Yale’s chemical biology experts bond over research purpose at annual retreat

November 16, 2023

Scientists from across Yale and beyond bonded together with a singleness of purpose on Oct. 27 at the annual Yale Chemical Biology Fall Retreat.

Through presentations and poster talks, faculty and trainees explained how their small molecule research aims to solve biological problems, such as diseases, infections, and metabolic syndromes.

“This event is partly supported by our Chemical Biology Interface Training Program, which brings together our core departments in Chemistry, Molecular, Cellular, Developmental and Biology, Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, and Pharmacology,” said Jason Crawford, associate professor of chemistry and of microbial pathogenesis, director of the Yale Institute of Biomolecular Design and Discovery, and retreat host. “We also have chemical biologists in other programs, like Comparative Medicine, Biology and Cellular Physiology. So, this is a great place to bring like-minded individuals together in a program that started 20 years ago.”

Since then, the program has grown, as has the field of chemical biology, from a way of making new small molecules to more efficiently probe biological processes and to make better drugs and treatment options as well as better biomarkers and diagnostic strategies. Event speakers covered a gamut of topics that reflect that growth, such as metabolism in relation to understanding cancer and diabetes, tissue repair and regeneration for fibrotic tissue disease, T cell-mediated control for autoimmunity, and RNA and protein gene expression.

Assistant Professor Stacy Malaker, a glycobiologist, explained how her lab uses mass spectrometry to study mucins, a class of proteins linked to cancer, cystic fibrosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Assistant Professor Caitlin Davis spoke about using optical photothermal infrared microscopy to map the synthesis and uptake of fatty acids, the dysregulation of which is tied to liver disease.

Further highlights of the day included a keynote talk on metabolism by Professor Joshua D. Rabinowitz of Princeton University, an industry talk by Associate Principal Scientist Smaranda Bodea of Merck Research Laboratories, and a poster competition by junior scholars.

Winners of the poster session were Valentina Rangel Angarita, Nata Dudkina, and Seth Lyon, graduate students from the Malaker, Crawford, and Breaker Labs, respectively.

During the event, Chemistry graduate students Valentina Rangel Angarita and Jovan Lopez announced the establishment of the Yale chapter of the International Chemical Biology Society. They invited fellow graduate and postdoctoral trainees to join the organization, which provides research, educational, and networking opportunities across academia, industry, government, and non-profit organizations.