Mina Bissell, Distinguished Scientist, Life Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is among the first ever to receive a Discovery Health Channel Medical Honor for “remarkable discoveries and lifesaving contributions to the field of medicine”, specifically breast cancer research. Dr. Bissell was nominated for this honor by the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation from whom she had also received the 2003 Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Research. Among the many nominations from different organizations, Drs. Bissell and Willet from Harvard Medical School were chosen to be honored for breast cancer research.

Invertebrate Section Activity Reports in 2004 World Congress

I. 11th International Invertebrate Cell and Tissue Culture Conference

The members and friends of the invertebrate section gathered in San Francisco, one of the USA’s most attractive cities during the last week of May 2004. The city gave us an atmosphere of pleasures for life – wonderful food, sparkling nightlife, and those glorious views. Watching the white fog fill the Golden Gate at the sunset lit up the windows across the bay, one could be easily leave his/her heart in this beautiful place. In addition to this venue, our attendees were mostly attracted by the 11th International Invertebrate Cell and Tissue Culture Conference (in conjunction with the 2004 World Congress on In Vitro Biology, May 22 – 26, 2004.) We had an overwhelming turnout of participants (from Europe, Asia, and all over the U.S.) All the speakers we invited happily accepted the invitation.

This international conference was chaired by Amy Wang (GlaxoSmithKline) and co-chaired by Guy Smagghe (Ghent University, Belgium.) Initially Dr. Robert Granados (Boyce Thompson Institute-Cornell, Ithaca, NY, USA) and Dr. Karl Maramorosch (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA) proposed a symposium for this conference, “Molecular Engineering and Biology of Invertebrate Cell Cultures: A Tribute to Dr. Thomas Grace and Professor Shangyin Gao.” The invertebrate section program committee successfully organized and raised funding independently for this symposium. Dr. Robert Granados, Dr. Karl Maramorosch, and Amy Wang convened this symposium.

This one-day symposium was held on Saturday, May 22. Amy Wang, as the president of the invertebrate section, first welcomed the speakers and attendees. The first speaker, Dr. Karl Maramarosch gave an introduction on the Seminal Research Contributions by T. Grace and S. Gao. He recalled how these two scientists, Prof. Shangyin Gao in Wuhan, China in 1958 and Tom Grace in Canberra, Australia in 1962, started modern invertebrate cell culture independently. The two had never met and they were unaware of each other’s work, but they shared outstanding talents as creative inventors. Dr. Tom Grace (CSIRO Entomologist) presented the historical 1963 film: Insect Tissue Culture. It showed in sequence how Dr. Grace used insects for setting up primary insect cell cultures. The film was made by Dr. Charles M. Pomerat, one of the pioneers in microcinematography, and won second prize for scientific films at an Italian Film Festival in the 1960’s. Dr. Zhihong Hu (Wuhan Institute of Virology, Wuhan, China) could not obtain her visa from China to attend this conference. Fortunately, Dr. Hu provided us with her PowerPoint presentation and Amy Wang was able to present her talk “Invertebrate Cell Culture Applications in China.” The first part of this presentation introduced Dr. Shangyin Gao’s life and research achievements; the second part was focused on insect cell line generation in other Chinese laboratories and finally the application of the baculovirus expression system in China.

The following speakers presented an overview of their current ongoing research. Dr. Robert Granados presented “Invertebrate Cell Culture Biology and Novel Cell Lines.” Dr. Rollie Clem (Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA) presented “Apoptosis Regulation in Cultured Insect Cells.” Dr. Gary Blissard (Boyce Thompson Institute-Cornell, Ithaca, NY, USA) presented ” Role of the Major Envelope Protein (GP64) of Baculoviruses in Viral Entry and Exit from cultured Cells.” Dr. Don Jarvis (Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA) presented “Transgenic Insect Cell Lines That Support Production of Humanized Glycoproteins by Baculovirus Expression Vectors.” Dr. Spiros N. Agathos (University of Louvain, Belgium) presented “Scale-up and Optimizing the In Vitro Growth of Insect Cells for Production of Recombinant Proteins and Viral Pesticides.” Dr. Just Vlak (Wageningen Univ, Wageningen, The Netherlands) presented “Molecular Biology and Genomics of Shrimp Viruses and Their In Vitro Culture.” Dr. Steven Harwood (Invitrogen Life Technology) presented “Invertebrate Cell Cultures for Commercial Pharmaceutical Drug Discovery.” Dr. Patrick Condreay (GlaxoSmithKline, RTP, NC, USA) presented “Baculovirus Technology for Mammalian Cell Gene Delivery.”

Finally, Dr. Dwight Lynn (USDA/ARS/BARC, Washington, D.C., USA) gave a summary talk. He took the breakthroughs achieved by Grace and Gao further to their influences to all subsequent research dealing with insect cell culture. He listed several biotechnological advances mentioned in this symposium that have driven the remarkable growth and application of insect cell culture research during the past two decades. It is clear that Dr. Grace and Dr. Gao provided guidelines for us to follow in their footsteps. In turn, a new generation of researchers has intensively developed novel insect cell lines and insect virus-cell culture systems. These developments made the emergence of the baculovirus-insect cell culture systems possible.

We were very fortunate and honored that Dr. Tom Grace traveled from Australia and attended this symposium. Unfortunately, Dr. Shangyin Gao passed away 15 months ago. Even though he could not be here with us in person his work will be with us forever. The speakers and the participants enjoyed the presentations. The feedback was very positive.

II. The Functional Genomics of Aquatic Toxicology

This symposium was held on Sunday, May 23, 2004 and convened by Dr. J. Denry Sato, (Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory). There were four speakers: (1) Dr. Carolyn Mattingly (Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory) – presentation title: “Promoting Comparative Molecular Studies in Environmental Health Research: The Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD).” Carolyn spoke about an NIEHS-funded GenBank-like database (CTD) that she is compiling at the Mount Desert Island Biological Lab that relates genes and gene products relevant to environmental health research from diverse species to toxicants and primary literature. The database will be accessible to the public within a year; (2) Dr. Andrew Gracey (Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University) – presentation title: “Fish & Chips – Using DNA Arrays to Study Environmental Stress in Non-model Organisms.” Andy used arrays of randomly selected cDNAs from non-model fish and invertebrate species to study changes in gene expression that occur in physiological adaptations to environmental stresses such as hypoxia, high salinity, and high ambient temperature. Genes that are over- or under-expressed in response to stresses can be identified by sequencing and homology to genomic DNA databases. This approach provides an unbiased view of genes involved in adaptive physiological responses; (3) Dr. Bruce A. Stanton (Dartmouth Medical School) – presentation title: “The Effects of Arsenic on the Function of CFTR Cl- Channels in Killifish, A Euryhaline Teleost.” Bruce discussed his findings that low levels of arsenic, a naturally occurring pollutant in ground water in some regions of the United States, inhibit the transcription and the function of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator Cl- channels in the gills and opercula of killifish. These chloride channels, which allow the killifish to adapt to changes in salinity, are defective in the patients with cystic fibrosis. Thus, these studies provide a functional relationship between an environmental pollutant and a common genetic disease in humans; (4) Dr. Gordon H. Sato (The Manzanar Project, Massawa, Eritrea) – presentation title: “The Manzanar Project.” Gordon described his efforts to plant hundreds of thousands of mangrove trees in the inter-tidal zone along the coast of Eritrea on the Red Sea. The aim of the project is to use simple technologies in regions where conventional agricultural is untenable to generate biomass that can be used as fodder for livestock. The livestock then represent a source of both food and economic value. For his efforts Gordon was awarded a Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2003, and Lifetime Achievement Award from the SIVB in 2002.

III. Insect Cell Culture

This was an invertebrate contributed paper session held on Sunday, May 23, 2004, and convened by Dr. Guy Smagghe. There were five speakers: (1) Kevin Stephen Richards (Oxford Brookes University, UK) – presentation title: “A New Method for the Rapid and Automated Generation of Baculovirus Expression Vectors;” (2) Guy Smagghe (Ghent University, Belgium,) – presentation title: “Response of Midgut Stem Cells of the Caterpillar Spodoptera littoralis to Insect Peptide Factors, a-Arylphorine and Hormones;” (3) K. J. Maragatha Vally (Texas A&M University, US) – presentation title: “Use of Gal4-Mos1 Cimeric mariner Transposase for Germ-line Transformation in Drosophila melanogaster and Asdes aegypti;” (4) Marcia Loeb (USDA) – presentation title: “Changing Fate of Stem Cells from Midgut of the insect, Heliothis virescens: Changing Calcium iIn Concentration;” (5) Saba J. Siddiqi (Pharmagap Inc. Canada) – presentation title: “Screening Invertebrate Cell Lines for Gap Junction Channel Activity and Functional Innexin Genes.”

IV. Invertebrate Interactive Poster Session

Dr. Ray Hakim moderated the poster session on invertebrates on Monday, May 24, 2004. It was very well attended, with active discussion of all the posters. Several of the posters dealt with related topics on insect cultures, allowing for sharing of ideas among the presenters as well as the audience. Each presentation at the podium was arranged for 15 minutes. The breadth of topics covered was large, from the use of cells in agarose, to test for the toxicity of molecules applied to this 3-dimensional “lawn,” to apoptosis as a normal control element for cell number; from optimizing the development of high density insect cell culture to modeling the effects of chitin synthesis regulators on insect growth; and developing a technique for identifying different insect cell lines by a DNA fingerprint.

V. Award Presentations

SIVB president Dr. Sandra Schneider presented two “Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Awards” to our section this year; one was for Dr. Tom Grace, another was for Dr. Shangying Gao. Dr. Grace gave an acceptance speech at the award presentation. Dr. Gao’s award was “In memoriam recognition of Professor Gao’s exemplary research, achievements, and pioneering contributions to the field of virology and insect cell culture”. The awards were presented to Wuhan Institute of Virology, China, and to his surviving family. (Amy Wang hand delivered the award to Dr. Gao’s son, Dr. Chao Gao in Florida.)

In addition, the SIVB president, Dr. Sandra Schneider, also presented two members of the invertebrate section with special awards at the banquet: “The President’s Award” to Dr. Robert Granados, and the “Distinguished Service Award” to Ms. Amy Wang.

During the 11th International Conference our section presented 2004 “Invertebrate Fellow Award” to four outstanding members: Dr. Robert Granados, Dr. Lehman Ellis, Dr. Cynthia Goodman, and Dr. Raziel Hakim.

Dr. K. J. M. Vally and Mr. Guido Caputo received the “Outstanding Member Award” and “Outstanding Secretary Award,” respectively from our section.

VI. Invertebrate Business Meeting

Following tradition the invertebrate section had an off-site section meeting (at the Cosmopolitan Restaurant in San Francisco). Seventeen people attended this meeting. We discussed the potential symposium and session topics for 2005 and beyond.