02 May 2018

2012 Nobel Prize winner to speak at Life Sciences Baltics 2018

Brian K. Kobilka, MD, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology and Hélène Irwin Fagan Chair in Cardiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on G-protein-coupled receptors, will be the keynote speaker at the Life Sciences Baltics conference to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania on September 26-27, 2018.

“We are very honoured to welcome a gifted scientist whose work inspires important developments in pharmaceuticals. It has taken extraordinary passion and commitment of Prof. Kobilka’s part in moving forward. Nobel Laureate Kobilka’s scientific journey can both inspire the talented scientists in our own country and encourage businesses to more actively cooperate with the scientific community and look for innovative solutions together,” said Daina Kleponė, the Managing Director of Enterprise Lithuania, which is organising Life Sciences Baltics for the fourth time.

Brain Kobilka shared the 2012 Nobel Chemistry Prize with Robert Lefkowitz, MD, his former mentor and a professor of medicine and of biochemistry at Duke University. After joining the Lefkowitz laboratory in the 1984, Prof. Kobilka focused on learning more about the epinephrine receptor, also known as the beta-adrenergic receptor. He was able to isolate the gene that codes for the b-adrenergic receptor. This research helped the scientists to realize that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner.

Around 1,000 receptors known as G-protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs, have been identified to date. GPCRs float in a cell’s surface membrane and their primary function is to transmit signals from the outside world to the cellular interior. The receptors bind to the specific signals, such as a hormone or neurotransmitter, and this interaction causes their shape to change. Many new signal molecules – G proteins – are released in the cell’s interior finally resulting in changing of cell function.

GPCRs play a central role in the normal functioning of cells and they are also the targets for about 40 percent of drugs. In 2011 Prof. Kobilka was able to recreate the spatial structures of GPCRs which is a critical step toward understanding how to control them. These results opened up major opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to develop even more effective drugs. Now that they knew how the structures of different GPRC look, the pharmaceutical companies could start working on the identification of agents that only targeted the required G proteins. Most drugs hit several GPCRs at once leading to undesirable side effects.

Prof. Kobilka was born in Minnesota, where he graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He earned his medical degree at the Yale University School of Medicine. In 1980’s he conducted his Nobel Prize-awarded research together with R. Lefkowitz. He also defended his doctoral thesis under Robert Lefkowitz. He has been employed at Stanford University since 1989.

In September the Life Sciences Baltics event will welcome around 1,500 life science experts from all over the world. It is the largest of its kind life science event in the Baltics and the Nordics. Over 30 recognized speakers from the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Israel, Norway and other countries will share their insights on the latest trends in the life science sector, including 3D printing, immune-oncology challenges, stem cells developments, personalized medicine, laser applications in medicine, e-health solutions and many more.

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