International Conference on Natural Product Discovery and Development in the Genomic Era back to San Diego on January 8 – 12, 2023, with a record-setting attendance of 297 participants from 20 countries. Like the previous meetings, the 4th Natural Products Conference was again jointly sponsored by SIMB, the Korean Society for Microbiology and Biotechnology (KMB), and the Society of Actinomycetes Japan (SAJ).

We were delighted to have Professor Frances Arnold of CalTech, the 2018 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, open the meeting on Sunday with an inspirational keynote lecture, titled “Innovation by Evolution – Bring New Chemistry to Life”. The following four days were packed with a total of 43 oral and 164 poster presentations, covering the most recent advances in natural products with six thematic topics of: Genome Mining, Metabolomics & Synthetic Biology, Natural Product Discovery, Natural Product Isolation & Structural Elucidation, Biosynthesis & Enzymology, Biocatalysis & Protein Engineering, and New Modes of Action & Drug Discovery. The conference also provided ample opportunities for informal knowledge sharing and networking, with an excursion to the beautiful Balboa Park.

Online Program
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We offered two workshops, for the first time at this series of Natural Products Conference, titled “Genome Mining for Natural Product Biosynthesis” and “Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking (GNPS) for Natural Product Discovery”, tailored particularly for graduate students and postdocs. Genome mining has been transformed into a powerful tool that drives natural products discovery. GNPS has provided a community-wide, open-access knowledge base of tandem mass (MS/MS) spectrometry data to aid natural product identification and discovery. Both workshops were so well received that we had to cap the attendees to ensure the interactive, hand-on experience.

We celebrated natural products at the conference banquet, with Professor Phil Crews of UC Santa Cruz giving a sensational lecture, titled “Wines Merging Natural Products Chemistry Fundamentals with Sensory Evaluations”, accompanied with three kinds of premium vintage wines. What a special treat! We honored Professor David Cane of Brown University and Professor Jon Clardy of Harvard Medical School as honorary co-chairs for their life-long dedication and exceptional contributions to natural product discovery, biosynthesis, and development, as well as mentorship and inspiration to the next generation natural product scientists. We presented two Diversity Travel Awards to Ms. Maribel Okiye and Mr. Derrick Ousley, both of University of Michigan, for their participation and outstanding presentations. We congratulated six Best Poster Award winners of Mr. Derrick Ousley, University of Michigan; Ms. Miku Nakahara, University of Shizuoka; Ms. Ji Hyeon Im, Seoul National University; Ms. Haoqian Liang, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Dr. Manuel Einsiedler, Technical University of Dresden; and Ms. Angela Nichols, The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology, one for each of the six thematic topics, a daunting task for our judgers to select from the 164 outstanding posters presented.

I would like to thank members of the International Organizing Committee, the speakers, session conveners, poster judgers, my Program Co-chairs—Alison Narayan, Katherine Ryan, and Yi Tang—and the awesome team of SIMB office—Haley Cox, Tina Hockaday, Jennifer Johnson, Suzannah Citrenbaum, and James Earle—for all their assistance and hard work to make this meeting another great success. It has been an honor and privilege to work with you. I also would like to thank the generous sponsors—Adapsyn Bioscience, Corteva Agriscience, Hexagon Bio, Marine Drugs, Terra Bioworks, as well as support from Dr. Prabu Nambiar—and tabletop exhibitors—On-chip Biotechnologies, Scientific Bioprocessing, and Biolog—for their continued support for Natural Products and SIMB.

I look forward to the 5th Natural Products Conference, again in San Diego, on January 5 – 9, 2025!

Ben Shen
Program Chair

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