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Conferences A Truce? Fraser, Hunkapiller to Keynote at Marco Island


Attendees of this year’s Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference in Marco Island, Fla., may think they’re at the wrong meeting when they see the keynote speakers: TIGR’s Claire Fraser and Applied Biosystems’ Mike Hunkapiller. With its reputation as the non-commercial “anti-GSAC,” Marco Island seems like the last place these two leaders would show up, let alone be invited to speak.

But science is, as ever, the focus. And for one of the conference organizers, Elaine Mardis of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University, that means, “If you’re doing good science, I don’t care who you work for.” So is it the end of the GSAC-AGBT feud? Mardis laughs. “That sort of depends on whether you believe that there was a feud.”

The February 5th to 8th Marco Island conference, going into its third year, is known for trying to respond to attendees’ critiques. Last year saw the meeting’s first keynote speech, and it was so well received that this year, organizers found room for two. Fraser will talk about microbes and how they relate to biodefense, and Hunkapiller will recount the history and ponder the future of the DNA sequencing world.

In addition to its usual focus on genomes currently in the works, this year’s conference will highlight a session on emerging genomes, looking at organisms that are up and coming, such as cow and chicken. Rob Mitra, whose polony research was made well known at last year’s GSAC during George Church’s talk on the $1,000 genome, will present his work, and Greg Hannon from Cold Spring Harbor will wrap up the conference with a forward-looking talk on RNAi.

But Marco Island wouldn’t be Marco Island without social activities. According to Mardis, the tried-and-true events are coming back: the banquet and dance party (this year with an Elvis impersonator), and likely MJ Research’s martini party. Making its debut this year will be a Friday afternoon volleyball tournament, what Mardis hopes is an answer to all the scientists who “feel guilty when they skip out on the talks” to enjoy the beach and warm weather. “You’ve gotta have a good time while you’re enjoying the science,” Mardis admits, saying the tournament will give people time to “mingle and socialize” without missing sessions. (Note to attendees: this may be the one thing you can’t tell your boss about when you’re lobbying for funding to go.)


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