Over the years LBBB has become a biannual young investigators meeting with a solid reputation in the field. Many of the pioneers of LBBB and the later participants went on to become leaders in (neuro)gastroenterology.
Although many participants have attended LBBB, there is only one participant that was present at (nearly) all LBBB meetings. Blue Monkey is the mascotte of LBBB and refers to the Blue Monkey Bar where, according to the legend, attendees of the first LBBB ended up. Receiving Blue Monkey endows the responsibility to organize the next meeting to the high scientific standards of LBBB.
This is the story of the foundation of LBBB, and its Blue Monkey, as told by one of the founders, Prof. Dr. Michael Schemann:
In 1988 at a bar close to Munich Paul Enck and Michael Schemann discussed the idea of having a meeting with a special and up to that date novel format. First, it was for young investigators only. The definition of “young” turned out to be difficult. Thus we decided that young is everyone who looks younger than Paul. Secondly, it was for colleagues who were still able to make up themselves Krebs solution. Third, the science to be presented had to be absolutely novel and right from the bench. Fourth, the time for presentation was limited to 15-20 minutes but with open end discussion. Thus the schedule was never on time, and we only had to make sure that we break for food. The record discussion time was almost 2 hrs long after a talk from Sean Ward on ICC cells. Fifth, the meeting was by invitation only, limited to a maximum of 30 people. Sixth, we decided to have two senior chairs who had to moderate the discussion. These were for the first meetings Jack Wood from Ohio State University and David Grundy from University of Sheffield. Seventh, all costs including accommodation (which were planned to be rather basic), meals and travel should be fully covered. Last but not least, it was decided to name it Little Brain Big Brain Meeting. The idea was to discuss issues related to control of gut functions and cell behavior by nerves.
Invitation to the first meetings was decided by the organizers and solely dependent on scientific merit. That also means that one did not make new friends being an organizer as some colleagues were mad not being invited.
Paul Enck and Michael Schemann organised the first LBBB Meeting in the Army Barracks in Munich (budget of 10 Euro per day including meals). This was possible through the help of Claus Mayer (known from the Mayer and Wood papers) who was a General in the German Army. All participants went on to the Meeting of the International Motility Society in Gmunden, Austria (that is how the meeting was called in these days) with a bus. The LBBB meeting was scientifically but most importantly socially extremely intense (also hard on the liver). Some of us went to the house of 100 beers in Munich almost every night and some may have even tried all the hundred (but that is a rumor). While all knew each other quite well before, we became friends during the meeting and decided that we keep on socializing also in Gmunden. We (I think it was Helen Raybould) found a very nice bar in the center of Gmunden called "Blue Monkey" (it still exists and has by now a website) and met every night for a couple of beers.
For the next LBBB Meeting which took place in some remote youth hostel in Japan (co-organised by Kenji Tamura), Jan Schuurkes (at that time a young pharmacologist with Janssen Pharmaceuticals) brought a blue monkey which he found at some airport shop in Asia. This monkey became the LBBB mascot and was passed on to every organizer. Everyone was in favor that the LBBB idea needs to continue and should be organized just before the International Motility meetings. Financing the Japan meeting was quite a challenge and only possible through the generous support by Cilag, Germany.
In Japan Paul Enck and Michael Schemann suggested to pass on the responsibility for organizing LBBB meetings. Keith Sharkey received the blue monkey and organized the third LBBB in Canada. From then on LBBB took place every other year. Soon it became a tradition that continues to this date.
In 2017, the Blue Monkey has even made a cameo appearance in Nature Reviews Neurogastroenterology and Hepatology. Check out the comment paper on the XIVth Little Brain Big Brain meeting: Beyder A., de Lartigue G., Ghia J.-E. and Hoffman J.M. XIVth Little Brain Big Brain: next-generation enteric neuroscience. March 2017. 14:135-136
Dive into the rich history of the science at LBBB and have a look at these previous meeting reports;
IInd LBBB - November 1991 - Kansai, Japan
Organized by Kenji Tamura, Michael Schemann and Paul Enck
* J. Gastrointest. Mot. was the predecessor of Neurogastroenterol. Motil.
IIIrd LBBB - August 1993 - Lancaster, Canada
Organized by Phil Collman, Gary Mawe, Mary Otterson, John Wiley and Keith Sharkey
IVth LBBB - October/november 1995 - Munich, Germany
Organized by Hans Allescher.
Vth LBBB - February 1998 - Victoria, Australia
Organized by Heather Young, Simon Brookes and Ashley Blackshaw
VIth LBBB - September 1999 - Bilzen, Belgium
Organized by Jan Tack, Guy Boeckxstaens and Jean-Pierre Timmermans
Please contact us if you have any missing meeting reports or interesting information on LBBB's history.