FEBS 60th Anniversary – Back to Berlin

During its 60 years of history FEBS has had 48 congresses: the Milano one in 2024 will be the 48th Congress. In 2015 the German Society GBM hosted the 40th FEBS Congress in Berlin. Find out why this was historically important and enjoy photos from the event at the end of the post.
FEBS 60th Anniversary – Back to Berlin
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On 4–9 July 2015, the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM) hosted the 40th FEBS Congress in Berlin. It was the second congress held in Berlin, with the 17th FEBS Meeting (as the congress was called before 2004) taking place there in 1986. Dresden, in Germany, had been the site of an earlier 12th FEBS Meeting, in 1978, so on both occasions the event had taken place with the "Iron Curtain" still present. Indeed, because of the political situation, the 1986 event had to be advertised as taking place in "West Berlin". Therefore 2015 was the first time the FEBS Congress was hosted in a reunited Berlin, which was noted on the program's welcome message by the then FEBS Secretary General, Prof. Dr. Israel Pecht:

...the 40th FEBS Congress is the first FEBS Congress in the united Berlin, the city which symbolized for many decades the division of Europe. For FEBS, which was one of the very few organizations bridging both parts of the divided Europe, it is obviously an additional reason for celebration.

And so, on 4 July 2015, with the city reaching temperatures of 38° Celsius, the 40th FEBS Congress welcomed its 1,600 attendees to Berlin and into the venue – the Estrel Convention Center, the largest congress and hotel complex in Europe. 

The Congress, which also acted as the GBM's biennial conference, had six parallel sessions that covered the key themes of:

  • Mechanisms of Gene Expression
  • Membranes, Receptors & Bioenergetics
  • Structural Biology & Biophysics
  • Systems Biology, Bioinformatics & Theoretical Biology
  • Molecular Neuroscience
  • From Chemical Biology to Molecular Medicine

Under the motto "The Biochemical Basis of Life", the scientific organizing committee headed by Volker Haucke (FMP, Berlin) had put together a top-class scientific program with over 180 international speakers, which included plenary talks from Randy W. Schekman (Berkeley, USA), Xiaowei Zhuang (Cambridge, USA), Jürgen Knoblich (Vienna, Austria), Matthias Mann (Munich, Germany), Susan L. Lindquist (Cambridge, USA), Barbara J. Meyer (Berkeley, USA), Sarah A. Teichmann (Cambridge, UK), Alberto R. Kornblihtt (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Nikolaus Pfanner (Freiburg, Germany) and Caroline Dean (Norwich, UK). You can scroll through the plenary lecture abstracts, as well as the other sessions and the posters, on this The FEBS Journal special issue from the Congress.

However, it was not only the established scientists who had their say, but young researchers as well. Over 540 young scientists attended the Congress and many were selected to give presentations on the basis of the abstracts submitted. There were 93 Short Talks (10 minutes) and 102 Speed Talks (3 minutes) across all 30 Symposia, for young scientists to share their work.

Additionally, 120 PhD students and early postdocs were selected and funded to take part in the Young Scientist Forum (YSF), which was held in the Campus Berlin-Buch from 2 to 4 July. They were able to present their work at the YSF, as well as network and enjoy social activities such as a picnic at the famous Tempelhof field, before going on to join – free of charge – the regular FEBS Congress. The YSF was organized with great enthusiasm and commitment by Karine dos Santos from the FU Berlin in collaboration with her organizing committee of young scientists from Berlin, and help from FEBS.

Alongside the regular scientific program there were also special sessions on "Research in Undergraduate Education" (FEBS Education Session), "Evolutionary Medicine: Why We Get Sick" (FEBS Science & Society Session), "Women in Science Symposium" (FEBS Session) and "Data Management & Reproducibility" (cooperation between GBM, Beilstein Institute and FEBS). 

The venue offered an excellent conference infrastructure, with the Congress attendees particularly enjoying the air-conditioned rooms. After the thermometer dropped to a more bearable 30° Celsius, the hotel's beer garden – situated in an idyllic location directly opposite the congress center on a side arm of the river Spree – was the perfect place for relaxed discussions with colleagues during breaks. 

We invite you to scroll through the Congress photos below and get in touch with the GBM office if you have any queries about the event. You can also get more information about the FEBS Congress, past and present ones, from the FEBS website and if you want to read more about their history, the FEBS History section of the website links to two downloadable books providing more details ("FEBS at 50: half a century promoting the molecular life sciences" edited by Mary Purton, and "Fifty Years of FEBS – A Memoir 1964 to 2013", by Guy Dirheimer and Horst Feldmann).

Remembering the 40th FEBS Congress in Berlin

Participants of the FEBS Young Scientists' Forum.
Participants of the FEBS Young Scientists' Forum.
Registration of conference participants on the opening day.

Registration of conference participants on the opening day

Volker Haucke opens the 40th FEBS Congress on July 4, 2015.

Volker Haucke opens the 40th FEBS Congress on July 4, 2015.

Randy Schekman (Berkeley, USA) gave the opening lecture at the 40th FEBS Congress.
Randy Schekman (Berkeley, USA) gave the opening lecture at the 40th FEBS Congress.
The audience listens to the opening lecture by Randy Schekman.
The audience listens to the opening lecture by Randy Schekman.
The IUBMB Lecture was given by Xiaowei Zhuang (Cambridge, USA).
The IUBMB Lecture was given by Xiaowei Zhuang (Cambridge, USA).
Nikolaus Pfanner (Freiburg) holds the Otto Warburg Lecture of the GBM.

Nikolaus Pfanner (Freiburg) holds the Otto Warburg Lecture of the GBM.

Cecília Arraiano and Gerlind Wallon present the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award to Caroline Dean (Norwich, UK).

Cecília Arraiano and Gerlind Wallon present the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award to Caroline Dean (Norwich, UK).

László Fésüs presents the Theodor Bücher Medal of the FEBS to Matthias Mann (Martinsried).

László Fésüs presents the Theodor Bücher Medal of the FEBS to Matthias Mann (Martinsried).

Roger Goody presented the Fritz Lipmann Lecture certificate to Barbara Meyer (Berkeley, USA).

Roger Goody presented the Fritz Lipmann Lecture certificate to Barbara Meyer (Berkeley, USA).

Lively rush at the FEBS stand within the industrial exhibition.

Lively rush at the FEBS stand within the industrial exhibition.

Alberto R. Kornblihtt (Buenos Aires, Argentina) receives the certificate for the PABMB Lecture from Markus Wahl.

Alberto R. Kornblihtt (Buenos Aires, Argentina) receives the certificate for the PABMB Lecture from Markus Wahl.

The Sir Hans Krebs Medal of the FEBS was awarded to Jürgen Knoblich (Vienna, Austria) in the presence of Sir Alan Fersht and Stephan Sigrist.

The Sir Hans Krebs Medal of the FEBS was awarded to Jürgen Knoblich (Vienna, Austria) in the presence of Sir Alan Fersht and Stephan Sigrist.

Susan Lindquist (Cambridge, USA) receives the FEBS Datta Medal from Cecília Arraiano.

Susan Lindquist (Cambridge, USA) receives the FEBS Datta Medal from Cecília Arraiano.

Conference participants visit the industry exhibition during the coffee breaks.

Conference participants visit the industry exhibition during the coffee breaks.

Birte Höcker (Tübingen) was awarded the Otto Meyerhof Prize of the GBM.

Birte Höcker (Tübingen) was awarded the Otto Meyerhof Prize of the GBM.

Sarah A. Teichmann (Cambridge, UK) holds the EMBO Lecture.

Sarah A. Teichmann (Cambridge, UK) holds the EMBO Lecture.

Thanks to the good weather, the networking evening took place outdoors.

Thanks to the good weather, the networking evening took place outdoors.

Conference organizer Volker Haucke (right) in conversation with Randy Schekman.
Conference organizer Volker Haucke (right) in conversation with Randy Schekman.

All images by the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM).

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