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ASHG 50: the Unauthorized Preview


Did someone forget to tell the American Society for Human Genetics that the genome was sequenced this year? At the society’s annual convention, October 3-7 in Philadelphia, a mere 6 percent ¯ only 140 out of the total 2,451 ¯ papers come under the topic “genomics.” Last year 152 genomics papers were delivered. In the year of the Big Announcement is the world’s premiere genetics meeting going to snub the genome?

Not completely. Doug Marchuk chair of the conference program committee says it might be a small fraction of the overall program, but genomics will be given a high profile this year. Francis Collins, head of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, and Richard Gibbs of the Baylor College of Medicine will chair a session contemplating the completion of the human genome. Several other invited sessions and workshops will address genomics too. (See next page.)

Gibbs, who helped Marchuk select genomics papers for the meeting, admits that genomics and genetics are becoming less discernible from each other. “It was quite a struggle to position certain abstracts,” Gibbs says. “As we see genetics being influenced by genomics, we see things being done differently.” But in years past, Marchuk says genomics sessions have been well attended. “When the SAGE technique first came out, that room was packed,” he recalls. “We realize that so much of genetics is driven by these technologies.”

ASHG’s exhibit floor makes that clear. There, 15 percent of exhibitors are genomics or genome technology companies. And with the exception of Chemdex’s six-booth exhibit, genome technology companies are taking up more booth space than anyone else. Consider: Celera Genomics booked the space of three booths, as did Transgenomic. Affymetrix, DoubleTwist, Genomica, the Human Genome Organization, and Incyte Genomics will each host double-booths. And the two major providers of genome sequencing instruments, Amersham Pharmacia Biotech and Applied Biosystems, each booked four booths. Clearly, genomics companies have more money to burn.

Therein might lay a clue about why genomics doesn’t get more attention in the lecture halls. Genomics these days, not genetics, is getting all the money and the glory.

A leading genomics researcher who says he has attended ASHG’s meeting for many years says of its organizers, “They don’t like genomics. They’re a bunch of doddering old genetics types. Genomics is struggling to be heard.”

The scientist, who, for obvious reasons, begs not to be named, says the genomics vs. genetics battle is one of egos, money, and resources. “If you’re not getting money to do clinical genetics but you see $250 million going to the National Human Genome Research Institute, well.”

ASHG’s puritanism might be another reason big-money genomics is kept at bay. Marsha Ryan, the society’s senior meetings and exhibits manager says, “Our board of directors doesn’t want any possibility that the meeting smacks of commercialism.”

Indeed ASHG goes a long way to maintain an academic atmosphere: regulations explicitly prohibit “magicians, fortune tellers, dancers, puppets, or other entertainment of this nature” in exhibit booths. Contests, lotteries, raffles or games of chance aren’t allowed either. And booth attendants are instructed to attire themselves “in a manner consistent with the intent of the meeting.” Ryan, who said up to 5,000 attendees are expected at the meeting this year, added that exhibitors are barred from holding events or promotions outside of the exhibit hall.

With this in mind, but in adherence with the rule that prohibits us from “publicizing any extracurricular activities, inducements, demonstrations, or displays away from the exhibit area during the exhibit hours or scientific session hours of the meeting,” Genome Technology offers some options for your evening entertainment in Philadelphia this week. We also offer a hit list so you can make it to the few but proud genomic sessions of the week.

Special Sessions and Workshops for the Genomics Crowd

Among the 140 genomics presentations to be delivered at ASHG’s conference are several invited speakers, special sessions, and workshops:

Wednesday, October 4

8:00-9:30am—Applied Genomics Workshop: SNP Analysis and Allele Frequency Studies Using the Pyrosequencing Technology (Marriott, room 406)

8:00-9:30—Genomic Approaches to the Study of Cancer

Moderator: Charis Eng, Ohio State University (session 2, Ballroom B)

8:00-9:30—An Update on BLAST: Database Sequence Similarity Searching at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (Marriott, Salon I)

8:30-1:00—Applied Biosystems Linkage Symposium (Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Millennium Hall)

9:45-11:15—Deciphering the Human Genome Sequence: A User’s Guide

Moderator: Mark Boguski, Rosetta Inpharmatics (session 4, Ballroom A)

1:00-1:45—Presidential Address on Discovery, Genomes, the Society and Society, given by ASHG President Ronald Worton, Ottowa Hospital Research Institute (session 7, Hall C)

8:00-10:00pm—Origins of Primate Evolution

Moderators: Julie Kornberg, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and Evan Eichler, Case Western Reserve University (session 12, Room 204 A)

8:00-10:00pm—Workshop on the Mechanisms of Long Range Control of Gene Expression

Moderator: Veronica van Heyningen, Western General Hospital (session 13, Ballroom B)


Thursday, October 5

8:00-11:00am—Genomics 1

Moderators: John McPherson, Washington University School of Medicine and Vivian Cheung, University of Pennsylvania (session 19, Room 103A)

11:45-1:00—Affymetrix Genotyping Workshop (Marriott Hotel, Salon 1)

2:30-4:15—Gene Structure & Function 1

Moderators: Henry L. Paulson, University of Iowa, and Laura Ranum, University of Minnesota, (session 23, Ballroom B)


Friday, October 6

8:00-11:00 am—Chromosome Structure and Function

Moderators: Nagesh Rao, University of California, Los Angeles, and Daynna Wolff, Medical University of South Carolina (session 36, Ballroom A)

8:00-11:00am—Gene Structure and Function II

Moderators: Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, University of California School of Medicine, San Diego, and Mani Mahadevan, University of Wisconsin (session 39, Room 103A)

2:30-4:30—Special Session on Contemplating the Completion of the Human Genome Sequence, Moderators: Francis Collins, NHGRI, and Richard Gibbs, Baylor College of Medicine (session 41, Hall C)

4:45-6:45—SNP Genotyping Technologies for the New Millennium, Moderator: Pui-Yan Kwok, Washington University School of Medicine (Session 44, Hall C)

Saturday, October 7

8:00-10:30—Genomics II

Moderators: John Belmont, Baylor College of Medicine, Jill Rafael, Ohio State University (session 53, Room 113A)


Dining, Dancing, Magicians, and Fortunetellers

All within a few blocks’ walk of the Philadelphia Convention Center


Blue Angel, 706 Chestnut St., 215.925.6889: French brasserie.

Buddakan, 325 Chestnut St., 215.574.9440: Pan Asian food in an ultra trendy spot.

Fork, 306 Market St., 215.625.9425: Continental cuisine in sophisticated environs.

La Locanda del Ghiottone,
130 N. Third St., 215.829.1465: Italian like you’re in Italy.

Lucy’s, 247 Market St., 215.413.1433: Casual dining, wine bar, young scene.

Old Original Bookbinders,
125 Walnut St., 215.925.6162: A Philadelphia institution.

Penang, 117 N. 10th St., 215.413.2531: Malaysian cuisine, neo-Malaysian décor.

Reading Terminal Market, 11th & Arch: sticky buns, coffee shops, produce vendors, juice stands, and stalls serving every kind of ethnic food you can think of.

Music, Dancing

The Five Spot, 5 South Bank St., 215.574.0070: swing music supper club.

Warm Daddy’s, Front and Market Sts., 215.627.2500: soul food and blues music.

Zanzibar Blue, Bellevue Hotel, Broad and Walnut Sts., 215.732.4500: jazz and a jazzy menu.

Fortunetellers & magicians

Hocus Pocus, 523 S. 4th St.

Eli’s Astrology Shop, 1700 Locust St.

Astrology Readings by Cherri, 1742 Sansom St.

Also, don’t miss: First Friday in Philadelphia October 7, early evening. Stroll the Olde City section of town — the grid from Front St. to Fifth, from Race St. to Chestnut — for the popular monthly arts festival. Galleries exhibit new art and performers take to the streets.

The Scan

Self-Reported Hearing Loss in Older Adults Begins Very Early in Life, Study Says

A JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery study says polygenic risk scores associated with hearing loss in older adults is also associated with hearing decline in younger groups.

Genome-Wide Analysis Sheds Light on Genetics of ADHD

A genome-wide association study meta-analysis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder appearing in Nature Genetics links 76 genes to risk of having the disorder.

MicroRNA Cotargeting Linked to Lupus

A mouse-based study appearing in BMC Biology implicates two microRNAs with overlapping target sites in lupus.

Enzyme Involved in Lipid Metabolism Linked to Mutational Signatures

In Nature Genetics, a Wellcome Sanger Institute-led team found that APOBEC1 may contribute to the development of the SBS2 and SBS13 mutational signatures in the small intestine.