Expectations: Meeting the Luminaries in Cancer Research
Mohit Kumar Jolly on why he is especially looking Forward to the upcoming 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.
I have multiple reasons to be excited to come to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2014 on Physiology or Medicine. First and foremost, it is a perfect place to listen to the long tiring journeys of brilliant and perseverant people who are the rock-stars of science – the Nobel Laureates. Also, the Lindau meetings offer an unparalleled setting to witness the intriguing discussions between these rock-stars and the aspiring rock-stars, i.e. young researchers. Who knows maybe one of these young researchers one day visits Lindau again, but then as a Nobel Laureate! The icing on the cake is that in such a personal setting to meet these legends, I am sure it is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about the human component of scientific research; and of course, bountiful of inspiration.
One of the major themes of this year’s meeting that excites me the most is cancer research. I am looking forward to hear Michael Bishop, who won the Nobel Prize in 1989 for discovering the first human oncogene c-Src. He explained, along with his fellow Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus (who was his post-doc) how some viruses or chemicals inflict some changes on normal genes of a cell and convert them to being oncogenes, thereby forming malignant tumors in the body.
I am also keenly looking forward to listen to Sir Martin J. Evans (Nobel Prize, 2007) share his story of how he cultured Embryonic Stem (ES) cells for the first time in mice. The unique cells in our body that can form all different types of cells in our body (pluripotency) as well as replicate themselves. There has been a recent upsurge in “reprogramming” of cells to so called induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs). These are cells from our body (say skin cells or heart cells for example) that were “forced” by certain treatments to become like ES cells. This way normal cells from adults can be pushed to become capable of giving rise to all different cell types in the body. The burgeoning interest in this field can be gauged by the fact that Shinya Yamanaka, who published his ground-breaking paper on reprogramming to iPSCs published in 2007, was awarded Nobel Prize in 2012. I am excited to discuss with Martin Evans where he sees the intersection of research going on in ES cells and that in iPSC cells, and how these both can be utilized for treating some major diseases all around the world – diabetes, cardiac problems, and the deadliest of all – cancer. It’d be thrilling if cancer cells can be “reprogrammed” to being normal cells – let’s see what Evans and Bishop think about that (look out for my detailed interviews with them later during the conference) !
I’m sure meeting young researchers in cancer research would be a great bonus too. Looking at this year’s list of young scientists – brilliant young people ranging from being Masters’ students to post-docs, I regret why I never applied for the same. But, life is indeed full of surprises, and I was luckily invited to be part of the Lindau Blog team. I’ve been passionate about effective science communication since my college days, when I co-founded a campus science magazine – NERD – which provided an opportunity to students to express their work in an exciting manner, and featured interviews with eminent scientists enthusing students about science. But, I have never been involved in conference blogging – or worked as a journalist reporting news the very moment it is happening – therefore the Lindau team offers a perfect break into such experience too.
Last but certainly not the least, I am curious to see, from a communication perspective, how these rock-stars play a different music tuned to their audience, i.e. how the Noble Laureates communicate their work to a multidisciplinary audience of young researchers. I am sure their talks will be quite different from the ones they give at conferences pertaining to their expertise.
With so much up the sleeves, I am sure that my trip to Lindau is going to be a thrilling one.