As an alternative to its regular full scale conference and to address an ever growing demand, the SPS organised, from September through November 2006, an experimental training. Its goal was to promote a closer interaction between all the actors involved in proteomics-related domains in order to share the specific know-how, and to allow parties to familiarise with different techniques and new equipments. A total of 23 trainees participated, 4 from European countries and the others from the Geneva, Lausanne but also Zurich, Berne and Basel regions. The participants - spanning from students with limited experience to technicians and senior scientists interested in learning new methods - had the choice of 8 short applied courses (a total of 16 days of training) hosted by 8 laboratories all around Switzerland, including the Ecole Polytechnique FÃ©dÃ©rale of Lausanne, the Department of Clinical Pharmacology of the Berne University, the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics in Geneva and the Institute for Molecular Systems Biology in Zurich.
The courses aimed at giving participants insight into the main working fields of Proteomics, such as separation techniques, mass spectrometry, phosphoproteomics and bioinformatics.
At the end of the training courses, organisers and participants met for a wrap-up session held in Yverdon-les-Bains on December 4th 2006.
The one-day event provided the opportunity for thorough debate between trainers and trainees, and also an informal and dynamic occasion to evaluate different analysis strategies, and the related results. Besides a detailed presentation of the courses and their outcomes, the meeting offered a useful overview of the advantages, limits, complementarities and overlaps of the current analysis techniques, as well as review of their risks, challenges and future perspectives.
The applied nature of the trainings, the opportunity to work in technologically advanced laboratories, and the effective tips-and-tricks transfer were especially appreciated by all participants.
During the concluding session some critical points were raised: the need to improve the amount of data collected was expressed, as well as the request of a longer training period that would allow a better sample preparation. The different levels of specialisation of the participants and the heterogeneity of their backgrounds was noted, and unevenly interpreted either as an obstacle or as an unprecedented occasion to discover different approaches.
"During the last years every Proteomics laboratory in Switzerland has been dealing with his own problems and trying to solve them summoning its own expertise only," remarked Jean-Charles Sanchez, President of SPS. "To dare and share these problems and solutions is what science is supposed to do and what SPS is all about. From our very beginning in 2000, we have build up a network of experts, merging both academic and commercial profiles, in order to make different goals, missions and contexts interact." The dialogue between academy and industry turned out to be smooth and mutually convenient. "We are all scientists, no matter who the sponsor is," Dr. Sanchez commented. "It's a dynamic synergy that works very well."
SPS wants to dismantle as many barriers as possible; particularly the barrier that usually separates private and public entities, but also the barrier which often stands between trainers and attendees, thus enabling a multi-directional exchange and a better concerted action.
The SPS team acts as a catalyst, said Reto StÃ¶cklin from Atheris Laboratories, looking with optimism at the network that has been activated during the workshops: "People who attended the trainings have already started to work together, exchanging information and comments by e-mail. This kind of on-going relationship is very rare after a simple congress."
To ensure continuity to all this is the key challenge. Will the event gain a more international dimension in its future edition in 2008, as many would hope? Will the now more cohesive expert community be able to preserve this spirit of constant exchange and collaboration? Will a simple mailing list or an online forum serve as a sustainable instrument for enabling the information exchange between the members? All this, of course, is just the beginning.