Cytochrome P450 enzymes are found in all living organisms and are essential in metabolizing a wide range of substances including steroids, fatty acids and the majority of pharmaceuticals. They control the elimination of most drugs and therefore strongly influence drug-drug interactions that can cause adverse side effects. P450s are also capable of detoxifying many environmental pollutants. In 1976, a small group of scientists gathered to share research about the mysterious enzyme at the center of all this biological action and reaction.
That informal gathering evolved to become the International Conference on Cytochrome P450 (CYP), a major bi-annual event with speakers from all over the world and an expanding range of subjects from basic biophysical research to applied aspects of toxicology and drug metabolism. The Medicinal Chemistry Department, led by professors Allan Rettie and Bill Atkins, hosted the Seattle conference in 2013. Drs. Rettie and Atkins also serve on the conference advisory committee.
Dr. Rettie and five students from Med Chem attended the 2015 conference in Tokyo, Japan earlier this summer. Eric Evangelista, Wynton McClary, Robert Pelletier, Ryan Seguin, and Nick Treuheit presented posters at the conference where Dr. Rettie was a featured speaker (“Drug Metabolism Contributions to the Development of Precision Medicine.”)
“Everyone at the conference was hospitable and welcoming,” said Nick Treuheit. “We got to interact with well-known people in the P450 field and experience the full range of experimentation that’s being done with it.”
“It was a terrific experience to talk with fellow P450 researchers from around the world,” said Ryan Seguin. Ryan was impressed by the variety and breadth of topics covered by the presenters. “Japan is an amazing place,” he added. “I enjoyed interacting with people and experiencing their culture.” Ryan tried local delicacies such as naga-imo (a slimy-textured grated mountain yam) and lived to tell about it, saying “it actually tastes pretty good, once you get past the texture.”
Robert Pelletier was excited to learn about a new way to “see enzymes work” using neutron crystallography, a technique which will play an important role in future drug development. He also enjoyed catching up with old friends and making new friends among the international students.
“It was fantastic hearing about the latest advances in our understanding of Cytochrome P450s,” said Wynton McClary. “And in our spare time we enjoyed Tokyo’s history and atmosphere.” Eric Evangelista agreed it was “a great learning opportunity, meeting with other scientists and discussing their research.”
The students also got helpful feedback on their own work during poster presentations. Ryan presented a new metabolite that may shed light on the metabolism of drugs that contain nitrogen. Robert’s poster dealt with the metabolism of Chlormethiazole, a drug used to treat acute alcohol withdrawal, and its effect on Cytochrome P450 enzyme activity in patients using the drug.
“The P450 conference was an illuminating experience for faculty and students alike,” said Dr. Rettie. “We are all looking forward to the 2017 conference in Dusseldorf, Germany.”