Some points of the conference history

The first conference on “Optogenetics and Optopharmacology” was held in St. Petersburg in  April 2018. Both techniques in the title of the conference expect to impart light sensitivity to individual cells or cell structures. The focus of the conference was on the development and effective implementation of non-invasive control on nervous system functioning.

Optogenetics is realized by introducing additional genetic material into cells, and optopharmacology – small photochromic molecules. As a result, the researcher is able to manipulate intracellular processes with light, acting selectively on those cellular structures that are in the interest focus at the moment. At the end of the conference the participants agreed to meet again in two years and  continue to communicate and exchange views on the implementation and application of Optogenetics and  optopharmacology  for basic and applied research.

The conference that will be held this year is called Optogenetics 2020+. We called it so as even since 2018 new approaches in the studies of the intracellular processes have been significantly developed. And it  would also be extremely important to discuss them at the present conference, in addition to optogenetics and optopharmacology. Present discussion will cover use of light-activated biosensors (optosensory), the management of the cell state by means of specific stimuli other than light, such as chemical compounds or temperature (chemogenetics and thermogenetics), and other advanced techniques. The scientific programme of the Conference will also include discussion on the problems of targeted delivery of genes and effector proteins, toxicity and stability of molecular instruments, prospects for the application of modern cell management methods for medical purposes, including prosthetics of sensory systems, and other issues.

Interview with Pavel M. Balaban, Co-Chair of the Program Committee of the “Optogenetics+ 2020” Conference


Dr. Balaban, where did the idea of holding a conference on optogenetics and related methods come from?

– The necessity  personally to discuss  using of optogenetic approaches has always been existed. If I remember correctly, the first thought about organizing the conference was expressed by Dr. Michael Firsov, and as any action this thought had consequences.

Who were the main organizers of the first conference “Optogenetics and Optopharmacology” organized in 2018?

– The person who mainly promoted the creation and activity of the organizing committee was, is and, I hope, will be  –  Dr. Michael Firsov (The head of IEPHB RAS). The idea was also strongly supported by Academician Mikhail Ostrovsky and other invited participants of the conference.

P.M. Balaban, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences corresponding member

How do you rate the outcome of the conference in 2018?

– The results were rather unexpected. Instead of 30-40 people, as planned, much more specialists gathered every day, and not only young people, but also the elder generation, which is rather unusual for discussions of the latest methodological approaches.

What do you expect from the present “Optogenetics+2020” conference, what will be the main difference, how do you think, after two years?

– From this  second conference I expect greater diversity in the use of optogenetics and optophysiology, and genetically encoded sensors. I also expect an increase in the number of discussed results obtained using these methodology approaches compared to those presented two years ago.

What, in your opinion, are the prospects for optogenetics and other non-invasive methods for controlling cellular activity?

– I think that a new wave of results in this area can be expected when we learn to apply optogenetic and neurogenetic approaches to invertebrate animals, the simple model systems. So far, this is limited by the lack of knowledge of  full genome. The becoming of these approaches as routine methods will significantly expand the scope of their application, both in research and diagnosis, in  the creation of new drugs, and ways to control the brain activity.