Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne

EMBO CILIA2022 - an outstanding and successful international meeting


Ground-breaking discoveries in cilia biology have revolutionized our understanding of the critical role of cilia in cell signalling, development, tissue homeostasis and disease.

Prof. Bernhard Schermer - opening the EMBOCILIA2022 Conference Foto - FotomedizinKöln

EMBOCILIA2022 - The Partcipants Foto - FotomedizinKöln

Two decades of groundbreaking discoveries in cilia biology has revolutionized our understanding of the critical role of cilia in signaling, development, tissue homeostasis and disease. Ever since, this field and the community have been growing rapidly. Major breakthroughs continue to occur in cilia research with the number of publications still increasing exponentially. Therefore, there is a continued need for meetings that promote scientific exchange and networking in this highly interdisciplinary field.

From October 04 to 07, the international conference EMBO Cilia2022 took place at the Maternushaus in Cologne. The event was organized by an international team under the lead of Prof. Bernhard Schermer from the Dept. II of Internal Medicine at the University Hospital of Cologne and the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (University of Cologne). Of the total of 558 participants, 436 were present on-site, and 122 were connected online to the hybrid meeting. EMBO Cilia2022 was the fifth European meeting on cilia and ciliopathies, a meeting series that started in London in 2012.

Cilia are antenna-like cell organelles that receive signals from the environment and transmit them to the interior of the cell. They can also be motile. In that case, they serve to move fluids within the body. Because cilia are found almost everywhere, the spectrum of diseases caused by their malfunction, known as ciliopathies, is very broad. Ciliopathies are mostly rare genetic diseases for which there are hardly any causal therapies so far. Therefore, many laboratories worldwide are researching the structure and function of cilia in order to develop new therapeutic options.

Fifty-five scientific lectures and more than 240 posters impressively showed the immense scientific progress in this field over the last four years. Being able to finally meet in person again after two corona-related postponements in 2020 and 2021 - though after testing and while continuously wearing FFP2 masks – promoted the extremely positive atmosphere of the meeting. The patient day and the participation of patients in the first scientific part of the conference were particularly impressive. Crackling silence reigned in the filled auditorium as patients or their parents shared their personal stories. In return, scientists presented their project in a special poster session for patients. In addition, certainly worth mentioning is that this was the first cilia meeting with on-site childcare, and that 55% of the lectures were given by female scientists.

In parallel, Cilia2022–Interconnect, a networking event, which aimed to grow the cilia/ciliopathy community more widely across Europe, was running across the EMBO Cilia2022 conference. Supported by the European Joint Programme on Rare Diseases (EJP RD), Cilia2022–Interconnect brought clinicians, patients, patient advocacy groups, and researchers from countries that are typically underrepresented together at EMBO Cilia2022. Cilia2022–Interconnect significantly improved and extended cilia/ciliopathy networks, fostering better integration and extending interactions between patients, physicians, and scientists in the ciliopathy space. The response from participants was overwhelmingly positive and can be nicely seen on social media (hashtag #cilia2022). This meeting has now become the largest cilia meeting worldwide.