Bermuda Principles Impact conference
The 3rd annual Bermuda Principles Impact conference was held last month from February 20-24th, 2019 at the Fairmont Southampton.
This year the theme was “RNA Processing & Disease”. Becoming a part of the international science calendar, this year saw 85 international guests, a 100% increase from 2018, fly in to the various events held over the 5-day period.
Flying in from as far as Australia and Uruguay, 13 countries were represented, with over 50 participating organizations from all over the world. This year also was successful in achieving its aim to put on international conferences that benefit the community and the youth.
The Bermuda Principles, an agreement established by the top international 50 scientists working on the Human Genome Project, decided to put all DNA sequence data generated into the public domain rather than monetize it through patents. The island played host to three meetings from 1996-1998 called the “International Strategy Meeting on Human Genome Sequencing” and the Bermuda Principles Foundation Programme Fund, a nonprofit initiative of the Bermuda Community Foundation, was founded to continue this legacy in 2016 by Bermudian biochemist Dr Carika Weldon.
The 5-day event was kicked off by a Welcome Reception jointly sponsored by the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Fairmont Southampton. Welcome remarks were given by the Bermuda Principles Foundation Fund Founder and Executive Director, Dr Carika Weldon, the Head of Business Development at the Bermuda Business Development Agency, Sean Moran, and the Minister of Health, the Honourable Kim Wilson.
30 scientific talks were given, from basic science to applied therapeutic applications, relating to the latest research on an array of diseases such as: influenza, HIV, breast, prostate and rare cancers, leukaemia, brain malformations, atherosclerosis, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, multiple sclerosis, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes. These talks were given by a range of professors, early-career researchers, PhD students and our very own Bermudian high school student Kameron Young.
Kameron’s presentation on her recent study on the TAS2R38 bitter taste receptor gene and its link to sugar preference and diabetes, a part of the Bermuda Principles Diabetes Education Day open to the public, sponsored by The Argus Group, caught the attention of two specific attendees: Professor Lorna Harries and Dr David Buck. Professor Harries was the 2019 Distinguished Keynote Speaker, and heads her lab in the University of Exeter which has a diabetes focus. Dr David Buck is the Head of High-throughput Sequencing at the BERMUDA PRINCIPLES Oxford Genomics Centre at the University of Oxford. Both Professor Harries and Dr Buck have invited Kameron to do placements in their laboratories in the UK this summer.
Kameron will first do a week placement at the University of Oxford, learning how sequencing of clinical samples happens on a larger scale, and then travel south to the University of Exeter to do a two-month placement in Professor Harries’ laboratory. She will have her own project that she will work solely on, just as a Master’s student. Dr Weldon, Kameron’s mentor, says that this was inevitable. “Kameron has grown so much in the last two years I have known her. She presented so confidently on the international stage and her scientific work is on par with that of the international presenters. I am extremely pleased that she will be able to further her skills this summer in two top institutions.”
“Presenting on an international scale was a surreal experience that I am happy to have had the opportunity to do. Because of it, I was given placement offers at the University of Exeter and Oxford, both of which I am very excited for,” says Kameron. Furthermore, an anonymous donor has ensured that Kameron’s placements will occur by giving $10,000 towards her travel, accommodations and research costs.
“The possibilities are endless for our young upcoming scientists when we allow them to network with world renowned researchers in their backyard,” says Dr Weldon.
The networking at the conference has also afforded Bermudian Gigi Cockell research opportunities. Gigi, who was head of the conference assistant team, and is a 2018 graduate from the University of Oxford in Biological Sciences, will have the chance to return to Oxford, shadowing Dr Weldon in the Oxford Genomics Centre this April.
The Inaugural Awards Gala, which honoured Professor Adrian Krainer and saw the 1993 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine or Physiology attend, Sir Dr Richard Roberts, was also another opportunity for our local young budding scientists and science teachers to mingle with high calibre scientists. Many of Dr Weldon’s new high school mentees attended, ushering those who gave tributes.
Sandys science teacher, Mrs Christine Wilson-James, was also in attendance and marked the occasion as “sheer mental stimulation. It was a gala of a different kind as the tributes on display took us back in time, to the past, as we sat in the presence of greatness. DR Weldon has really embraced the philosophy of making deposits in people’s lives and that was certainly evident throughout the evening.”
The Bermuda Principles Foundation Fund has accumulated $5000 worth of research equipment over the last two conferences and this year decided to donate them to the Bermuda College for continual use in teaching Bermuda’s young scientist, particularly in the Cell Biology class. Dr Tracey Harney, senior lecturer at Bermuda College was thrilled to receive the miniPCR mini-16 thermal cycler, the nanopore sequencer from Oxford Nanopore Technologies and the AminoLab genetic engineering kit. Dr Weldon was also able to assist teaching on nanopore sequencing, a part of their class curriculum, with a practical teaching them how to do the sequencing themselves.
For Dr Weldon, the 3rd conference has also benefited her research career as she was nominated to be a Member of the Royal Society of Biology and has since accepted, and will be one of the few scientific interviewers for eminent scientists giving talks at the upcoming Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory 84th RNA Symposium this coming May in New York. These interviews will be on YouTube shortly after the event.
The Bermuda Principles Conference would like to thank all who ensured the 2019 events took place:
• Premier Local Education partner, the Bank of Bermuda Foundation
• Local Education Day Sponsor, The Argus Group
• Premier Local Sponsor, the Bermuda Business Development Agency
• Local Tourism Sponsor, the Bermuda Tourism Authority
• Local sponsor, Butterfield Bank
• International Society sponsor, The RNA Society
• International Biotech sponsor, New England Biolabs
• International Journal sponsor, Nucleic Acids Research
The 2020 Conference planning is already underway, taking place February 12-16th, 2020 and with the theme being “Impact on Transcriptomics”. There will be a focus on women in science and Dr Weldon comments that “The 2020 Awardee has also already been confirmed and being a great woman in science will surely be a great role model for our local young Bermudian girl scientists.”
If anyone would like to get involved or support the Bermuda Principles 2020 Conference, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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