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Vol. 27 No. 1
January-February 2005

Conference Call | Reports from recent conferences and symposia 
See also www.iupac.org/symposia

Biological Polyesters

by George Guo-Qiang Chen

The International Symposia on Bacterial Polyhydroxyalkanoates, Biological Polyesters, Biodegradable Polyesters (ISBP), started 16 years ago in Toronto, Canada, and have been well established on a biennial basis since then. So far, ISBP conferences have been held in 1990 (Sitges, Spain), 1992 (Göttingen, Germany), 1994 (Montreal, Canada), 1996 (Davos, Switzerland), 1998 (Saitama, Japan), 2000 (Cambridge, USA) and 2002 (Münster, Germany). In 2004, the symposium was held 22–28 August at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. It was sponsored by the Natural Sciences Foundation of China and the Li Ka-Shing Foundation, Rohm and Haas Company, Kaneka, P&G, and Metabolix. It was co-hosted by Tsinghua University and Shantou University. IUPAC representative, Stanislaw Penczek (Polish Academy of Sciences), opened the symposium on the first day of the meeting.

The IUPAC-ISBP 2004 was attended by 248 participants, including 100 from overseas. There were over 50 participants from industry, representing companies such as Cargill Dow, Procter & Gamble, BASF, Fisher Chemicals, Lantian Group, Kimberly-Clark, Kaneka, Mitsui Chemicals, Metabolix, Tepha, and many other material-related companies from China. The symposium mainly discussed basic biopolyesters research and industrialization around the globe. Prominent scientists working on polyhydroxyalkanoate research, including A. Steinbüchel (Univ. of Münster, Germany), Y. Doi (RIKEN, Japan), A.J. Sinskey (MIT, USA), S.Y. Lee (KAIST, Korea), F. Srienc (Univ. of Minnesota, USA) and Y. Poirier (Univ. Lausanne, Switzerland), gave lectures on their respective research. Industrial speakers discussed their efforts to push this class of novel materials into the market.

During the symposium, industry representatives were invited by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Preparative Committee to showcase “green” materials based on biopolyesters. The 2008 Beijing Olympic games will promote the concept of “Green Olympics, High Tech Olympics.” The preparative committee is evaluating materials that can be used to fit the green concept, such as biodegradable materials for some of the packaging applications. ISBP 2004 provided a unique opportunity for the committee to learn about companies that are involved in the development and application of bio- and environmentally degradable materials based on sustainable resources.

As petroleum supplies diminish, efforts to develop sustainable resources for the material industries are intensifying. This is especially the case with China, which has become the second largest oil importing country in the world. Global research and development efforts to find novel materials from sustainable resources will create an even greater demand for biopolyester research.

The ISBP2004 International Organizing Committee has decided to hold the next symposium at the University of Minnesota, St Paul, USA.

George Guo-Qiang Chen (chengq@mail.tsinghua.edu.cn) is a professor at the Tsinghua University in the Department of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology in Beijing, China.


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