Q&A with Professor Janet Quinn, member of the organising committee for British Yeast Group: Discovery to Impact

Posted on May 20, 2019   by Alex Kubiakowska

On 26–28 June 2019, the Microbiology Society will be hosting the British Yeast Group Focused Meeting: Discovery to Impact at the County Hotel, Newcastle, UK. We spoke with one of the meeting organisers, Professor Janet Quinn, about what she is looking forward to at the meeting and why ‘Discovery to Impact’ is such an interesting topic.

What will this Focused Meeting cover?

The British yeast community has gathered once a year since the early 1980s to discuss latest findings and to provide a platform for young researchers to present their research. These gatherings were eventually badged as British Yeast Group (BYG) meetings. Now in its third year, the Microbiology Society has successfully run this Focused Meeting with the aim to attract more eukaryotic microbiologists to the Society.

Tell us more about this year’s theme: ‘Discovery to Impact’ and why this is so important?

Yeasts are extremely versatile model unicellular eukaryotes and have been used extensively to explore the workings of conserved eukaryotic cellular processes vital for life. Such approaches are highly informative – as exemplified by Sir Paul Nurse, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his pivotal work on the control of the cell cycle using the model yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

In addition to this, yeasts are exploited in the biotechnology industry as microbial cell factories, producing numerous valuable compounds. However, there is a dark side to these unicellular eukaryotes, as pathogenic yeasts are also emerging as important fungal pathogens of humans. Hence, the theme ‘Discovery to Impact’ encompasses all the above – from the use of yeasts in discovery science, to the impact that studying yeasts delivers, whether in understanding disease processes, in the biotechnology industry or in the quest to understand virulence traits in pathogenic yeasts.

Who organised the meeting and why?

The local organising committee comprises of myself, Dr Simon Whitehall and Dr Julian Rutherford. We’re all based at Newcastle University, and work on different aspects of cell biology in both model and pathogenic yeasts. Newcastle last hosted a British Yeast Group Meeting in 2004, so we felt that it was time for us to host a second meeting!

There are several invited speakers that will be attending the event – are you able to tell us more about them?

We have eight invited international and national speakers who will cover an exciting and diverse range of topics within the ‘Discovery to Impact’ theme. Discovery biology is well represented, with Professor Benjamin Tu (University of Texas, USA) joining us to describe his seminal work on metabolic regulation of cellular processe,s and Dr Isabelle Sagot (University of Bordeaux, France) will discuss her highly regarded research on the poorly understood process of cellular quiescence. Professor Mick Tuite (University of Kent, UK) will also be presenting his research in the fascinating area of prion biology.

Genome biology is also particularly well represented, with Professor Jane Mellor (University of Oxford, UK) and Dr Manolis Papamichos Chronakis (Newcastle University, UK) discussing chromatin remodelling of the genome, and Dr Juan Mata (University of Cambridge, UK) speaking about post-transcriptional regulatory networks.

Professor Ursula Bond (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland) will be presenting research on biotechnological applications of yeast and will discuss innovative approaches to generate new yeast strains with novel flavour. And last, but by no means least, Dr Elizabeth Ballou (University of Birmingham, UK) will describe exciting advances made by her lab in the study of the impressively named Titan cells – an important pathogenesis trait in the human pathogenic yeast Cryptococcus neoformans.

What advice would you give to those presenting their posters at the meeting?

The British Yeast Group Focused Meeting attracts a broad audience that works on many aspects of yeast biology, so try and ensure the information on your poster is accessible to non-experts. We believe that less is more! Content is important but keep it concise and use figures/pictures over words where possible.

Early bird registration is available for the British Yeast Group: Discovery to Impact Focused Meeting until Friday 7 June and you can find more details about the meeting on the event page.