Ever wondered where the baculovirus insect cell expression system came from? The clue is in the name – of course it came from viruses that naturally infect insect caterpillars or larvae and can cause a nasty lytic disease. The symptoms are quite dramatic!
You may not realise it, but insects are prone to all manner of diseases caused by a variety of pathogens including: viruses, bacteria, fungi, microsporidia, nematodes and other parasites. But who works on these systems? They don’t often attract much attention by comparison with the glamour attached to research on human and other animal diseases. Nonetheless, there are small communities of dedicated researchers around the world who beaver away to unlock the secrets of these host-pathogen systems.
One of the foremost gatherings of researchers interested in invertebrate diseases is annual meeting of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology, which this year meets in Tours, France between 24-28th July. Although OET makes its living from using insect virus-based protein expression systems, most of us have our roots in studies on baculovirus-insect interactions either through post graduate degrees or post doctoral work. Therefore, every year at least some of us try to get to the SIP meeting to catch up on the latest results.
It’s not all work though! The SIP is noted for its fine program of social activities, including excursions, BBQ and conference dinner, which ends the conference on the last day, so no groggy sessions to attend the next day! There is also a fun 5K run/walk to test the fitness of participants.
We wouldn’t expect any of you suddenly to drop everything and rush off to Tours this week, but thought it worth highlighting how very applied work such as the baculovirus insect expression system is underpinned by a lot of basic science, which will probably contribute to future advances in the area. Now where are my running shoes!