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Third Annual UCLA Mitochondria Symposium Features Expert Speakers and SPARK 101

 

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Top: Introductory remarks and presentations from prominent mitochondrial researchers kicked off the morning sessions.
Bottom, from left: Alejandro Martorell, symposium co-organizer; Marc Liesa Roig, assistant professor-in-residence at UCLA; Georgios Karamanlidis, senior scientist and presenter for Amgen; Evan Taddeo, symposium co-organizer. 

On November 8, 2019, the third annual UCLA Mitochondria Symposium convened to bring together professionals from academia and industry to discuss exciting research involving mitochondria. 

The day-long symposium included presentations from seven of the top mitochondrial researchers from around the world, including keynote speaker José Antonio Enríquez Domínguez from the National Center for Cardiovascular Investigations in Madrid, Spain. Following the talks was an industry spotlight presentation by Amgen, a workshop on how to approach pharma and industry led by UCLA's Technology Development Group (TDG), a networking lunch and poster sessions.

The afternoon sessions featured SPARK 101, a new inclusion in this year's symposium. SPARK is a new collaboration between UCLA's Metabolism Theme and the David Geffen Academy led by Dr. Rebeca Acin-Perez; scientists at UCLA help middle school and high school students develop theoretical research projects and present posters. During the symposium, SPARK students participated in the junior talks, networking and lay poster sessions.

The event concluded with a raffle and awards ceremony sponsored by the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Dr. Mario Deng of UCLA, Ahmanson-UCLA and FUJIFILM VisualSonics, Inc. Junior talk awards and poster awards were presented to graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Below are the awardees.

Junior talk awardees:

  • First place: Agape Awad, UCLA, "Intragenic suppressor mutations restore Coenzyme Q biosynthesis and function of the putative atypical kinase Coq8" 
  • Second place:Linlin Zhao, UC Riverside, "Mitochondrial Transcription Factor A Promotes DNA Strand Cleavage at Abasic Sites"
  • Third place (tie):Alexander Patananan, UCLA, "Stable mitochondrial transplant cells require reprogramming and differentiation for improved mtDNA-nDNA integration" and Anton Petcherski, UCLA, "Discovery of compounds modulating mitochondria-lipid-droplet interaction"

Scientific poster awardees:

  • First Place:  Dane Wolf, UCLA/Boston University, "Individual cristae within the same mitochondrion display different membrane potentials and are functionally independent"
  • Second Place: Rebeca Acin-Perez, UCLA, "Identification and characterization of mitochondria bound to lipid droplets in a human model of adipose tissue browning"
  • Third Place: Krista Yang, UCLA, "Respiratory deficiency caused by mutations in the coenzyme Q chaperone protein Coq10 is mitigated by deletion of COQ11"
Lay poster awardees:
  • First Place: Jenny Ngo, UCLA, "Mitochondrial shape influences its food preference"
  • Second Place: Kristina Aguilera, UCLA, "Porcupine inhibition redirects mitochondrial metabolism in Wnt-dependent pancreatic cancer"
  • Third Place: Emma Dawson, UCLA, "Transfer of chloramphenicol-resistant mitochondria to restore impaired respiration in a mitochondrial disease model"
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Top: Anton Petcherski of UCLA presents his scientific poster.
Bottom: David Geffen Academy middle school and high school students present their posters during the afternoon poster sessions.

Turnout was excellent for the event with 296 participants representing five countries, nine pharma and biotech companies and over 40 institutions. With this year seeing large gains in attendancea 24% increase over last yearthe symposium appears well positioned to be a sustainable event that supports multiple levels of collaboration.

"Our goal was to organize a mitochondrial research meeting on the West Coast that serves as a platform to foster collaborative and networking opportunities for participants from academia and industry," said event co-Organizer, Evan Taddeo, PhD, a scientific director at UCLA. He continued, "With the positive feedback from this year's event, we are looking to expand our symposium next year with new research technique workshops and to strengthen our SPARK101 mentoring program with David Geffen Academy." 

The meeting was open to basic and clinical investigators, graduate and undergraduate students and all other members of the scientific community interested in mitochondria, including CTSI partner institution researchers.

The event was co-hosted by the UCLA DGSOM Metabolism Theme. Event organizers included Alejandro Martorell, PhD, Founder and Advisor (UCLA); Evan Taddeo, PhD, Director (UCLA); Tracey West, Administrator (UCLA); Orian Shirihai, MD, PhD, Faculty Advisor (UCLA); Roberta Gottlieb, MD, Faculty Advisor (Cedars-Sinai). Sponsors included UCLA Health, UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute, UCLA TDG, UCLA Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA Mitchondria and Metabolism Core, Amgen, Palihotel Westwood Village, Modis Therapeutics, Enspire Bio, Fellow, Dr. Mario Deng of UCLA, Ahmanson-UCLA and FUJIFILM VisualSonics, Inc.

Visit the UCLA Mitochondria Symposium website for more information on the event.