The extra challenge (for me and other chemical biologists or biological chemists or what have you) of the spring ACS meeting is that the biological section basically closes down. This year, the entire program was 5 sessions, which were actually all sponsored by another division. So while, at the fall meeting, it’s quite easy to scoot around between enzymes, folding, imaging, etc. within a few pages of the printed program, the spring meeting requires some extra work to find sessions dealing with biologically-related questions.
Don’t fret, though – the scientists who want to talk about these things are still a part of the meeting, and can be discovered in nooks and crannies of the other divisions. Kind of like how rampaging dinosaurs will figure out a way to overcome their female-only DNA to take over the world. Or, to imagine a different definition of that infamous line (in my blog title, you know), perhaps I mean that us Nature editors will still be able to locate these hidden sessions.
That last idea was certainly true for a great program put on by the CHED division, focused on ‘Exploring and Exploiting Nature with Biomimetics’. Not only was this program part of an unusual division,* but it was set in a room in the basement of the North/South building at the end of a hall and around a corner, etc. Too bad there wasn’t also a wardrobe to climb through to reach this magical land of graduate student-invited talks. I didn’t get to see as many of the talks in these three sessions as I would have liked, but they were full of the heavy hitters in the field, including, for example: Ron Breslow, Julius Rebek, Larry Que Jr., Paul Wender, Laura Kiessling, Dirk Trauner… the list goes on and on. Wender gave a nice talk about function-oriented synthesis, in which the complexity of natural products is pared down to the minimum functionality required. In addition to simplifying the synthesis of these molecules, he suggests that we can use this process to better understand the function of the molecule, allowing the design of new (and even simpler) compounds. Eric Kool, on the other hand, is all about making things more complex. He is designing an orthogonal genetic system based on xDNA (expanded DNA, in which each base contains an extra ring). Once that works, maybe we can design some xDinosaurs?
Anyway, congrats to the graduate students for putting together such a great lineup. And now, I’ve mixed up enough pop culture references for one day.
Catherine (associate editor, Nature Chemical Biology)
- To be fair, the sessions were cosponsored by the Biological division, so I didn’t have to look that hard.