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Emory hosts symposium to showcase chemical biology in Atlanta

Emory Report | March 14, 2018

The first-annual Greater Atlanta Chemical Biology Symposium will debut at Emory University on Saturday, April 21, to showcase the Southeast’s talent in chemical biology — the interdisciplinary field that uses chemistry tools and methods to understand and manipulate biological systems.

The symposium will highlight discovery at the interface of the two fields by undergraduates, graduate students and faculty. The event may also foster collaboration for the scientists, whose work includes pharmacology, developing antibacterial agents and creating chemical tools to probe the immune system.

"Chemical biology is a burgeoning field of research that touches on everything from medicine to agriculture," says Bill Wuest, GRA Distinguished Investigator and acting associate professor of chemistry at Emory College, chair of the symposium’s organizing committee.

“The focus of this year’s event is to both highlight junior faculty members and also give undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to present their accomplishments to the community,” he adds.

Faculty hiring has expanded the breadth of chemical biology research in the symposium’s host institutions, which include Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia.

“New hires, myself included, have been attracted to the community that is developing here,” says Wuest, whose lab is developing new methods to better understand various bacterial processes, including resistance and virulence.

As chair of the inaugural symposium’s organizing committee, Wuest drew upon his experience at his previous institution, Temple University in Philadelphia. Temple regularly participates in an annual symposium on the chemistry-biology interface that highlights local talent in the Mid-Atlantic region, focusing on early-career faculty and students. “It was wildly successful,” Wuest says. “I believe the time is right to start one in Atlanta.” 

“A lot is going on,” says M. G. Finn, chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a member of the organizing committee. “Chemical biology underpins vast activity in Atlanta on immunology, drug development, diagnostics and many other applications. The symposium’s host institutions boast an impressive number and quality of chemical biology investigators.” 

Invited speakers include a panel of the field’s rising stars in the Southeast, with keynote speeches from Jenn Prescher, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine, and Joel Schneider from the National Institutes of Health Chemical Biology Lab.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Emory College Department of Chemistry. Registration is required but the symposium is free to all attendees, thanks to the generosity of the host institutions, the Georgia Research Alliance and five journals: Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, ChemBioChem, ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, ACS Infectious Diseases and ACS Combinatorial Science.

Editor's note: This story includes information adapted from a story by Georgia Tech College of Sciences.