The 2019 Metabolomics symposium was held at the Innovation Hub from 11-12th March 2019. This symposium was aimed at principal investigators, postgraduate and PhD students currently performing or planning to work in the metabolomics field. This event was an opportunity for both local and international metabolomics researchers to share their findings, to network and identify synergies so as to foster further collaboration amongst metabolomics researchers within SA and across Europe. This symposium was mainly a platform to officially launch Metabolomics South Africa (MSA). MSA is a non-profit organization seen as an opportunity to promote and improve the profile of metabolomics research and technology in South Africa, foster networking, training, capacity building, information sharing, mentoring, career opportunities, leadership training and professional development. The symposium was a first official event hosted by MSA with the assistance of its partner, the ACGT.
The first day of the symposium was themed “Metabolomics, where are we?”. Topics discussed throughout the day included the overview of metabolomics in South Africa, good metabolomics data, role of metabolomics in health sciences, lipidomics and plant metabolomics. The discussions on the second day of the symposium were under the theme “Metabolomics, informatics, statistics and applications” and covered topics such as metabolomics networks, statistical models, NMR metabolomics and lipidomic profiling. At the end of each day, attempts were made to finish off with round table discussions to address burning issues or questions on the day’s talks as well as other issues regarding to metabolomics or MSA.
It is worth mentioning several key speakers that participated and contributed to the symposium. The speakers mentioned below are all key contributors to the field of Metabolomics and we are thankful that they shared their work and experiences. These were the presenters at the event in no specific order:
- Dr Reza Salek is currently with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France. Dr Salek has extensive experience in metabolomics research in academia, industry and research institutes with extensive metabolomics knowledge, both analytical and data handling. Dr Salek has worked in clinical trial settings and is interested in setting up workflow infrastructures for metabolomics data handling and analysis using cloud computing.
- Dr Karl Burgess is from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Most of Dr Burgess’s workfocuses on the use of mass spectrometry in biomedical research, particularly in the understanding of infectious disease. This multidisciplinary research area builds on his fruitful collaborations with cell biologists, engineers, bioinformaticians, instrumentation developers and clinicians.
- Dr Fabien Jourdan is a research scientist at the French National Research Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). Dr Jourdan develops computational methods to study human genome-scale metabolic network aimed at retrieving parts of the metabolism affected by genetic or environmental perturbations. These methods are mainly applied to toxicology and human health.
- Dr Naomi Rankin is from the University Hospital Wishaw, Scotland, UK. Dr Rankin’s research interests focus on the use of NMR for metabolite profiling and advanced lipoprotein profiling of serum and plasma samples. She is particularly interested in the use of these methods in epidemiology/clinical trials, especially with a view towards translation of NMR molecular profiling approaches into the clinic.
- Dr Jasper Engel is a researcher at Biometris at Wageningen University & Research. Dr Engel’s primary research interests are in applied statistics. He is interested in the development and careful evaluation of statistical approaches for processing and analysis of complex high-dimensional data sets, and their application in high-dimensional chemical, biological or medical problems. Over the last several years his research has mainly focused on method development for analysis of metabolomics experiments.
- Dr Justine Bertrand-Michel is the co-director of the MetaToul Lipidomic facility at INSERM in Toulouse, France. Dr Bertrand-Michel is a lipidomics expert and she was invited to this symposium because of her work in lipidomics a field that most people in metabolomics have shown a keen interest in.
- Dr Fidele Tugizimana is the chairman of MSA, a research scientist at the University of Johannesburg, a specialist scientist in the international R&D management of the Omnia (Pty) Ltd company (SA) and a scientific consultant in the L.E.A.F. Pharmaceuticals LLC (USA & Rwanda). Dr Tugizimana applies metabolomics approaches in plant-environment interactions (involving abiotic/biotic stresses, beneficial microorganisms, etc.).
- Prof Du Toit Loots is the secretary of MSA and a key member of the national metabolomics platform based at the North-West University in Potchefstroom. Prof Loots has made a substantial contribution to the advancement of metabolomics, by means of developing much of the published methodology and applications in terms of identifying new markers for better disease characterization, diagnostics and treatment since 2002.
- Dr Aurelia A. Williams is the deputy secretary of MSA and a senior lecturer at the biochemistry department of the North-West University. Her research interests include characterizing the impact of molecular traits, metabolism and the immune response on disease pathogenesis. She believes metabolomics will serve as a tool in better characterizing infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, HIV-associated comorbidities, virus-host interactions, treatment response mechanisms and pathogenesis-associated phenotypes.
- Dr Zandile C. Mlamla is a committee member of MSA and a post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), University of Cape Town (UCT). Her research is currently aimed towards the validation of urinary biomarkers of Tuberculosis Disease. She continues to gain experience and expertise in the cutting-edge field of MS-based lipidomics.
The future of South African metabolomics will be in great hands if the student sessions over the two days are anything to go by. On day one, the student presenters were Mr Efficient Ncube from the University of Johannesburg, Mr Emile Jansen van Rensburg and Ms Monique Combrink both from the North-West University. The student session on day two was by three students from the North-West University in Ms Karin Terburgh, Mrs Zinandre´ Stander and Christiaan van Zyl. The students presented their ongoing work and they received great contributions from the people that attended the symposium in the form of question and suggestions.
Well over 140 delegates from over 25 institutions attended this symposium. They consisted of principal investigators, post-doctorates, researchers, post graduate students and several industry players. The hope is that most of them will register as member of MSA and take an active role in the growth of MSA and metabolomics in general. The ACGT and MSA would like to thank all the delegates who registered to attend this event as well as all the members of the organizing committee; Mr Molati Nonyane, Mrs Itseng Malao, Dr John Becker, Dr Fidele Tugizimana, MSA Committee and the European visitors for all of their efforts in putting together this event. The ACGT and MSA would also like to extend their gratitude to the sponsors of this event in Shimadzu, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Microsep/Waters and the Embassy of France in South Africa. Please look out for more MSA and/or ACGT events similar to this symposium in the future.
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