After accomplishing my PhD on the roles of matrix metalloproteinases in cancer and inflammatory diseases at Stony Brook University in NY, USA, I joined the lab of Chris Overall at the CBR to learn new techniques to study proteases. The Overall lab developed proteomics tools to globally study proteases in the context of complex tissues such as tumors, arthritic joints and inflamed lungs. My current research focuses on (i) the role of matrix metalloproteinase-12 (MMP12) during carcinogenesis and breast cancer metastasis; (ii) the implication of MMP12 in acute and chronic inflammation in various diseases including arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus; and (iii) the investigation of the changes in the genome and proteome during macrophage polarization.
Every two years, the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) organizes a meeting on metalloenzymes (MMPs, ADAMs, ADAMTSs and TIMPs) and this year, the conference took place in the beautiful mountains of Newry, Maine, USA. The focus of the meeting was on the roles of zinc-containing proteases in several diseases including cancer, arthritis and sepsis. There were also talks on the development of protease inhibitors (small molecules, peptides and monoclonal antibodies) and how to apply this knowledge in translational research. The topics ranged from bench side to bed side and how these proteases modulate all aspects of biology and human diseases by precisely cutting specific portions of proteins to either activate or inactive them.
I had the privilege of giving two oral presentations. The first one was on the role of MMP12 during breast carcinogenesis and was for the Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) which consists of a two day meeting that only includes graduate students, post-docs and professors that started their labs within the past 3 years. The second talk was on the protective role of MMP12 in arthritis and was at the main Gordon conference. The meeting was a big success on both the scientific discussions and the networking front. The attendance was limited to approximately 120, which I found significantly more manageable than larger conferences, and allowed for more lengthy and personal interactions with experts in the fields.
Scientific talks were paused in the middle of each day to allow us to enjoy multiple outdoor activities that the splendid mountains of Maine had to offer, ranging from hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, beer tasting (for the more thirsty individuals), swimming and zip lining. Overall, the meeting was extremely enjoyable from all angles and allowed me to catch up with old friends/colleagues, to start new collaborations, to learn about cutting edge science techniques and to breathe the east coast mountain air.