The Microbiology Society Annual Conference is a leading conference attracting virologists and microbiologists from across the UK and globally. This year, the conference was held on 17 - 20th April, in Manchester UK.
The conference included several keynote talks focussing on understanding the development of pandemics, the importance of microbial sequencing, and new advances in structural studies. The Prize Medal 2023 Lecture by Prof Wendy Barclay (Imperial College London, UK) on Perspectives on Pandemics was a brilliant and accessible summary of Prof Barclay's research on transmissibility of respiratory viruses, particularly the adaptations influenza virus and coronaviruses have to undergo to make them transmit between humans. Prof Ravi Gupta's (University of Cambridge, UK) Translational Microbiology Prize Lecture comprehensively covered the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants, and their impact on host immunity. Prof Iruka Okeke (University of Ibadan, Nigeria) gave an inspirational Peter Wildy Prize Lecture on the importance of bringing the people outside into the scientific community to expand access to microbiology and pathogen genomics research globally.
Alongside, several workshops showcased novel research in SARS-CoV-2 biology and immunity, DNA viruses and RNA viruses. A particular highlight were two talks focussing on single-molecule microscopy in the Microns Apart: Viral Organisation of a Crowded Cell workshop. Prof Marvin Tanenbaum (TU Delft, Netherlands) presented their work on a single-molecule imaging assay to visualise individual viral RNAs to during the very early stages of picornavirus infections; at one point generating an audible gasp of amazement from the audience by a video showing a single fluorescent vRNA molecule enter a cell, followed by a burst of several fluorescent foci indicating translating vRNAs in the infected cell! The second talk by Prof Kevin Welsher (Duke University, USA) showcased a single-particle tracking method with simultaneous volumetric imaging of the cell (3D-Trlm) to visualise the extracellular phase of infection, tracking individual virus particles outside the cell before entry occurs.
Ph.D. student Gemma Cooper, and Maitreyi Shivkumar presented posters on our antiviral research in the SARS-CoV-2 section, focussing on investigating the antiviral activity of natural product-derived and synthetic xanthones, and natural product volatiles. Maitreyi also presented a flash talk at the Teaching Symposium on outreach activity Escape Lab, based on our antiviral drug discovery research.
Overall, the conference was a great opportunity for us to present our research, get feedback from the community, and return to the lab with so many ideas for our next experiments!