Axol Bioscience Travel Grant recipient, Marie Franquin, attended the Gordon Research Conference - Neurobiology of Brain Disorders 2016, which took place in Girona, Spain. Marie is a PhD student at the Centre for Research in Neuroscience, McGill University, Canada. Her research focuses on the role of TNF alpha on synaptic plasticity defects in neurodegenerative diseases using a mouse model and a human model of induced pluripotent stem cell derived (iPSC)-derived neurons and iPSC-derived astrocytes. Marie shares her experience of the conference where she presented her research.

Axol Travel Grant recipient, Marie Franquin presenting her poster titled 'Homeostatic synaptic plasticity changes in the ALS cortex' at Gordon Research Conference - Neurobiology of Brain Disorders

The Gordon Research Conference (GRC) took place close to Girona (Spain) in August 2016 at the PGA Catalunya Business and Convention Centre. Girona is a wonderful medieval city in the North of Spain that benefits from a very ancient history and numerous museums. It is also a renowned movie making town where among others, some scenes of the TV show, 'Games of Thrones' were shot.

Day one: Arrival and introduction to the week

We began the conference by listening to two remarkable talks by the Nobel Prize winners Thomas Sudhof and John O’Keefe on the night of our arrival. We then enjoyed our first meal and welcoming event at the resort.

Day two: Spreading and genetics of neurodegenerative disorders (and jet lag)

On Sunday we woke up to a day of amazingly interesting presentations about the spread of neurodegenerative diseases and protein aggregations by great speakers such as Viriginia Lee, who talked about alpha-synuclein.

After a well-deserved afternoon break, which I made the most of by trying to recover from my jet lag, I was very enthusiastic to present my poster and discuss it with specialists in the neurodegeneration field. Finally, in the evening, we enjoyed talks about genetic risks for Alzheimer’s disease.

Dalí Museum

Day three: Synaptic plasticity, mitochondria and Dalí Museum

On Tuesday I could not wait to hear about synaptic plasticity in neurodegeneration that morning as this is the basis to my project. I was not disappointed by the talks that covered a vast range of topics. In particular, I was captivated by the research conducted in Inna Slutsky’s lab in Tel Aviv.

In the afternoon, we were brought to the wonderful Dalí Museum before our second poster session. The evening session covered mitochondrial defects in neurodegeneration.

Day four: Inflammation, immunity and therapeutic targets

My project focuses on the role of TNF alpha on synaptic plasticity defects in neurodegenerative diseases, so the inflammation session was also very relevant to my study. We heard inspiring presentations such as the one Morgan Sheng gave on microglia and Berislav Zlokovic gave on the blood-brain barrier. A surprise recital was prepared for us by the organizers and we enjoyed some delightful music played by the renowned pianist, Zora Mihailovich.

In the afternoon poster session, I was able to participate in some stimulating discussions with people in the amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and stem cells fields. And finally in the evening the matter of therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases was tackled by very eloquent speakers, in particular Aaron Gitler who spoke about ALS and TDP-43.

Day five: Biomarkers, protein homeostasis and boat trip

On the last day we heard very interesting talks about ALS-related genes such as C9ORF72 and therapeutics. Don Cleveland also updated the audience about his latest research and addressed various issues related to therapies for human neurodegenerative disorders. In the afternoon, the hotel organized a boat trip to discover the Costa Brava and enjoy a swim in the Mediterranean Sea. Back at the hotel we took advantage of the last poster session to discuss a few more things with the presenters before attending the last talks about synapses and protein homeostasis. Our last dinner was organized as a gala dinner where we enjoyed each other’s company one more time and made the most of this occasion for networking.

I had an amazing time at the conference thanks to Axol Bioscience and enjoyed this wonderful location in Spain.

"Although tourism in this area was amazing, I mostly took advantage of this event to network with fantastic people from various backgrounds and areas and learned a great deal about the ongoing research in neurodegeneration."

GRCs are particularly important and interesting because speakers present the most up-to-date research through unpublished data and this conference has been a real chance for me to be able to see and discuss those data directly with the researchers.

All of these opportunities and experiences will be extremely beneficial for the future of my project as well as my career. Thank you very much!


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