ONASSIS LECTURES 2019: 8 - 12 July 2019 | Foundation for Research & Technology- Hellas HERAKLION, Crete | News

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ONASSIS LECTURES 2019: 8 - 12 July 2019 | Foundation for Research & Technology- Hellas HERAKLION, Crete

Onassis 2019 Seminar Lectures, to be held from 8th to 12th July at the Foundation for Research and Technology- Hellas in Heraklion, Crete, aims to further educate and promote young, talented scientists, postgraduate and graduate students from the field of science. This year's Onassis Lectures are devoted to innovative genome processing technologies. The main speaker this year is the world-renowned scientist Jennifer Doudna, who was awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences in 2015. This three million dollar award, is the largest award in the sciences, something like the Oscar of Scientists. It is given to researchers who have made discoveries that extend human life. Jennifer Doudna is a co-inventor (together with Emmanuelle Charpentier) of the CRISPR system. This new technology has transformed an ancient mechanism of bacterial immune response into a powerful and widely used gene technology with multiple applications in biomedical sciences.

The set of presentations covers a wide range of themes, related to the development and application of different genome processing approaches, as well as the attempts to formulate ethical rules for the use of this new technology. The Onassis 2019 lectures, besides Jennifer Doudna, will have seven more invited speakers, all of them internationally influential scientists: Dana Carroll (University of Utah, USA), Srinivasan Chandrasegaran (Johns Hopkins University, USA), Andrea Crisanti (Imperial College London, United Kingdom), Eva Nogales (UC Berkeley, USA) and Erik Sontheimer (The University of Massachusetts, USA), Zoe Hilliotis (Institute of Applied Biosciences, National Center for Research and Technological Development, Greece), and Maria Jasin (Sloan Kettering Institute Medical School, USA).

In this year's Onassis Lectures, up to 35 Greek and 15 foreign students will be accepted. They are selected on the basis of their academic performance and will participate with the help of the Onassis Foundation. Students from the Institutions of Crete, as well as Greek and foreign researchers, will be admitted to participate (selected with the same criteria but without financial support).

Onassis Seminar Lectures are being held for the eighteenth year in Heraklion, Crete, with the collaboration of the Onassis Foundation and the Foundation for Research and Technology- Hellas (FORTH). They always refer to topics that are at the forefront of research, so they have established themselves as the world's highest-level institution.

Each lecture cycle lasts one week. The speakers from the previous years include 19 Nobel Prize winners, 4 Turing Award winners and Fields Medal winner Edward Witten. The aim of the institution is to give talented young scientists, postgraduate and last year undergraduate students from Greece and abroad the opportunity to be trained on the cutting-edge research problems of their field, led by leading scientists from all over the world. The Onassis Foundation's mission is to liberate the creative forces of those who want to enrich their knowledge and broaden their horizons, with the best possible possibilities, in the fields of education, health and culture.

Brief description of the lecture content:





The complete DNA sequence of an organism, called the "genome", contains all the necessary information and instructions for building different cell types and preserving the body's functions. Changes (mutations) in the genome, depending on their location, may have significant consequences. For example, mutations in the coding region of a gene may lead to a loss of protein activity, while changes in non-coding regions may affect the expression of a gene.

Genome Editing refers to strategies and techniques that allow for the correction of specific mutations in the genome to develop therapeutic applications or introduce changes to serve research purposes. In recent years, new, highly flexible tools have been developed that have enabled targeted changes in the DNA sequence with unparalleled ease and accuracy.

The three main types of technology, as they were discovered in chronological order, are:

• Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFN). One of the lecturers, Dr. Chandrasegaran, created the first ZFN nuclease and founded the new methodology.

• Transcription Activator-Like Effector nucleases.

• The CRISPR / Cas system.

All of these "tools" are based on a common strategy of structural organization. They consist of (a) a region recognizing a particular base sequence, thereby leading the tool to a preselected target site, and (b) a region with enzymatic activity which cuts the DNA at the desired site, thus allowing the execution of "microsurgery" interventions on the genome.

The CRISPR / Cas system is the latest and most widely used genome processing tool. Its targeting to the desired gene locus is determined by a short "guide" RNA (leader RNA) molecule that recognizes target DNA regions by enlisting the endonuclease enzyme (e.g., Cas9) at the specific position which, as molecular scissors, catalyzes the specific deletion of the site. This system ("CRISPR") is based on the existence of small and repetitive DNA sequences, which are part of the bacterial system for the detection and destruction of foreign DNA. The CRISPR methodology is characterized by relative simplicity in its application, and the desired result is achieved at a low cost, which has made it the most widely used genome processing technology.

The above systems, each with different cost and effort requirements, have revolutionized virtually every area of ​​biology. Within a relatively short period of time, genetic modification tools have been used in numerous research papers. In particular, they have found application in the introduction of mutations in experimental models for the purpose of studying human diseases, detecting genetic mutations, and designing and generating cells, with the ultimate goal of future use in regenerative medicine.


Applications are submitted through the lecture website: http://www.forth.gr/onassis/ , where detailed information is provided.

The deadline for the submission of applications is 7 June 2019.

Contact number: 2810 394269

Emeritus Professor Yannis Papamastorakis,

Foundation for Research and Technology- Hellas (FORTH)

Scientific Director of the Program:

"The Onassis Foundation Science Lecture Series"