Chemists from UK and Cuban universities will meet in Havana next week to discuss the application of chemistry in the life sciences.

Chemists from leading UK and Cuban universities are meeting in Havana next week to discuss the application of chemistry in the life sciences.

The symposium (10-12 January, 2006) will be coordinated by Graham Richards, chairman of the University of Oxford’s chemistry department, and Luis Montero from the University of Havana. Institutional supporters include the RSC, the British Council, and the Universityof Oxford. 

The topics to be addressed by 18 invited speakers range from glycobiology to supramolecular chemistry, and from plant growth regulators to new vaccines. Prominent UK speakers include Raymond Dwek, head of Oxford’s biochemistry department, Sabine Flitsch from the University of Manchester, and Ben Davis, also at Oxford, who was recently awarded the Mullard prize by the Royal Society.

While Cuba does not have a strong chemical industry, research at the biology-chemistry interface has been a focus for the last two decades. ’Chemistry in Cuba has a great biological profile,’ said Roberto Cao, one of the Cuban chemists scheduled to speak at the meeting. ’This symposium on life science is very important for Cuban chemists, and with the partners from the UK, success and usefulness is guaranteed.’

Co-organiser Richards echoes this: ’We hope that the meeting will provide the opportunity of developing on-going collaborations,’ he said. 

Ben Davis, who already collaborates with Cuban researchers, welcomes the upcoming opportunity to expand and intensify cooperation. ’There is some really exciting stuff going on there,’ he told Chemistry World. ’The Cubans have made far-sighted investments in areas like glycobiology and vaccine development, and are now among the world leaders in some of these fields. We are very keen to get more involved in their research. This is a great scientific opportunity.’

After the meeting, delegates will visit the biotechnology research centres in Havana.   Michael Gross