San Diego, California, U.S. More than 6,000 people attended 2018 Experimental Biology (EB) Tang Prize Award Lecture, given by the Tang Prize Biopharmaceutical Science laureate Dr. Feng Zhang. “Tonight we have a full house,” announced the Executive Officer of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) Judith Siuciak, who is also the Chair of the 2018 EB Management Committee. Many latecomers stood at the back of the ballroom throughout the entire lecture. The live screening outside the ballroom also attracted a number of passers-by.
Zhang’s team has developed a platform termed “SHERLOCK” from a dead variant of Cas13 (dCas13) in the CRISPR-Cas family. This February, the team published an article on the journal,Science, reporting four advances integrated into SHERLOKv2. Zhang joked about “how terrible the system was” when they first started the experiment. His team then found the key, T375G, and the optimization boosts the system accuracy to a thousand folds higher. The system shows remarkable sensitivity that can go with portable equipment. These upgrades enable SHERLOCKv2 to detect Dengue or Zika virus ssRNA in the “Lateral Flow Test Strips” in a much faster and reliable fashion.
The host, Professor Shu Chien of UCSD, praised Zhang’s research as “ingenious and groundbreaking.” It’s not just biopharmaceutical science, other disciplines will benefit from its application. At the end of the lecture Professor Chien asked Zhang to share a few words with young researchers. Zhang humbly expressed his gratitude towards his family and teachers. He said, “I’m very lucky. First, I have good parents. Second, I have good teachers.” Zhang mentioned when he entered the San Diego Convention Center, he bumped into a bunch of high school students. He like that the Tang Prize Award Lecture opens a door to everyone. Zhang thinks his teachers in each stage of his studies knew him well, and they selflessly guided him to his success. “When you have achieved something, don’t forget to help the others and thank your teachers.” Zhang’s words echoed the spirit of Confucianism in a way that he respects the past and takes the responsibility of inspiring the future. His advice to the young won a thunderous applause from the audience. After the lecture, many attendees stayed behind and hoped to talk to Zhang in person.
Five leading bioscience institutions together host EB this year. They are American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Physiological Society (APS), American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), and ASPET. Zhang gave the opening lecture last night, and the program has a lot more to offer in the next few days.
Tang Prize Foundation and EB signed a 10-year memorandum in 2015. Every year since then, Tang Prize Biopharmaceutical Science laureate gives lecture at the EB. The two organizations collaborate closely to foster a broader information exchange and outreach. Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation, believes the Tang Prize Award Lecture at EB is a great opportunity that allows not just scholars but also students to come under the same roof and learn something new. Dr. Chern said to those that lingered long after the lecture ended, “we will see you again next year!”