NC research campus and UNC universities host major symposium on nutritional biotechnology

March 02, 2007

What's good for you and what's not? High-density cholesterol, low-density cholesterol, saturated fat, poly-unsaturated fat, trans-fat, omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, refined sugar, lactose, vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin E - almost every chemical component of our food is in question.

And if you read the paper or watch TV, the story of the biochemistry of a healthy diet keeps changing. What is it now that is that you are supposed to eat and what are you supposed to avoid? What causes cancer, heart disease, brain disease? What prevents them? Does being a man or a woman or pregnant affect what is good or bad for you to eat? Does it matter in picking your diet if you are African American, Jewish or Italian? What's up with all this uncertainty? The reason is that the molecular biology of nutrition is very complex and the science for studying it is still evolving. But two new fields are emerging in health-related bioscience that may help provide some answers: nutrigenomics and metabolomics.

In association with the development of the North Carolina Research Campus, six North Carolina universities are hosting a major symposium featuring the top national researchers in these emerging fields. Entitled "Who We Are and What We Eat: The Role of Metabolomics and Nutrigenomics in Creating Healthier Foods and Healthier Lives," the symposium is scheduled for April 15 to 17 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus.

Nutrigenomics and metabolomics are the latest additions to a growing list of new molecular biosciences that include genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics. Nutrigenomics is the new application of genomic bioscience to nutritional science and it examines the complex interactions between nutrients and the body at the gene, protein, and metabolic levels. A critical part of nurtigenomics and itself a new avenue for biotechnology, metabolomics is the systematic study of the dynamics of specific cellular processes through analyzing the small-molecule metabolites they produce. Together, these two fields fill in critical missing gaps in molecular biology and bring nutrition research fully into the biotech revolution.

Planned as a comprehensive national meeting in nutritional biotechnology, the conference will feature research presentations by prominent researchers from leading research universities, federal agencies and industry. Topics to be discussed will include the development of nutritionally improved crops, bioactives in agriculture, new ways of studying nutrient-gene interactions, the use of metabolomics and nutrigenomics as clinical tools, and how bioinformatics can facilitate new discoveries. (A list of sessions and speakers is attached.) Approximately 300 researchers in the field are expected to attend.

The conference is being held to celebrate the development of the North Carolina Research Campus which is planned as a world center for nutrition-related biotechnology research. The NCRC is the state's second major research park development -- a 350-acre biotech hub currently under construction in Kannapolis, North Carolina, a former center for the textile industry, just north of Charlotte. A cooperative venture between six North Carolina research universities and biotech industry, the "biopolis" is the brainchild of David H. Murdock, owner of Castle & Cooke, Inc. and Dole Food Company, Inc. The conference will include a tour of the NCRC site.
University sponsors of the conference are NC A&T University, NC Central University, NC State University, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, and UNC Greensboro. Interested members of the media are invited to attend - to arrange for press registration, contact Jim Hathaway, UNC Charlotte Research Communications at 704-687-6675.

Early Conference Program:

April 15, 2007 - Welcome Reception, University Hilton, Charlotte, NC

April 16, 2007 - Sessions, UNC Charlotte

Metabolomics, Genomics & Nutrition
(Moderator: Steve Zeisel)
Bruce German (UC Davis)
How nutrigenomics and metabolomics can change the science and practice of nutrition
Steve Zeisel (UNC-CH)
Metabolomics, nutrigenomics & human nutrient requirements: the choline story
Jose Ordovas (Tufts)
Using nutrigenomics in population-based studies

Food Safety
(Moderator: Carolyn Turner/Alton Thompson)
John P. Cherry (USDA ARS)
Overview of post-harvest technologies for food safety

Metabolomics of Plants and Antioxidants
(Moderator: Steve Leath)
Mary Ann Lila (U of Illinois at U-C)
Natural flavanoids and their impact on human disease and metabolic enhancement
Elizabeth H Jeffery (U of Illinois at U-C)
Targeted metabolomics for the study of functional foods: the importance of studying a complete pathway.
Balz Frei (Linus Pauling Inst)

Metabolomics & Nutrigenomics: From Animals to Humans
Gregory Cole (NCCU)
Zebrafish as a model for the study of metabolomics and nutrigenomics
Daniel Pomp (UNC-CH)
Complex genetics of obesity
Ben van Ommen (NuGO)
Using metabolomics in population-based studies.
Hans Vogel (U of Calgary)
Challenges on the road to implementing metabolomics and nutrigenomics as clinical tools.

Bioactive Food Components
(Moderator: Debbie Kipp/Rosemary Wander)
James Fleet (Purdue)
Forward and reverse genetic approaches to understand the regulation of calcium metabolism and intestinal calcium absorption
Amy Brown (U of Hawaii)
Noni and cancer: separating science and sensationalism
Steve Goff (Syngenta)
Strategies for improving flavor and nutrition across crops
Mohamed Ahmedna (NC A&T)
Recovery of bioactive compounds from selected North Carolina crops

Towards Better Food and Health
(Moderator: Duke University)
Ed Souza (USDA Ohio)
Enhanced protein in wheat
Craig Yencho (NCSU)
Nutritional enhancement of potatoes and sweet potatoes
Patrick Stover (Cornell)
Nutrition, cancer and birth defects: managing genome stability and gene expression
John Ryals (Metabolon)
A commercial platform for global metabolomic analysis

April 17, 2007 - Sessions, UNC Charlotte
(Moderator: Larry Mays)
Steven Wong (Harvard)
Informatics of multi-scale image phenotyping
Fred Wright (UNC-CH)
Genomic bioinformatics
9:30 - 10:00 - David Wishart (U of Alberta)
The human metabolome

Metabolomics, Genomics & Bioactives
(Moderator: Debbie Kipp/Rosemary Wander)
Simin Meydani (Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts)
Vitamin E and immune response: molecular mechanisms & clinical implications
Mike McIntosh (UNC-G)
Potential role of nutraceuticals in preventing obesity, insulin resistance, and inflammation

Frontiers in Genetics
(Moderator: Li An Yeh)
Harry Klee (U of Florida)
The chemical composition of tomato flavor
Eleanor Wurtzel (CUNY)
Using the maize germplasm base to identify carotenoid diversity with a goal of being able to breed for higher carotenoids without using transgenic plants

Panel Discussion - Charting the Future: Choosing the Pathways for North Carolina Research Campus
John Mathers (U of Newcastle)
Tom O'Connell (UNC-CH)
Larry Rudel (Wake Forest)
Neil Shay (Kellogg Inst of Food and Nutrition)
Lloyd Sumner (The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation)
Linda Walling (UC Riverside)

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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