Nobel Laureates in Chemistry Speaking During Maestro Lectures on the Structure and Function of Membrane Proteins to Celebrate NTU80
Inspired by NTU President Si-chen Lee to organize special events to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the founding of NTU, the College of Medicine has arranged for six heavyweight scholars in the field of membrane protein structure and function research to visit NTU to present speeches in the Maestro Lectures on the Structure and Function of Membrane Proteins. This lecture series runs from August 15 to December 11. The speakers taking part in the lectures include Prof. Johann Deisenhofer (Howard Hughes Medical Institute and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, USA), Prof. Tom A. Rapoport (Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Harvard Medical School, USA), Prof. So Iwata (Imperial College and Diamond Light Source, United Kingdom, and the Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Japan), Prof. Robert Huber (Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry, Germany), Prof. Chikashi Toyoshima (University of Tokyo, Japan) and Prof. Poul Nissen (University of Aarhus, Denmark). All of these scholars are nationallevel academicians, while Prof. Deisenhofer and Prof. Huber are Nobel Laureates in Chemistry. NTU is proud to enjoy the rare opportunity to welcome such major figures in this field of research to share their knowledge with its faculty and students. In the future, NTU will invite a number of these scholars to take up positions as distinguished professors and establish long-term relationships with the university. In addition to this very important major forum for new knowledge, another way to achieve a direct influence is to set up an inter-institution research team. NTU will discuss this possibility with these scholars. It will also select outstanding graduate students and post-graduate researchers who show potential to join this research team in order to allow them to directly discuss cutting-edge scientific questions and possibly jointly publish papers with the visiting scholars. It is the hope of NTU to bring together talent from throughout the university system so as to make further progress in achieving excellence in the field of biomedicine. Structural biology has experienced a period of rapid development in recent years. Yet, while this field of study has proven to be a fascinating area of biomedical research, it seems to have remained unfamiliar to most. Due to structural biology's ability to provide direct evidence and its potential for developing effective models for the design of pharmaceuticals, all major pharmaceutical companies have made serious commitments to research and development to this area. NTU for its part must play an active role in this burgeoning field of research, and the College of Medicine has therefore committed itself to pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to research in this area by integrating relevant resources from throughout the university system. This approach will be particularly important in such cutting-edge areas as research into the structure of membrane proteins, molecular receptors on the membranes of cancer cell markers and glycosylation in proteomics. Research into the structures and functions of
membrane proteins and biological membranes is drawing an increasing amount of attention these days. Membrane proteins are located on the surfaces of biological membranes where they constitute the first line for the regulation of physiological functions and communication signals between interior and exterior substances. Following the cracking of the human genetic code this century, it has been estimated that membrane proteins make up one-third of all biological proteins. Moreover, it is postulated that membrane proteins might account for upwards of three-fourths of all pharmaceutical therapy markers. However, the number of membrane proteins whose structures have been explained remains vastly smaller than this, at around 0.5% of the total. There is a high degree of relation between the minute functions and operations of proteins and their three-dimensional structures. Consequently, in addition to integrating such approaches as cell electrophysiology, enzymology and proteomics with molecular biology, one of the most important methods for gaining a deeper understanding of membrane proteins will be pursuing research that takes structure as its foundation. It is exactly this type of focus that is the core characteristic of structural genomics, another field of biomedical research that is attracting a great deal of attention at the moment. In the past, considering the problem of crystallization in relation to the structure of membrane proteins was held to be an impossible task. Yet, with the arrival of the 21st Century, it appears we are beginning to witness a growing trend in resolving many questions pertaining to the structure of membrane proteins. Perhaps credit for many of these advances should be attributed to the increasing maturity of cell division expression technology and the enormous progress that has been made in computer technology. In any case, it is always best to attempt to bravely confront difficulty head on. Here at NTU, we look forward to the Maestro Lectures and the possibilities for cooperation it brings, and expect it to be both profound and enlightening.