Observations from a brief trip to Scotland

June 13, 2007

Purpose of the trip: to attend a COST B22 conference on drug development for parastic diseases.

Number of presentations at this conference: 37 talks, 59 posters.

Number of these that I understood completely: 1 (“Welcome to Dundee” by Sir Philip Cohen, Dean of the School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee.)

Best student poster, according to the panel of judges: “Meta caspase of Leishmania major parasites: arginine specific serine protease with a role in yeast programmed cell death” by Iveth Gonzalez et al. This narrowly defeated “TbAT1/P2 and drug resistance in Human African Trypanosomiasis in the field” (Anne Kazibwe et al.) and “Inhibitors of 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase as potential treatments for HAT” (Gian Filippo Ruda et al.), among others.

Best poster title, according to me: “Trypamosoma cruzi and beta-lapachone derived naphthoimidazoles: induction of alternative death styles” by R.F.S. Menna-Barreto et al. (The poster was about how these drugs can kill the parasite in different ways, depending on the stage of the parasite’s life cycle.)

Best self-effacing remark made during a talk: The comment by Mike Gelb (from the University of Washington) that his lab’s modification of compound JJ121 to retain inhibition of lanosterol 14-demethylase while eliminating interactions with protein farnesyltransferase in humans was “like falling off a log.”

Best use of ambiguity during a talk: Vincent Delespaux (from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp) talked about parasites’ development of drug resistance (“Isometamidium resistance in T. congolense: a possible role of secondary multidrug transporters?”) and at one point also noted his difficulties in persuading funding agencies to support this research. His next slide was titled, “Trying to survive a hostile environment.”

Most vivid critique of research priorities: People who focus all their efforts on sequencing DNA are, according to Matt Berriman, “Just tossing genomes into the furnace.”

Approximate number of jokes made during the conference about Alan Fairlamb’s love of trypanothione reductase: 15.

Approximate number of rabbits seen during a one-hour run in Dundee: 100.

Biggest drawback of Scotland’s beautiful public parks: the absence of public bathrooms.

Least tempting ad seen in a restaurant window: “Haggis Samosas Are Back!”


  1. Haggis is a recurrent joke in my family. Thanks for this brilliant new one!

  2. Good (or bad) news for vegans: They have recipes for vegetarian haggis (which is key for samosa). The sheep's offal part of the haggis apparently is optional. Oatmeal and pepper (also key for samosa) are not.http://www.smart.net/~tak/haggis.html#eight

  3. Greg,I just wanted to stop in to wish you a huge good luck for this weekend. I'm pulling for you!Meghan

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