Plenary Lectures

RNA methylation in gene expression regulation

About Chuan He

Chuan He is a Chinese-American chemical biologist, and is currently the John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is best known for his work in discovering and deciphering reversible RNA methylation in post-transcriptional gene expression regulation. In 2010, He proposed that RNA modifications could be reversible and may have regulatory roles analogous to well-known reversible DNA and protein modifications. He and colleagues subsequently discovered the first RNA demethylase that oxidatively reverses N6-methyladenosine (m6A) methylation in mammalian messenger RNA (mRNA) in 2011. The existence of m6A in mRNA was discovered in 1974 in both eukaryotic and viral mRNAs; however, the biological significance and functional role were not known before He’s work. This methylation is the most abundant internal modification in mammalian mRNA. In 2012, two independent studies reported transcriptome-wide mapping of m6A in mammalian cells and tissues,[5][6] revealing a unique distribution pattern. He and co-workers identified and characterized the direct reader proteins for m6A, which impact the stability and the translation efficiency of m6A-modified mRNA, elucidating functional roles of mRNA methylation. He’s group also purified the methyltransferase complex that mediates this methylation.
The He laboratory also studies DNA methylation. He invented TAB-seq, a method that can map 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) at base-resolution genome-wide, as well as hmC-Seal, a method that covalently labels 5hmC for its detection and profiling. Together with two other research groups, He and co-workers have revealed the DNA N6-methyldeoxyadenosine as a new methylation mark that could affect gene expression in eukaryotes.


Using chemical approaches to reprogram epigenome and generate desired functional cells

About Hongkui Deng

Education & Experience:
2001 – present Professor of Cell Biology, Peking University
1998 – 2001 Director of Molecular Biology, Viacell, Inc. Worcester, MA
1995 – 1998 Aaron Diamond Postdoctoral Fellow, NYU medical Center
1990 – 1995 Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
1980 – 1984 B.Sc., Wuhan University
Awards & Honors:
1995 Aaron Diamond Fellowship
2000 Cheung Kong Scholarship
2001 Natural Science Foundation of China Awards for Outstanding Young Scientists
2005 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
2006 Lilly-Asian Scientific Excellence Award
2010 Sanofi-Aventis / Cell Research Outstanding Paper Award
2013 WuXiPharmaTech Life Science Outstanding Achievements Awards
2014 TanJiazhen Life Science Award
Research Fields:
1. Cellular reprogramming
2. Stem cell and regenerative medicine
3. Stem cell engineering
Figure: Direct differentiation of human embryonic stem cell into functional hepatic cells (A) and pancreatic beta cells (B).


Protein N-phosphorylation: an underestimate area in biomedicine

About Yufen Zhao

Selected honours and Awards:
1991 Academician, Chinese Academy of Sciences
2004 Chinese National Award for New Century Women Inventor
2015 International Arbuzovs Prize
2017 Lu Jiaxi Prize
Research Interests:
Organo-phosphorous Chemistry, Origin of life, Medicinal Chemistry, Chemical Biology


Chemical Biology of Nucleic Acids: DNA Origami and Artificial Genetic Switch

About Hiroshi Sugiyama

Dr. Hiroshi Sugiyama received Ph.D. degree (advisor: Teruo Matsuura) in 1984 from Kyoto University, Japan. He joined Sidney M. Hecht group at University of Virginia as a postdoctoral fellow, 1984-1986. He moved to Kyoto University as JSPS postdoctoral fellow in 1986 and promoted to Assistant Professor in 1987. He promoted to Associate Professor in 1993. He moved to Tokyo Medical and Dental University as a full Professor in 1996. He returned to Kyoto University in 2003 as Professor of Department of Chemistry. He is also a Principle Investigator of Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS), Kyoto University. He received IBM Japan Science Award in 1999 and received Chemical Society of Japan Award in 2017. Dr. Sugiyama’s research work is centered on the chemical biology of nucleic acids and integrates three major groups focusing on DNA nanotechnology, molecular biology and synthetic organic chemistry for defining the chemical principles underlying the recognition, reactivity and structure of nucleic acids.


Action of microtubule drugs in cancer and inflammatory disease

About Tim Mitchison

Dr. Mitchison is interested in all aspects relating to microtubules, the cytoskeleton, and cell division.

Dr. Mitchison received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of California, San Francisco. During his PhD work at the University of California, San Francisco with Dr. Marc Kirschner, he discovered dynamic Instability of microtubules, a fundamental aspect of cytoskeleton biology and since then has studied the biochemistry, dynamics and spatial organization of microtubules and actin filaments with a focus on cell division mechanisms. Much of his lab's work in this area is based on live fluorescence imaging and has been at the forefront of the application of novel optical methodologies to living cells.

In 1997 he moved to Harvard Medical School to Co-direct the Institute of Chemistry and Cell Biology, a collaboration between chemists and cell biologists, to develop and apply small molecule screening capabilities in academia. As part of this effort, Dr. Mitchison's developed a strong interest in cancer chemotherapy and in more rational approaches to drug development in general. In 2004 he co-founded a new department, Systems Biology, that aims to bring systematic and quantitative methods to bear on problems in basic cell biology and medicine and in 2011 he helped found the Systems Pharmacology initiative at Harvard Medical School, a major interest area within the department, co-Directed by Peter Sorger and himself.

Dr. Mitchison is the Hasib Sabbagh Professor of Systems Biology, and co-Director of the Initiative in Systems Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School.


Nucleic Acids Chemistry under the Molecular Crowding: The Watson-Crick Double Helix is Not Enough in Cell.

About Naoki Sugimoto

1979 B.S. Kyoto University, Japan
1982 M.S. Kyoto University, Japan
1985 Ph.D., Kyoto University, Japan
Work experience:
1985 - 1988 Postdoc and Research Associate, University of Rochester, NY, USA
1988 - 1991 Assistant Professor, Konan University
1988 - 1994 Associate Professor, Konan University
1994 - Professor, Konan University
1998 - 2001 President of Forum on Bimolecular Chemistry (FBC)
2001 - 2003 Director, High Technology Research Center (HRC)
2003 - Director, Frontier Institute for Biomolecular Engineering Research(FIBER)
2009-2010 Dean of Graduate school of Frontiers of Innovative Research in Scienceand Technology(FIRST)
2012- Board of trustees, Konan Gakuen (The Konan School Corporation)
Research Field:
1. Chemistry related to living body
2. Biofunction/ Bioprocess
3. Nanomaterials/ Nanobioscience


Chemical synthesis of yeast designer chromosomes and the applications

About Yingjin Yuan

Ying-Jin Yuan is a Professor of Biochemical Engineering and Vice President of Research at Tianjin University. He is also the Director for Key Lab of Systems Bioengineering (Ministry of Education) and Dean of Institute of Science and Technology Development at the university. Dr. Yuan received his Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. from Tianjin University.

His previous appointments include being Director of Science and Technology Division, Dean of School of Chemical Engineering and Technology, Vice-chair of Department of Biochemical Engineering, Chairman of Institute of Nature Products and Biochemical Engineering at Tianjin University, and being a Visiting Professor of Chemical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Yuan is the recipient of numerous awards, including the leader of the National Creative Group Fund from NSFC, chief scientist of the National Basic Research Program, chief scientist of the major High Tech R&D Program on Synthetic Biology, International Genetic Engineering Machine (iGEM) competition - two Gold metals, one Bronze medal, Best Energy Project and Best Poster awards, 2nd prize award for Technological Invention in Tianjin, IChemE Fellow, three National Teaching Achievement Awards for Higher Education, Rice International Visiting Fellow on Energy, the Environment, and Sustainability, and National Distinguished Teacher award. His other achievements include being a recipient of the NSFC Outstanding Scholar Funds, Tianjin Municipal Government Endowed Professor and Endowed Professor of Biochemical Engineering, Tianjin Municipal Government Distinguished Scholar Award, State Council Special Allowance Award, Ministry of Human Resources Outstanding Scholar Award, Ministry of Education Young Talented Scholar Award, Tianjin Municipal Government "Labor Day" medal, and Outstanding Teacher from Tianjin Municipal Government and Tianjin University.


A semi-synthetic organism that stores and retrieves increased genetic information

About Floyd E. Romesberg

Dr. Romesberg has managed a research group at The Scripps Research Institute since 1998. His group uses a broad range of techniques, including non-linear optical spectroscopy, organic chemistry, microbiology, and genetics, to study different aspects of evolution. This work has been described in more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Dr. Romesberg is best known for developing unnatural base pairs for the expansion of the genetic alphabet and is also working to develop novel antibiotics, as well as to understand how evolution tailors protein dynamics and how cellular stress and DNA damage induce cell-cycle checkpoint responses and mutations.

Dr. Romesberg is also the scientific founder and a member of the board of directors of Synthorx. Prior to Synthorx, he served as the scientific co-founder and a member of the board of directors of RQx Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Genentech) and Achaogen. Dr. Romesberg received a B.S. in chemistry from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from Cornell University.


HYDROGEN BONDING – The Dominant Factor in Enzyme Catalysed Phosphoryl Transfer

About George Michael Blackburn

Completed undergraduate studies in Cambridge University as a Major Scholar in St. John’s College, joined Prof Alan Johnson for Ph.D. research on Vitamin B12, returned to Cambridge to join Prof Lord Alexander Todd (Nobel Laureate) for work on biological phosphate chemistry and solid phase DNA synthesis. Joined the Sheffield University Faculty in 1965 and remained there until his retirement when he ceased undergraduate teaching in 2016. Inter alia he was instrumental in founding the Krebs Institute for Molecular Recognition Studies being Co-Director from 1988-2008.
His IUPAC activities spanned the period 1999-2006 holding various positions in Division-III, Biomolecular and Organic Chemistry with especial focus on the ISBOC Conference Series. In Sheffield he founded the NACON triennial meetings in Nucleic Acids Chemistry which concluded in 2008. Most recently he was General Secretary for the FEBS Congress in St. Petersburg, 2013.
Mike Blackburn has authored over 270 research papers in learned journals and three books.
He is author and co-author of some 12 patents on topical treatment of glaucoma, on bisphosphonates, on drug development for histone methylase inhibitors, and on drug developments for avian influenza neuraminidase.

Invited Lecturers
  • Mattieu Sollogoub (Sorbonne University)
  • Yasuhiro Kajihara (Osaka University)
  • Xi Chen (University of California, Davis)
  • Christian Hackenberger (Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie)
  • Ashraf Brik (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)
  • Steve Rokita (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Kazuhiko Nakatani (Osaka University)
  • Xiang Zhou (Wuhan University)
  • Xinshan Ye (Peking University)
  • Xuechen Li (The University of Hong Kong)
  • Lei Liu (Tsinghua University)
  • Cristina Nativi (University of Florence)
  • Virinder S. Parmar (University of Delhi)
  • Martin Schnermann (NIH cancer Institute)
  • Motonari Uesugi (Kyoto University)
  • Raymond Moellering (University of Chicago)
  • Janez Plavec (University of Ljubljana)
  • Byeang Hyean Kim (Pohang University of Science and Technology)
  • Hang Yin (Tsinghua University)
  • Dan Yang (The University of Hong Kong)
  • Jordan L. Meier (National Cancer Institute-Frederick)
  • Huchen Zhou (Shanghai Jiao Tong University)
  • Caiguang Yang (Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • Peng Chen (Peking University)
  • Michele Vittadello (The City University of New York)
  • Sangsu Bae (Hanyang University)
  • Zhen Huang (Georgia State University)
  • Peng Wu (The Scripps Research Institute)
  • Xiaohong Fang (Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • Jiangyun Wang (Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • Changlin Tian (University of Science and Technology of China)
  • Chaoyong Yang (Xiamen University)
  • Laura Russo (University of Milano-Bicocca)
  • Zhou Nie (Hunan University)
  • Yi Yang (East China University of Science and Technology)
  • Xingyu Jiang (Southern University of Science and Technology)
  • Yanyi Huang (Peking University)
  • Yanmei Li (Tsinghua University)
  • Peng George Wang (Southern University of Science and Technology)
  • Hao Huang (Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School)
  • Junmin Quan (Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School)
  • Yuzong Chen (Tsinghua Shenzhen International Graduate School)
  • Zhihong Jiang (Macau University of Science and Technology)
  • Bengang Xing (Nanyang Technological Universit)