Keynote lectures

9:15 - Welcome

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9:30 - Keynote lecture I: "Real-time pathogen sequencing: the time is now"

Guest speaker: Prof. Nick Loman, Microbial Genomics and Bioinformatics, Institute of Microbiology and Infection, University of Birmingham

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Prof. Nick Loman explores the use of cutting-edge genomics and metagenomics approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and surveillance of infectious disease. Advances in genome sequencing technologies have made it practical and inexpensive to generate pathogen genome sequences - for the purposes of pathogen identification, discovery and surveillance. The COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to the present day has demonstrated the power of real-time pathogen genome sequencing globally through the discovery of novel sequence variants across multiple epidemic waves of the disease. However this process has identified a large number of challenges both practical and political. Prof. Loman will review how pathogen genomics in the time of COVID-19 has changed infectious disease surveillance forever, and discuss the potential futures for sequencing of infectious disease.

Moderator: Dhr. Sebastiaan Theuns, Department of Translational Physiology, Infectiology and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University

10:00 - Keynote lecture II: “Resolving the spatial architecture of the liver at single-cell resolution”

Guest speakers: Prof. Martin Guilliams and Prof. Charlotte Scott,  VIB Center for Inflammation Research (IRC) & Faculty of Science, Ghent University

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Single-cell transcriptomics allows the analysis of biological systems at multiple scales of resolution, from single cells to whole organs. This technology has allowed the discovery of novel cell subsets and the identification of pathogenic activation states. However, to profile the transcriptome of cells, researchers must first obtain a single-cell suspension of their tissue of interest. In doing so, one of the most essential aspects of biology is lost: the spatial context of cells. Moreover, the specific method utilised to digest the tissue and generate a single cell suspension can result in the lack of specific cell subsets. To fully understand how a given cell functions within a tissue, detailed information on its position in relation to other cells and the structures that make up the organ is required alongside their transcriptional profile. The liver is the largest solid organ in the body, yet for many cells we still lack this crucial spatial information. To overcome this bottleneck, prof. Martin Guilliams and prof. Charlotte Scott will demonstrate how they have generated a spatial proteogenomic atlas of the healthy human and murine liver combining single-cell CITE-seq, single-nuclei sequencing, spatial transcriptomics and spatial proteomics. Integrating these multi-omic datasets allows all cells of the liver to be profiled. Moreover, it has enabled the identification of validated strategies to reliably discriminate, purify and localize all hepatic cells. In addition to localizing all hepatic cells, the spatial proteogenomic analysis also enabled the identification of the respective cellular niches of all hepatic macrophage subtypes. This includes the identification of a novel population of lipid-associated macrophages (LAMs) specifically located at the bile-ducts in the steady-state liver. They then align this atlas across seven species, revealing the conserved program of bona fide Kupffer cells and LAMs. They also uncover the respective spatially-resolved cellular niches of these macrophages and the microenvironmental circuits driving their unique transcriptomic identities. Finally prof. Guilliams and prof. Scott demonstrate that LAMs are induced by local lipid exposure, leading to their induction in steatotic regions of the murine and human liver, while Kupffer cell development crucially depends on their crosstalk with hepatic stellate cells via the evolutionarily-conserved ALK1-BMP9/10 axis.

Moderator: Prof. Elfride De Baere, Department of Biomolecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University

14:30 - Keynote lecture III: "Understanding Genetic Cardiomyopathies - One Cell at a Time"

Guest speakers: Prof. Christine E. Seidman and Prof. Jonathan G. Seidman, Visiting Professors Princess Lilian Foundation 2020, Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School Boston MA & Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston MA

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Prof. Christine Seidman and prof. Jonathan Seidman seek to harness and integrate clinical medicine and molecular technologies to define cardiovascular disease-causing gene mutations and genetic variations that increase disease risk. The husband-and-wife team develop and study human disease tissues, genetically engineered mouse models, and CRISPR/Cas9 genome-edited stem cells, combined with single cell and single nuclei transcriptomics, to define disease mechanisms. Major research projects focus on discovery of the genetic variants and transcriptional responses that result in dilated and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congenital heart disease. Their research team aims to translate basic research discoveries into better diagnostics and disease management strategies, as well as novel treatment opportunities.

Moderator: Prof. Julie De Backer, Department of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics & Department Biomolecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University

16:30 - Keynote lecture IV: "COVID-19 vaccines: how every crisis presents an opportunity."

Guest speaker: Prof. Isabel Leroux-Roels, Center for Vaccinology / Infection Prevention Department, Ghent University Hospital & Department of Diagnostic Sciences, Ghent University

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Prof. Isabel Leroux-Roels is a physician, specialized in medical microbiology and infection control and head of the Center for Vaccinology (CEVAC) at Ghent University and UZ Gent. The CEVAC is a research center specialized in conducting clinical vaccine studies in healthy volunteers and evaluating the humoral and cellular immune responses elicited by these novel vaccines. CEVAC has played an important role in the evaluation of various candidate vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus during this COVID-19 pandemic. The research of prof. Leroux-Roels is focused on several aspects of vaccinology, in particular on novel adjuvants and respiratory viruses, such as influenza, RSV and SARS-CoV-2. Through regular communication (in the press, via webinars, etc.), prof. Leroux-Roels also wants to contribute to informing healthcare providers and the wider public about the importance of vaccination and the safety and efficacy of vaccines, in particular of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Moderator: Yasmine Bader, representative Student Councils participating faculties