This proposal requests partial support for the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on autophagy to be held in Ventura Beach, CA, March 8-13, 2019. Autophagy is a fundamental cellular homeostatic mechanism affecting many developmental processes, as well numerous age-related human diseases such as neurodegeneration and inflammation. Growing evidence also suggests autophagy as a major molecular mechanism of aging, warranting its mechanistic study. The broad and long-term goal of this GRC series is to highlight the expanding role and regulation of autophagy in physiological and pathological processes that underlie human aging and diseases.
The specific aims of the 2020 GRC meeting will be to convene 34 invited speakers and discussion leaders in key areas of autophagy research along with ~200 participants for a five-day conference. The program will include a keynote session with keynote address from a world leader in inflammation and non-canonical functions of autophagy genes, a novel molecular aspect of this conference. Other speakers in the keynote session are the two 2018 GRC chairs who will speak on autophagy and age-related diseases. The conference will also feature eight sessions that address current issues relating to the regulation and structure of autophagy proteins, selective mechanisms of autophagy, the role of autophagy in age-related diseases, along with two additional mechanistic sessions that focus on canonical functions for autophagy proteins in lysosomal degradation, as well as a session on the new and emerging topic of non-canonical functions for autophagy proteins. In addition, 16 short talks will be selected from submitted abstracts, and two poster sessions will permit all participants to contribute to these topics. The significance of this application is that the GRC on autophagy has become the cornerstone of the yearly series of conferences that critically influence, direct and drive research in the international community of autophagy researchers. GRC meetings bring together a broad group of investigators who are at the forefront of the autophagy research field, and provide ample opportunities for junior scientists and trainees to present their work and exchange ideas with leaders in the field, thus nurturing the next generation of autophagy research leaders, following in the footsteps of the 2016 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Ohsumi, who discovered the molecular mechanisms of autophagy. The health relatedness of this application is that autophagy directly impacts a wide spectrum of human health and diseases related to aging, such chronic inflammation and neurodegeneration. The research highlighted by GRC meetings on autophagy will lead to a greater molecular understanding of a critical process and help develop new approaches to treat age-related diseases and improve healthspan.
Autophagy is a fundamental biological process with broad impact on human health, including a number of age- related diseases, such as neurodegeneration, cancer, infection and immunity, inflammation and allergy, metabolic diseases and diabetes, muscle atrophy, as well as the aging process itself. The realization of the broad impact of autophagy in human health is in part the result of vigorous scientific exchange facilitated by previous Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) on autophagy. The 2020 GRC meeting on autophagy will be instrumental in communicating the newest molecular insights of the role and regulation of autophagy in aging and age-related disorders, as well as highlight a new and emerging concept in the field, namely that many autophagy-related proteins have functions outside of lysosomal degradation.