FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. —A Four protein engineers from three countries shared two annual awards here at the 29th Miami Winter Symposium.

In opening the four-day event Sunday morning, the symposium's co-founder and co-director, William Whelan, recalled that a small colloquium on biochemistry, organized in 1968 by the University of Miami, has now evolved into its present focus on gene technology, co-sponsored since 1988 by the university and the monthly journal Nature Biotechnology.

Its editor, Susan Hassler, acclaimed the partnership as "a chance collaboration, a happy accident."

Some 490 scientists (and still counting) from 17 countries are gathered here for the meeting, devoted this year to the theme, "Biomolecular Design, Form and Function."

Traditionally, the opening event is presentation of the Feodor Lynen Lectures. Since their inception in 1970, the series has honored 32 speakers, of whom more than half —A 18 —A were past or future Nobel Prize winners.

On Sunday, three lecturers, rather than the customary one or two, took the podium to trace the progress of proteins from the cell nucleus through the ribosome to the endoplasmic reticulum, the stacked Golgi apparatus, mitochondria and on to the cell membrane:

* "Protein translocation across intracellular membranes," by Gunter Blobel, of Rockefeller University, in New York.

* "Mechanisms and machinery of intracellular protein transport and synaptic transmission," by James Rothman, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York.

* "The protein import machinery of mitochondria," by Gottfriend Schatz, of the University of Basel, in Switzerland.

Then, on Monday, Alan Fersht, of the Cambridge University Center for Protein Engineering, in Cambridge, U.K., received the symposium's Distinguished Service Award. His lecture theme: "Protein folding." —David N. Leff