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Calpain Conference in Monterey

Jul 19 2019

Posted In:

20/20 Blog

Pacific Grove, CA – Every three years The Biology of Calpains in Health and Disease Conference brings together an international, multidisciplinary group of researchers who are examining the role calpains play in diseases like retinal degeneration, Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, and cancer. The scientific sessions, career workshop, and general meeting are all designed to build collaborations that will advance the field. This year’s meeting was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, an intimate setting that fosters interactions between junior researchers and scientific experts in the field.  




Members of the Mahajan Lab shared their latest research on the Calpain-5 protease and its contributions to ADNIV, a rare blinding eye disease that mimics many common eye conditions. 



Gabriel Velez, an M.D., Ph.D. student in the lab, gave a presentation on the crystal structure of the Calpain-5 protease core domain. His talk, Structure-function relationships in a non-classical calpain associated with neuroinflammation, was awarded the Koichi Suzuki Award for best presentation by a predoctoral candidate. 


Velez said, “It was exciting to meet and speak with the researchers and teams behind the studies I have read throughout my Ph.D. training, and I feel honored and humbled to have been given this award.” 


Kellie Schaefer, a Ph.D. student in the Mahajan lab, presented on the methods the lab uses to identify substrates of Calpain-5, focusing on how one of the growth factor substrates contributes to the ADNIV phenotype. She also explained how identifying the exact cut site can be used to develop an inhibitor as a therapeutic. 


Schaefer said, ““I went to my first calpain meeting shortly after joining the Mahajan Lab, and I received a lot of suggestions and feedback at that first meeting. It’s great to have the opportunity to come back and share the progress I’ve been able to make since then.”


Through the many opportunities for collaboration and discussion, Young Joo Sun, a postdoctoral fellow and newest Mahajan Lab member, developed five calpain questions to work on over the next three years.

Sun said, “It was a very informative meeting where I met many groups who want to solve calpain problems with us. I was happy to share our lab’s insights and expertise.”