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30 Oct 2013

Do we need a UK Peptide Society?

I’m sure I am not the only one to have wondered this. When you look around Europe, other countries all seem to have their own Peptide Socities, or if not a formal ‘Society’ they have an annual or biennial Peptide Symposium. For example, there is now a German Peptide Symposium every two years. The most recent, the 11th German Peptide Symposium was held in Munich in March 2013 over 4 days and these meetings are held in English to encourage international participation. Reflecting a proud history of peptide science in Poland, the 22nd Polish Peptide Symposium was held at the start of September and was the most recent in a biennial series of meetings. The Dutch peptide community meets on an annual basis, most recently in Amsterdam in April 2013.Other general peptide science meetings are held in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Hungary and Spain/ Portugal amongst others.

The European Peptide Symposium has been held every other year since 1958 on an informal basis. The European Peptide Society (EPS) was set-up in 1989 to put the planning and organisation of the Symposium on a sound basis and was formally established as a Scientific Society in March 2012. The main function of the EPS is to organise the biennial European Peptide Symposium and publish the proceedings volume. It also acts to promote the peptide sciences in Europe by supporting and coordinating the activities at the national level through a Council consisting of representatives from each of the constituent countries. The proceedings of the most recent meeting, held in Athens in September, 2012 are available to download for EPS Members. There is currently no charge for membership.

So, what is the situation in the UK and is there a need for a UK Peptide Society? In common with other countries, peptide science has gone through good times and bad over the last 50 years, but is currently going from strength to strength. However, there has never been a UK Peptide Society or a single meeting held on a regular basis covering the peptide sciences. A number of academic societies have interest groups that cover aspects of the peptide sciences, such as the Protein & Peptide Science Group (PPSG) of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The Biochemical Society has organised focus meetings in the past on various aspects of peptide science. The biophysical and materials science aspects of the subject have been covered by organisations such as the British Biophysical Society, the Macro Group UK and the Biological Physics Group of the Institute of Physics. However, there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of communication and cross-fertilisation between the different communities.

Avokado Media organises the annual Peptide Conference. This originally had a more industrial focus, with an emphasis on GMP peptide production and therapeutic applications, but there has been a greater contribution from academics to recent meetings, making this a well balanced and interesting forum.

Recently, a new meeting has been launched by Oxford Global as an addition to their Oxford Global Proteins series. The first Peptides Congress will be held in London in April 3 -4 , 2014 alongside the 7th Annual Proteins & Antibodies Congress. There will also be a Pre-Congress Peptides Seminar on April 2, 2014. This is being organised by Prof. John Howl of the University of Wolverhampton and will include an overview of the peptides therapeutics market, various methods of engineering peptides, techniques for successful peptide conjugation and the world of peptidomimetics. It will also cover routes of peptide administration and the latest academic research in the area of peptide drug discovery and new therapeutic applications such as venom peptides, cell-penetrating peptides and homing peptides.

Cambridge Research Biochemicals has been an active supporter of peptide meetings in the UK for many years, including the annual ‘Chemistry & Biology of Peptides’ meeting organised by the PPSG of the RSC. You can read more about the most recent meeting in Laurent Caron’s blog.

Perhaps my favourite meeting is the annual PPSG Early Stage Researcher Meeting because it is for PhD students and postdocs working in all branches of peptide and protein science and gives them the chance to make oral and poster presentations of their work, with prizes for the best oral presentation and best poster. The meeting is organised by Prof. Alethea Tabor of the Dept. of Chemistry at UCL and for 3 years has been held at the RSC Chemistry Centre in central London. However, this year the meeting is moving to Durham where it is being co-organised by Dr. Steven Cobb (subject of a recent blog) and is being sponsored by Cambridge Research Biochemicals. You can read more about the meeting and also register via the PPSG website.

So, the question is: “does the UK need a Peptide Society?”or perhaps more pertinently a UK Peptide Symposium? Would there be a demand for a 3 or 4 day meeting every other year encompassing the whole of the peptide sciences or are the existing, more focused meetings sufficient?