Written by: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D. | Issue # 98 | 2020
- The International Milk Genomics Consortium (IMGC) will hold its 17th annual conference October 13–16, 2020 in a virtual, interactive, and live format.
- The conference will bring together a multidisciplinary group of experts from all over the world to discuss and share scientific research related to milk and human health.
- The symposium will feature two sessions each day for four days, with livestream talks moderated with Q&A polling followed by chat room discussions with the speakers.
- All livestream talks will be available as on demand recordings for up to one year.
- The conference will host several student social mixers, as well as prizes that can be won by participating in quizzes and interactive games.
For nearly 20 years the International Milk Genomics Consortium (IMGC) has been the world’s signature organization linking scientific research on lactation and milk to their applications in human health, from babies to adults. IMGC will hold its 17th annual conference October 13–16, 2020 in a lively, engaging, and interactive virtual format. The conference will bring together a multidisciplinary field of experts from all over the world to discuss their scientific research on milk and human health.
IMGC VIRTUAL Symposium 2020 will host two sessions each day for four days, with talks followed by chat room discussions with the speakers. Student social mixers will follow sessions to foster engagement with students from all over the world. Attendees may also win prizes by participating in games and quizzes about the talks and various milk-related topics. The symposium is designed to cultivate collaboration across disciplines and countries to move the field of milk science forward and help translate basic research into practical impacts on health.
Here are highlights of IMGC VIRTUAL Symposium 2020:
The first day unfolds with the hot topic, “Microbiome 2.0.” The morning begins with opening remarks by Professor Bruce German, who will bridge the gap between milk’s scientific discoveries and their health utility for attendees to learn how to translate lactation research for a pandemic world. Next, Professor David Mills from the University of California Davis will deliver the keynote address on the major scientific discovery describing how specific human milk components enrich specific protective taxa in the gut microbiome. From Professor Helen Raybould’s lab at the University of California Davis, Postdoctoral Scholar Sunhye Lee will present findings on the effects of feeding the oligosaccharide 2’-fucosyllactose on intestinal barrier integrity and metabolic functions in mice. Dr. Giorgio Casaburi from Evolve BioSystems, Inc. will show metagenomic data of the gut microbiome that explain the widely varying abundance of antibiotic resistance genes in term infants in the US.
The 2019 Most Valuable Presentation award recipient, Dr. Christopher Stewart from Newcastle University, will update attendees on progress since his 2019 talk. In the afternoon, Professor Meghan Azad from the University of Manitoba and recipient of the Outstanding Mid-Career Investigator Award will speak about the CHILD Study involving 3,500 Canadian families, which is studying the relationships among breastfeeding, infant microbiomes, and health and disease trajectories. Professor Sharon Donovan from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will wrap up the Microbiome 2.0 session by connecting early gut colonization with firmicutes to weight gain in infants from the STRONG Kids 2 Cohort.
The next session, “Immunity, Autoimmunity and Inflammation: the 21st Century’s BIG Challenge,” will begin with Outstanding Early Career Investigator Awardee Dr. Bethany Henrick, Director of Immunology & Diagnostics at Evolve BioSystems, Inc., revealing the role of the gut microbiome and development of the immune system during infancy. Dr. Veronique Demers-Matthieu from Medolac Laboratories and the University of Massachusetts Amherst completes the day with the investigation of SARS-CoV-2-related antibodies in human milk.
Day 2 starts with “Immunity, Autoimmunity and Inflammation: the 21st Century’s BIG Challenge,” as keynote speaker Professor Belinda van’t Land from University Medical Center Utrecht and Scientist at Danone Nutricia will present her work on the immune modulating- and mucosal barrier-supporting properties of human milk oligosaccharides.
Student Award recipient Ling Xiong from Wageningen University and Research will address mechanistic relationships between heat damage to whey proteins and allergy development. Professor John Lippolis from Iowa State University and scientist of the National Animal Disease Center and Agricultural Research Service at the USDA will present findings on the effects of Holstein breeding on mastitis resistance. This session closes with speaker Professor Rebecca Powell from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who will present findings on SARS-CoV-2 immune responses in human milk following recovery from COVID-19.
In the afternoon, Day 2 moves to “Milk Structure-Function: Molecules in the Matrix,” with the keynote address by Professor Ben Boyd from Monash University on his breakthrough discoveries of milk lipids and their self-assembly during digestion. Professor Nina Poulsen from Aarhus University will share findings showing that feed source and lactation stage affect the posttranslational modifications of cow milk caseins. Professor Michelle (Shelley) McGuire from the University of Idaho will present results on the variation in milk microbiomes and human milk oligosaccharides from the international INSPIRE Study. The day ends with a presentation on the antimicrobial and bifidogenic activities of milk peptides in the intestinal tract of breastfed infants by Student Award recipient Robert Beverly from Oregon State University.
Day 3 continues with the session topic “Milk Structure-Function: Molecules in the Matrix,” with an in-depth analysis of the regulation and health implications of milk fat globule size by Outstanding Mid-Career Investigator Award recipient and Senior Lecturer, from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Nurit Argov-Argaman. Professor Robert Ward from Utah State University completes the session with the dose-dependent improvement of casein-sugar Maillard reaction products on metabolic regulation studied in a rodent model.
Day 3 will switch gears to “Comparative Biology: Mining the Wisdom of Evolution,” and open with Outstanding Mid-Career Investigator Award recipient Professor Katie Hinde from Arizona State University on the interactions between milk in early life and brain activity and social behavior in adolescent rhesus macaques. Dr. Yue Xing from Texas A&M University will follow with a presentation on regulatory long-non-coding RNAs in the cow mammary gland.
In the afternoon, Professor Kevin Nicholas from Monash University, winner of this year’s Career Award, will deliver the keynote address on the development of innovative strategies to improve health outcomes of preterm infants using marsupials as an evolutionary model for lactation. Then Student Award recipient Sierra Durham from the University of California Davis describes the development of platforms to compile milk oligosaccharide profiles of mammalian species for potential commercial isolation.
Day 3 will close with the session “Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Future of Agriculture, Food, and Health,” with the keynote address by Professor Victor Cabrera from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the development of a real-time, data-integrated, data-driven, continuous decision-making engine to collect, integrate, manage, and analyze on- and off-farm data for practical and relevant actions. Dr. Liliana Fadul-Pacheco from the University of Wisconsin-Madison completes the day demonstrating her research on the use of machine learning algorithms to predict clinical mastitis.
Day 4 will open with a presentation on the future of artificial intelligence in nutrition research by Outstanding Mid-Career Investigator Award recipient Dr. Danielle Lemay from the Western Human Nutrition Research Center/USDA. Finally, data scientist Sufyan Kazi from Evolve BioSystems, Inc. completes the session illustrating the use of artificial intelligence to identify biomarkers of necrotizing enterocolitis in the preterm infant gut microbiome.
Day 4 begins with the conference’s final topic, “Innovative technologies in milk science for human health.” Distinguished Professor Carlito Lebrilla from the University of California Davis will deliver the keynote address on the development of tools to characterize various carbohydrate structures in human milk and weaning foods. Dr. Randall Robinson from the University of California Davis continues on novel methods to quantify human milk oligosaccharides.
Keynote speaker Professor Daniela Barile from the University of California Davis will begin the afternoon session with the promise of new “omics” techniques for high-throughput analysis of milk oligosaccharides to enhance dairy sustainability. Student Award recipient Syaza Binte Abu Bakar from Monash University will show the differences in the self-assembly of lipids during the digestion of human colostrum and emulsified colostrum-mimicking lipid mixtures, and their potential interactions with bioactive proteins. Dr. Jayne Martin Carli from University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus will present research strategies for the utility of single cell RNA sequencing technology to understand maternal phenotype during lactation. The session will wrap up with an overview of the IMGC’s monthly publication, “SPLASH! milk science update,” the very same publication you are currently reading, by Dr. Danielle Lemay, the publication’s Executive Editor. Since its first issue in 2012, SPLASH! has published more than 380 articles and is read by more than 1,700 subscribers around the world, regularly attracting more than 80,000 readers a year to the IMGC website. The conference will wrap up with closing remarks, including where the 2021 conference will take place, by IMGC Director of Scientific and Strategic Development, Dr. Jennifer Smilowitz.
The four-day symposium is organized by the IMGC with support from current Elite and Premier sponsors including Arla Foods, California Dairy Research Foundation, Danone Nutricia Research, Dutch Dairy Association, and Gold sponsor National Dairy Council.