‘Otitis media (OM), more commonly known as ‘glue ear’ affects about 80% children below the age of 3 years and is the commonest cause of paediatric surgery and antibiotic prescription. A large proportion of these children suffer from conductive hearing loss, affecting their speech, language and learning abilities. Thus, this very common, yet highly underestimated disease has major socio-economic implications on the development of any country.
The 18th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Otitis media (ISOM 2015) was held at the Gaylord national convention centre in June 2015. This is a biannual meeting and the biggest conference on Otitis media, attended by leading academics in the field, otolaryngologists, research students and policy makers from around the globe. It covers talks; posters and workshops spanning various aspects of OM, in order to develop a better understanding of the genetics and pathology of the disease as well as help develop improved treatment options for Otitis media.
At ISOM 2015, I was selected to give a podium presentation on a part of my PhD research, titled “Isolation and characterisation of middle ear and nasal epithelial cells for development of an in vitro ototpathogenic infection model.” My research focuses on the development of a novel in vitro culture system that can be widely applied by the OM community to understand the biology of the middle ear cells and study the effect of infection by various pathogens. Being in the final year of my PhD, this symposium was an ideal platform for me to present my research and receive feedback on my work from the pioneers in the field
The symposium was run along two themes, one focusing on the clinical aspects of the disease and the other focussing on the current developments in research, allowing flexibility to attend sessions that interested one the most. This gave me the opportunity to attend some clinical talks, which made me realise how laboratory research has a translational impact on treatment options, as well as the challenges faced by clinicians in practice, which in turn open up new avenues in research. Of particular interest to my research area were the sessions on ‘Pathogenesis’ ‘Immunology’ and ‘OMICs. These included talks given by pioneers in the field such as Professor Allen Ryan, Professor Stephen Wasserman, Professor Jian-Dong Li , Dr Sung Moon, Professor Xue Zhong Liu and Dr Diego Preciado, to name a few, whose research has been a constant inspiration to me. Not only were their talks highly relevant to my research, but they also helped me put my work into a broader perspective, giving me new ideas that I can apply to my study.
The highlight of the symposium for me, however, were the networking sessions such as poster and coffee sessions and the conference dinner, since they gave me an opportunity to interact with various academics and their lab members on a one on one basis and discuss our work in great detail, allowing exchange of some very exciting ideas. The suggestions and personal feedback gained through these discussions is truly invaluable. In addition to attending the conference, I also visited Dr Diego Preciado and Professor Mary Rose’s lab at the Children’s National Medical Centre, Washington DC, where I gave a seminar on my PhD work and learnt about the various techniques used in their lab. These interactions are leading to a potential collaboration for our lab and have also aided me develop some very valuable connections.
I would like to thank the Biochemical Society for awarding me a travel grant, which paid for my flight tickets and made it possible for me to attend a dream conference at a very important stage in my career development.’