Meeting report

Advanced School on experimental and bioinformatics tools for protein 3D-structure determination and analysis

Varadero, Cuba, November 2015

[Students] Some of the Latin-American students - from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Cuba - attending our School. Edwin Reyes (U. Nacional de Colombia), winner of one of the poster prize awards, is in the middle.
[Prize winners] From left to right, the IUCr Journals poster prize winner: Mey L. Reytor (U. of Havana, Cuba), and two of the other four winners of poster prizes: Theresa Nuguit (U. of Hamburg, Germany) and Aymara Cabrera (U. of Havana, Cuba).
[Participants] Participants at the entrance of Mercure Playa de Oro Hotel, venue of the School.

The Advanced School 'Experimental and bioinformatics tools for protein 3D-structure determination and analysis' (http://protein-2015.uh.cu/index.html) was organized by the Center for Protein Studies of the U. of Havana, the Cuban Section of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Center for Molecular Immunology under the auspices of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB). It was held November 9-13, 2015, at Varadero Beach in Cuba.

Of the 52 participants, 33 were PhD or postdoc students that came to our course to hear case-study presentations, participate in a round-table discussion and discuss their results in poster sessions. All of the 52 participants, coming from 12 different countries, received funding, which covered the registration fees, transfer and accommodation in a resort.

An opening lecture delivered by Efstathios Gonos, member of the IUBMB Executive Committee for Congresses and Conferences, was followed by five lectures that covered experimental methods, such as small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and X-ray crystallography to study proteins and protein-protein complexes. Late in the afternoon, a round table addressed undergraduate and graduate educational programs related to bioinformatics and techniques for protein structure determination. It was interesting to hear about related experiences in Canada, Cuba, Israel and the USA. At the end of the round table a Brazilian representative of the PosLatAm Program explained the opportunities that such an initiative is offering for young researchers and their institutions to strengthen and develop biophysics in Latin America. On the second day, lectures and discussions focused on molecular modeling and dynamic simulations and their contribution to the study of protein stability, function, conformation and interactions. On the third day, case studies in the Cuban biotechnological industry and other biomedical projects in which the contribution of structural and computational biology approaches has been decisive were presented. The last day featured, finally, two lectures about publishing scientific papers and the experiences of some of the lecturers who had served as journal editors.

At the end of the School, students and lecturers were surveyed for their views. The general comments were positive and encouraging; the discussion-evaluation of posters was one of the best-evaluated activities by all participants in this academic experience. Poster prize awards went to Teresa Nuguit (U. of Hamburg), Aymara Cabrera (U. of Havana), Karelia Delgado (U. of Calgary, Canada) and Edwin Reyes (U. Nacional de Colombia). The IUCr Journals prize was awarded to Dr Mey L. Reytor from the U. of Havana, Cuba.

Rossana García-Fernández, Pedro A. Valiente and Carlos Álvarez Valcárcel