There’s an upside to all the marketing hype.
Some people grumble about what a circus the annual Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference has become. Old-timers, nostalgic for the early days when genomics was a tiny, new field, say their annual meeting has become too large, too impersonal, too expensive, and too industry-driven. Some complain about marketing pitches disguised as science in the lecture hall.
Yet year after year, they come back in droves.
September 11-14, upward of 2,500 researchers, entrepreneurs, industry analysts, journalists, and exhibitors will converge in Miami Beach for the 12th annual three-day happening.
When Craig Venter came up with the idea for a sequencing conference in 1989 "it was tough to find many people who felt any relationship to genomics," says Venter’s wife, Claire Fraser, president of The Institute for Genomic Research, which now hosts the meeting. That year, 75 people—about one-third of them colleagues of Venter and Fraser at the US National Institutes of Health—attended an intimate get-together at the Wolf Trap performing arts center in Vienna, Va.
Between 1990 and 1997, the meeting evolved into an annual scientific confab-cum-hot-tub party at a beachfront hotel in Hilton Head, SC.
These days, GSAC is as close to a bells-and-whistles trade show as you can get. At the 10th annual meeting in 1998 in Miami, TIGR and Celera Genomics bussed hundreds of guests to a 70-room Italian Renaissance mansion for a lavish supper spread, champagne toasts, and live entertainment by Bruce Hornsby. At last year’s meeting several companies switched on the marketing charm: an Austin Powers look-alike greeted guests at DoubleTwist’s opening-night reception, and a film crew captured exhibit floor highlights and broadcast Incyte TV over the hotel’s closed-circuit station.
But regardless of what puritan scientists think of the schmoozefest atmosphere, plenty of folks say they wouldn’t miss what they consider to be the most important meeting of their scientific domain.
Besides, there’s an upside to all the dollars being dumped here: free goodies and a lot of fun. Here’s our tipsheet for how to get your money’s worth this week in Miami Beach. We list the booths to hit for the best giveaways, where to wander in the evening for a free drink or late night snack, and a few South Beach spots for big spenders.
Best Booth Freebies
matchbox mini Post-it notes, eyepieces "for seeing the world differently"
Compugen, Booth 306
Research Agent action figures
DoubleTwist, Booth 100
Genome Therapeutics, Booth 517
orange and white beach balls
GenomeWeb, Booth 402
white T-shirts with finches
Geospiza, Booth 516
InforMax, Booth 510
white T-shirts, stress balls, hi-liters & more
Integrated DNA Technologies, Booth 518
write-in-the-dark light pens
LI-COR, Booth 406
Millipore, Booth 611
black bottle-opener keychains
MJ Research, Booth 810
paper clip dispensers, note pads, pens
Modern Drug Discovery, Booth 113
pens, letter openers, highlighters
Princeton Separations, Booth 500
Prolinx, Booth 316
Proteome, Booth 714
Qiagen, Booth 914
crazy cube puzzle
Rosetta Inpharmatics, Booth 22
faux beanie monkeys, mouse pads, pens, chocolate
Sequenom, Booth 16
chocolate and mousepads
Spotfire, Booth 314
Free Food & Drink
Tuesday September 12
4:00-5:30 pm Exhibit Hall: wine and cheese “sneak preview” reception hosted by InforMax
9:15-11:15 pm Fontainbleau Hotel, Fontaine Room: food, beer, wine, and a surprise guest at the GSAC opening reception hosted by DoubleTwist
Wednesday September 13
9:00 pm Penrod’s in South Beach: Agilent party. Hors d’oeuvres, open bar, live music.
9:00 pm-1:00 am Caprice Yacht: Incyte party. Invitation required.
9:30 pm Fontainbleau Ballroom: open bar, food, Latin tunes at the Genome Technology Magazine launch party, hosted by GenomeWeb and Blackstone Computing
10:00 pm Fontainbleau Hotel (suite TBA): German beer party hosted by Qiagen
Thursday September 14
6:00 pm Fontainbleau Ballroom: “Twister cocktails,” open bar and appetizers at happy hour hosted by DoubleTwist
7:00 pm Villa Vizcaya: End of Conference party hosted by Celera and Applied Biosystems
Drawings, Raffles, and Conditional Giveaways
SEQueaky Kleen rubber duckies
BioRad, Booth 508: fill out a short survey
floating chromosome mouse pad
DoubleTwist, Booth 100: watch a 15-minute tutorial in the DT Theater, adjacent to the booth
heavy duty laptop backpack
DoubleTwist, Booth 100: graduate from a one-hour DoubleTwist.com 101 class; see booth for schedule
ceramic coffee mugs and long-sleeved, wrinkle free khaki EraGen shirts
EraGen Biosciences, Booth 803: drop your card in the fishbowl
Genome Therapeutics, Booth 517: enter raffle
A copy of "Beak of the Finch" by Jonathan Weiner
Geospiza, Booth 516, enter raffle
black, yellow, or beige T-shirt
InforMax, Booth 510: sit through a GenoMax or Vector NTI demo
another digital camera
Proteome, Booth 714: complete a survey
Qiagen, Booth 914: register to win
South Beach for Big Spenders
Frozen cocktails on the beach:
Wet Willie’s, 760 Ocean Drive, 305.532.5650
70 brands of beer:
Zeke’s Roadhouse, 625 Lincoln Rd., 305.532.0087
Rose Bar at the Delano Hotel, 1685 Collins Ave., 305.672.2000
Rum punch and conch fritters:
Tap Tap, 819 Fifth St., 305.672.2898
Abbey Brewing Company, 1115 16th St., 305.538.8110
Joe’s Stone Crabs, 227 Biscayne St., 305.673.0365
Gloria Estefan’s Cuban fare:
Larios on the Beach, 820 Ocean Drive, 305.532.9577
Ricky Martin’s merengue mecca:
Casa Salsa, 524 Ocean Drive, 305.604.5959
Liquid, 1439 Washington Ave., 305.532.9154
Live rock ‘n’ roll:
Clevelander, 1020 Ocean Drive, 305.531.3485
GSAC groove spot:
Mango’s Tropical Café and Hotel, 900 Ocean Drive, 305.673.4422