Virtual biomedical symposium gathers many submissions

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The Annual Biomedical Sciences & Health Disparities Symposium attracts some of the top health science research and ideas from throughout academia in Hawaii. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 100 posters have been submitted for review to the 2021 Biomedical Sciences and Health Disparities Symposium virtual gathering on Thursday and Friday, April 15-16.

First-time co-chairs Peter Hoffmann, Ph.D, and Saguna Verma, Ph.D, faced COVID-19 roadblocks to assure a successful virtual symposium via Zoom, especially for the poster presentations. The event is hosted by the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in Kaka’ako, and participants will beam in their presentations. Registrants received their codes to enter and present at the symposium.

“Planning an interactive biomed symposium is the biggest challenge,” Verma said. “We have a strong team including IT support that is working on making the process simple for the students and the judges.” 

“I look forward to students presenting their work virtually, which can be very different compared to in-person meetings,” Verma said. “I think this will be valuable training for them on how to be engaging in virtual presentations.”

Both Hoffmann and Verma are principal researchers who are leading teams funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other benefactors for their relevant, timely projects. They each say that research collaboration sustains the enthusiasm of their respective lab teams.

“Our laboratory is focused on investigating how the immune system is regulated, and we are particularly interested in the role of a family of proteins, the selonoproteins, in regulating the activation of T- cells and macrophages,” Hoffmann said.  “Our goal is to identify novel mechanisms regulating immunity so that potential therapeutics may be developed to target these factors.”

Verma’s research focus is to analyze the mechanisms of pathogenesis of different RNA viruses including West Nile virus, Zika virus, Ebola, and more recently, SARS-CoV-2. “We have worked extensively on how viruses gain entry into the immune privileged organs like the brain and testes by crossing the tight blood-brain and blood-testis barrier and cause complications like inflammation and cell injury to these organs. We hope that further research in this area will lead to new therapeutic targets to prevent virus entry into these organs.”