© BrainNet Europe II
BrainNet Europe is a "Network of Excellence" funded by the European Commission in the 6th Framework Program "Life Science" (LSHM-CT-2004-503039). It consists of 19 established brain banks across Europe and is coordinated by the Centre for Neuropathology and Prion Research Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Germany.
This meeting was organised by Professor Kretzschmar, Dr Arzberger and Ms Ameli Schwalber who formed the Organizing Committee. All the arrangements for hosting the meeting were ably organised and supported throughout the meeting by GABO:mi.
Members of the Abstract Committee were Dr Arzberger, Professor Bell, Professor Budka, Professor Kretzschmar, Dr Ravid, Professor Reynolds and Professor Riederer.
This first international meeting of the BrainNet Europe consortium was located in the historic setting of the University Campus on San Servolo Island, Venice.
Summary of Conference
More than 100 participants from 15 different countries, including mainland Europe, Australia , USA, Japan and UK, participated in this two day meeting. The varied format of the meeting was ideal to encourage an informal atmosphere and lively discussion. Invited talks were interspersed with proffered papers and poster sessions. Interludes through the day provided not only refreshment but the opportunity for participants to mingle and exchange experience and comment on the meeting. The gracious surroundings, balmy weather and excellent food all contributed to the relaxed atmosphere of this meeting. The social arrangements were looked after most efficiently by GABO:mi. Excellent IT support ensured that each of the speakers was able to deliver their talk without any interruption to the programme.
The scientific programme achieved a good balance of presentations covering brain banking experience from a range of the countries represented at the meeting, together with an overview of BrainNet Europe activities which was informative for this first gathering of the international brain banking community. Many aspects of modern brain banking were presented in detail including gene expression microarray, protein preservation in human post mortem tissue, subcellular proteomics and receptor studies and microdissection of key brain areas. The focus of different brain banks was highlighted including the neurodegenerative dementias, developmental disorders, alcoholism, psychoses and motor neuron disease. One highlight of the meeting was a fascinating comparison between human and primate genomes provided by Professor S Paabo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Discussion at the end of each presentation was animated and the breaks between scientific sessions provided continued opportunities for question and answer sessions as well as the establishment of new friendships and scientific contacts. The posters were uniformly of high standard, presenting a challenge to the judges who were tasked with making a poster award. In the end, several poster awards were made for the most innovative presentations.
Perhaps the social highlight of this conference was the elegant dinner hosted in one of the last Palazzos privately owned on the Grand Canal, to which the guests were ferried in style through the centre of Venice on a beautiful summer evening. San Servolo itself provided a gracious setting for supper on the terrace on the first evening. Appropriately enough, the oldest part of the building on San Servolo Island had been a hospital and had housed people with mental disorders. The facilities had included a post mortem room and the collection of old post mortem instruments was made available for viewing by the participants at the conference. Nowadays, San Servolo Island is the setting for an extremely well appointed University campus which proved ideal for the BNE international gathering.
Formal evaluations were received from only 25% of the participants but from these, the respondents had rated the large majority of talks as very good to excellent. This satisfaction was roundly endorsed by informal feedback at the meeting. The written comments were extremely supportive, with respondents saying that the conference had exceeded expectations and had been very interesting and well organised. The good balance of topics and excellent posters were commended and imaginative highlights such as Professor Paabo's lecture were particularly welcome.
The organisers of this first conference open to non-BNE members were well pleased with the reception from non-BNE participants. The informal opinions aired at the meeting were extremely positive and organisers felt that the participants left the conference energised by contacts and new information which would help them to improve their own brain banks and encourage a networking ethos in 21st century brain banking. Useful lessons were learnt in respect of plans for the next BNE international conference. Greater prominence should be given to the excellent poster presentations and their consideration in the course of the conference should be prioritised in the programme rather than being concentrated in a final session. The particularly good choice of invited lecturers should encourage BNE to issue similar invitations to a future conference. The extremely attractive venue and the meticulously organised social and professional programme planned by GABO:mi proved to be invaluable assets for this meeting. There is no doubt that the participants would be enthusiastic about attending a repeat BNE conference.
BrainNet Europe will plan the next international conference for 2008 and this will benefit from the ongoing activities of BNE members who are currently pushing the boundaries of brain banking activities and creating new best practice in this field.