Challenge in Cell and Systems Biology


This is the 15th meeting of a series that has historically focused on proteomics/systems biology and cell biology, and has explored related but different biological processes and topics each year.

The focus of this year’s meeting is to discuss the “Challenges in Cell and Systems Biology”, with an emphasis on the power of emerging technologies in answering fundamental questions in cell biology and disease.  We have assembled a mix of experts from different fields; with a primary goal to help each other see our questions in a different light, and encourage new collaborations.  This meeting has a history of unexpected collaborations that have led many of us to wonderful new discoveries.  With the beautiful beaches and Banks beer, the environment is perfect to solve the problems of the world.

There are scientists at all stages coming, and given the difficult funding climate in Canada, new principal investigators will be given opportunities to interact with senior investigators and establish mentorship relationships, notably on how to write successful research proposals.  Another aspect of the collaborative workshop will be to form working groups to seek team grant funding opportunities for all.

This year we will tackle a number of interrelated themes:

-       Cellular trafficking and mitochondria
-       Genetic exploration of cancer
-       Complex systems and disease
-       The many ways of Cancer
-       Networks and machines
-       Protein-nucleic acids relationships
-       Metabolism
-       Big science

Organizing Committee
Morag Park, Ph.D. FRSC
Director, Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec

Heidi McBride, Ph.D.
Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial Cell Biology
Professor, McGill University
Montreal Neurological Institute
Neuromuscular Research Group
Montreal, Quebec

Anne-Claude Gingras, Ph.D.
Principal investigator
The Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute
Sinai Health System
Toronto, Ontario



The scientific program will start on the evening of Saturday, January 19, and end on the evening of Wednesday, January 23.  Participants are invited to arrive on Friday, January 19 and depart on Friday, January 25. Spouses are welcome to join after the completion of the scientific program and will be accommodated at Bellairs on a first-come, first served basis.  As described below, a boat excursion is planned on Thursday, January 24.

To foster interactions and collaborations, the 2019 workshop is limited to 36 participants that each will be allocated 40 minutes in the schedule: 25 minutes for presentations, followed by 15 minutes of discussion. Talks are scheduled in the mornings and evenings, with the afternoons remaining free for informal discussions, including setting-up or continuing collaborations.  We encourage all speakers to promote an interactive discussion of their recent data (whenever possible: unpublished) as a “work in progress” format.

The Bellairs Research Station is located in Holetown, Barbados. The accommodations at Bellairs are very modest and all in double occupation, but clean and comfortable, and wireless access is decent.  Breakfast and dinners are prepared on site by an excellent local chef and served outdoors.  Lunches are on your own, and several options are available nearby, from local food trucks serving tasty (and cheap) local food to fancier restaurants located directly on the beach.  While sheets and a few towels are provided in the room, you may want to bring extra towels, as well as toiletries (basic soap is provided, but nothing else).  You should also bring your own sunscreen and mosquito repellent, hat, sunglasses and UV-resistant clothing, especially for swimming.  These items can be bought in Holetown, but are in general more expensive there.

Holetown is perfectly situated on the Platinum Coast, which is renowned for its clear and warm water and its sandy beaches.  Beaches are public in Barbados, and the Folkestone Marine park – which is perfect for snorkeling – is seconds away from Bellairs.  While you can rent snorkeling equipment (as well as paddle boards, etc.) at the hotel next door, this is very expensive and I strongly suggest you bring your own gear.  You will not regret it.  The sunsets from the beach in front of Bellairs are amazing, and swimming under the stars is an experience that should not be missed.

There are many other beaches, sites and activities that are available on the Island, that are all within one hour of taxi (this is not expensive when splitting); public transportation is also available and convenient, and an experience in itself.  Car rental is possible, but keep in mind that driving is on the “wrong” side, super fast on narrow roads, and that apart from the main roads, signage does not seem great… 

On Thursday, January 24 we will make a boat excursion on a catamaran (optional activity; cost should be ~80 USD).  The boat sails up the coast and stops a few times to snorkel and swim with the turtles; lunch and beverages are included.  This is always really fun, and a great occasion to hash out the final details of your new collaborations!

There is a single airport on the Island (code BGI) into which you should fly: Canadian and American citizens do not require a visa, and the customs clearance, while not necessarily always fast, is straightforward. The organizers will coordinate taxis for arrivals and departures ahead of the start of the meeting (please provide Anne-Claude with your flight information as soon as possible).  The very friendly taxi operators will meet participants just outside of the terminal (for some reason they can always identify scientists in the crowd).  Each person should cover their taxi fare, which should be ~20 USD or 40 Barbadian dollars (BBD) or less.

The currency on the Island is the Barbadian (or Bajan) dollar, which is worth $0.5 USD, but US dollars are generally accepted on the Island as well.  Your ATM card will work on the Island: in fact, many of the banks are Canadian.  You will find one ATM at the airport, but there are also ATMs conveniently located in Holetown, just a few minutes away by foot from Bellairs.

The weather is Barbados is quite nice in January, with highs of ~29°C and lows of ~23°C; it may rain, but usually this does not last all day.  In general, Barbados is quite safe (and fortunately English speaking) and its habitants very friendly.  It is one of the richest of the Caribbean Island and infrastructure is decent (for example, tap water is potable throughout the Island).  If you plan to do any shopping, keep in mind that things tend to be closed on Sunday.

Bellairs Workshop 2016
Mikko Taipale