On 21-23 November 2022, the DZL Academy hosted its Annual Symposium titled "Lung Development, Repair and Regeneration". In the suitably remote and beautiful grounds of Rauischholzhausen, Hessen, about 50 early career scientists mingled and exchanged ideas on hot topics in lung research and career paths with an international group of leading scientists in the field.
The symposium was organized in five blocks of topical research themes that early career scientists (ECS)–drawn from all five sites of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL), together with DZL-affiliated partner sites–currently address in their research projects, which are embedded in the overall DZL research program. Within each block, four invited ECS presented their most recent findings, followed by a Q&A session that was also moderated by one of their ECS peers. A special feature of these Q&A sessions was the in-depth scientific exchange with the five invited internationally renowned keynote speakers.
In his opening address, keynote speaker Dr. William Zaccharias (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, USA) set the scene, highlighting the fact that despite global research efforts, we still have no therapies available to patients to promote the regeneration of diseased lungs. While it is clear that there will be no ‘one’ drug to address lung regeneration in patients with diverse lung diseases, he encouraged the ECS to think about the common themes and pathways that might benefit from interdisciplinary exchange. The keynote address by Dr. Purushothama Rao Tata (Duke University, Durham, USA) honed in on the great advances that have been made in our understanding of lung development and regeneration with the application of single-cell technologies. Single-cell technology helps us unravel the roles that newly discovered cell types and cell states play in a broad spectrum of lung diseases. This thread was picked up again by keynote speaker Dr. Kerstin Meyer (Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK) who outlined the great effort that has been expended, and the wonderful research opportunities that have arisen from, the Human Lung Cell Atlas project and its spin-off, the “spatial atlasing of the human adult and developing lung”. Dr. Rob Hynds, keynote speaker from University College London (London, UK), provided important insights into the challenges posed by working on the development of pre-regenerative cell-based therapies. In her concluding keynote address, Dr. Darcy Wagner (Lund University, Sweden), pushed the frontiers of medical approaches to promote lung regeneration further by outlining her work with 3D printing of lung tissue structure and her research related to supporting the growth of multiple lung cell-types until the tissue matures.
A special excursion to another very topical respiratory system was presented the Dr. Hartmut Michel (Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Frankfurt), recipient of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, who summarized the milestones met along the path of studies on of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
For the meet-the-expert session, the 50 ECS split into five groups to meet the keynote speakers in an informal setting, to learn from their experiences about forging a successful career path that considers the challenges of obtaining funding, establishing a junior research group and still finding time for family and friends. To put experience into practice, ECS finished each day in the open-end bar.
The symposium was organized by the DZL Academy board members Professor Rory E. Morty and Professor Elie El Agha with the support of Dr. Sezin Czarnecki.
The aim of the event was to gather ECS and established scientists from basic research and clinical practice, to stimulate interdisciplinary discussions and to advance translational lung research and highlight career development strategies. In this sense, the symposium was a great success, as Professor Rory E. Morty summarized at the end of the symposium: “To be able to drive regeneration of the diseased lung, by understanding and exploiting developmental and regenerative pathways, represents the only hope we currently have for the long-term management of a number of acute and chronic lung diseases for which curative therapies do not exist. Our DZL Academy Annual Symposium succeeded in bringing trainee scientists drawn from all DZL sites who work in this exciting and challenging arena together with the leading minds in the field to help their research move forward”. Professor El Agha added, “it was great to finally have an in-person meeting engaging DZL ECS from all over the country and have them interact with renowned experts in the field. The symposium was a breath of fresh air full of positive energy, excellent networking and, most importantly, outstanding science!”