Recap of the 27th Annual Philadelphia Infection and Immunity (I&I) Forum. 

On December 7th, 2018, The Eastern Pennsylvania Branch of the American Society for Microbiology (EPA-ASM) and its student chapter hosted the 27th Annual Philadelphia Infection and Immunity Forum (I&I). This one-day event brings together microbiologists, parasitologists, immunologists and virologists from the greater Philadelphia area to share their research, network among colleagues, and hear outstanding scientists present their research. The event also hosts vendors from a number of biotechnology companies who provide sponsorship to the forum. This year, over 140 scientists participated in the event viewing trainee posters and listening to platform presentations from graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and three renown keynote speakers. 

Of the 70 pre- and post-doctoral poster presentations, one undergraduate student, one postdoctoral fellow, and three graduate students were recognized for their scholarly work. The presenter along with their affiliation and poster title are as follows: Miranda Ginder from University of the Sciences for her work concerning transcriptional regulation in Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Alexander Price from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for his poster titled “Adenovirus co-opts cellular m6A modification machinery to facilitate viral RNA splicing and protein production”, Lauren Nicastro from Temple University for her poster titled “Formation of curli/eDNA complexes leads to mature biofilm matrix”, Kiran Madugula from Drexel University for his poster titled “Regulation and perturbation of Myocyte Enhancer Factor-2 activity in Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma”, and Louis Taylor from The University of Pennsylvania for his poster titled “Redondoviridae: A new family of small DNA viruses native to the human oro-respiratory tract”. The four posters not only demonstrate the hard work and scientific rigor of the trainee, but the interdisciplinary nature of their work and the far-reaching implications of their research. 

Platform presentations from trainees covered many important topics in the field of microbiology including mechanisms of Vancomycin resistance (Lina Maciunas, Drexel University College of Medicine), the role of adhesins in Haemophilus influenzae nasopharyngeal colonization (Nadia Kadry, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine), the ability of Adenovirus to exploit non-degradative ubiquitination for late viral RNA processing (Christin Herrmann, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine), the use of anti-amyloid antibodies to reduce Salmonella Typhimurium biofilm formation (Sarah Tursi, PhD, Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine), interactions between skin commensal and pathogenic species (Laurice Flowers, PhD, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine), and crosstalk between lung epithelial and myeloid cells in the context of the innate immune response (Xin Liu, PhD, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine). 

The student chapter officers also invited three keynote speakers who are leaders in the fields of bacteriology, virology, immunology, and/or parasitology. Dr. Thomas Wellems, chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, delivered the Sidney Pestka lecture during which he discussed genetic studies of Plasmodium malaria parasites. Dr. Michael Abt, an assistant professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania, gave the second keynote talk titled “Immune-Microbiota Interactions Regulate Host Defense Against C. difficile”. Attendees also had the pleasure to hear from Dr. Stacy Horner, the Co-Director of the Center for RNA Biology at Duke University Medical Center, who delivered an excellent keynote lecture titled “New Regulators of the Host Response to RNA Virus Infection”. 

This annual event would not be possible without the hard work of the EPAASM student chapter officers (Amanda Miller, Jennifer Connors, Nawar Naseer, Natasha Lopes Fischer, and Amanda Platt) and the student chapter advisors (Drs. Michele Kutzler and Simon Knight).  We are grateful to the ASM for a Regional Branch Funding grant, PBL Assay Science, Drexel University College of Medicine, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University, and University of Pennsylvania for their support.  We would also like to thank the speakers and participants. Please join us next year for the 28th Annual I&I forum! 

Amanda J. Platt

Eastern PA Branch Student Chapter President (2018)

Amanda Platt is a Ph.D. candidate at Drexel University College of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She is mentored by Dr. Joris Beld.