Upcoming Chemists' Conference Spotlights Indiana For All the Right Reasons

Dr. Nigel Richards

By: Dr. Nigel Richards - Professor and Chair, IUPUI Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Category: Life Sciences

More than 12,000 chemists from academia, science and business will get a first-hand look of the growing prominence of Indiana's life science industry as the American Chemical Society (ACS) brings its annual conference to Indianapolis (Sept. 8-12) for the first time. Indiana-based research and academic programs, scientific collaborations and innovations will be showcased at the event, allowing some of the country's leading scientific minds to better understand how Indiana is addressing issues at the interface of chemistry, biology and medicine.

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ACS members eagerly anticipate the conference, held twice annually, because it features lectures from some of the most prominent chemists in the country, including those involved in undergraduate education. National and international collaborations develop from the opportunity to socialize and interact with experts in a wide array of chemistry specialties. Programs at Indiana University, Purdue University, Notre Dame and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) will have unparalleled exposure as ACS takes over Downtown Indianapolis. For example, students and faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at IUPUI will lead more than 60 presentations touching on several areas of chemical biology, biophysics and nationally recognized teaching practices. The conference will reinforce the fact that Indiana continues to have a strong impact on chemistry-related research.

With two Nobel Prize-winning chemists working as faculty at Purdue and Indiana universities, Indiana has played a major role in new innovations in the field. Equally, Eli Lilly and Co. has been a significant player in drug discovery and pharmaceutical chemistry for decades, and this success has led to the creation of a vibrant group of Indiana-based life science companies that have a positive impact on the state's economy ($50 million annually) and job opportunities for local graduates. However, there is still a national and international perception that Indiana lags behind better-known centers of chemistry such as California and the Northeast. The arrival of the ACS meeting, therefore, is an opportunity for our community to correct this perception and reflect on how this event will enhance future efforts to expand life sciences research, especially for Indianapolis-based scientists who have unique access to a significant patient population through the world-class hospitals located on or near the IUPUI campus.

Researchers based in the School of Science at IUPUI also plan to showcase the significant progress that has been made in recent years to develop a strong graduate education and training program, which has become a necessary element as local pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies seek to compete at an international level. The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology has invested heavily in its graduate program to meet this need. It promotes scholarly activity and opportunities for graduate-level, research-based training in subjects necessary to propel innovation in areas such as drug discovery, diagnostic methods and technologies that can provide novel bio-compatible materials needed for medical applications.

With Indianapolis as this year's ACS host, it will provide a powerful catalyst for statewide biomedical research. In particular, Indiana chemists and professionals will have the chance to interact with their counterparts from other hotbeds of activity, such as Boston and San Diego. There is little doubt that these discussions—coupled with extensive networking opportunities offered through the ACS event—will enhance the scientific viability of the proposed Indianapolis-based Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, the first industry-led collaborative life science research institute in the country.

The institute is a perfect example of the new leadership role Indiana has assumed in an industry reliant on innovation and discovery. The conference will allow our state's best scientists to remind their colleagues that Indiana is investing in the talent, technology and intellectual infrastructure needed to move the field forward.

Nigel Richards, Ph.D., is a professor and chair at IUPUI's Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

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