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GSAC 2002: Will More Science=Less Showmanship?


by Meredith W. Salisbury

There’s a particular word people keep using when referring to this year’s 14th annual Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference: science. However appropriate it may be for Boston, which has more colleges and universities per square mile than anywhere else, some might find it a surprising choice for what has become the genomics tradeshow to end all tradeshows, a four-day extravanganza that some academics have labeled “science-free.”

“This year you’re going to see an increased focus on the science,” says John Quackenbush, an investigator with conference organizer the Institute for Genomic Research, who will speak at the event, taking place October 2-5 in Boston. “There was real interest this year in moving away from the tradeshow atmosphere,” Quackenbush adds, pointing to new directed workshops (the afternoon concurrent symposia) that are supposed to really dissect scientific issues for genomics researchers. Quackenbush will speak at a session on DNA microarray data analysis chaired by EBI’s Alvis Brazma, and other sessions target evolutionary and comparative genomics (chaired by Lawrence Berkeley’s Edward Rubin and TIGR’s Jonathan Eisen) and pathogen genomics (with TIGR’s Malcolm Gardner).

Amy Rabin, the conference manager at TIGR, says there will be more academics speaking this year than in previous years, which alone could do wonders for GSAC’s reputation among the public-sector set. In fact, neither of the conference co-chairs comes straight from the private sector: Gerry Rubin is with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Craig Venter, now sans Celera hat, will instead represent his new Center for Advancement of Genomics and Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives. At press time, just three of the 35 confirmed speakers were from industry, with big public-sector names such as Eric Green and Richard Gibbs on the list.

Every year, GSAC organizers try to make sure the conference morphs along with the latest concerns and interests in the field. This year, counter-bioterrorism applications for genomics — under the bland guise of “genomics in global security and public health” — will make its debut, among more typical topics such as microarrays and microbial genomics.

But science or not, this GSAC gives no promise to ease up on the rampant freebie-giving, booth-luring, and frantic partying the conference has become known for. In this, GT’s third annual Freeloaders’ Guide to GSAC, we offer you a way to sort out the four days of insanity. Go to talks, go to parties, go wild grabbing freebies. And when you’ve had enough of the exhibit floor and the sessions, check out what Boston has to entertain you. We’ve compiled the best (and cheapest) things to do in the city — but we won’t be held responsible if you get stuck at the Big Dig. Now get out there and have a blast.


GSAC Freebies

There are people who go to GSAC with an empty suitcase, preparing for all the giveaways they’ll cart home. You’ll have to work hard to join their league, but at least you’ll know what to go for.

Surfboard-shaped key ring/bottle opener

Condition: Must fill in lead sheet



Ultra thin mouse pad that sticks to desk; black background with array and cell images acquired by their systems

Applied Precision


Free demo CDs of Pathway Studio software for navigation and analysis of biological pathways, gene regulation networks, and protein interaction maps

Ariadne Genomics


Travel pack, includes compass, hat, scarf, map, chocolate globes, water and more: limited supply; bathtub duck stoppers



Blue magnetic memo mates to hold pens and notes; white document holders; fine, felt-tip pens; white T-shirts with art on back, limited supply for people with serious inquiries about the company

BioSource International


Silver gel wrist pad for mouse with logo and website in dark blue



Post-It notepads, light blue background with company logo and slogan; Bic pens with logo on barrel, dark blue with white details



Big, blue, plastic bag with logo on one side and Thomas Edison photo on the other

Fisher Scientific


White T-shirts; bottle openers; pens; stuffed animals



Computer mirrors: rearview mirrors to see people approaching from behind you

Incyte Genomics


Blue plastic slinky; blue stress ball; picture/ memo holders; triple-color highlighters; pens; magnetic stuffed animals (bulldog, lion); bottle-opener key chains

Integrated DNA Technologies

Turquoise foam dolphin-shaped micro-centrifuge holders; erasable yellow highlighter; blue-light pens; pop-up solar calculators; palm-sized micro-radios with earphones. Might require name sign-in to get freebies.

Lark Technologies


Hoberman spheres (macro and micro) for office/desk toy; hats

Condition: must be qualified customer of GeneLinker software

Molecular Mining


T-shirt. Will have to give business card to get one.

Rosetta Biosoftware


“Snippy” the stuffed lobster; Boston edition stuffed monkey, sporting a raincoat



Mouse pads, notepads, pens

Silicon Genetics


Blue and yellow dolphin- and surfboard- shaped floaties to float test tubes; blue paper weights with logo



“Tattoo” band-aids

3M Bioanalytical


Post-It notepads and pens





These require more skill than your average freebie, but they’re also higher value. Be sure to bring a box of business cards so you can stack the odds in your favor.


IBM ThinkPad PC; beach towels; surfboard will be raffled off at Accelrys’ Oct. 3 party.

Daily raffle at booth: One copy of Discovery Studio Gene; raffle open to qualified leads only


Experimental products: purification kits, gels, stain, standards, IPG strips, and more. Must fill out brief survey with your major application, give contact info and shipping address. Five giveaways each day, winners announced at end of day.


Daily raffles with 34 prizes: Sony PlayStation 2; Sharper Image electric scooter; digital camera; fleece blankets and vests; Grand prize on Oct. 4: Apple G4 iMac with 15” LCD screen and CodonCode software including Phred, Phrap, and InterPhace for OS X installed


Portable DVD player. To enter, drop off business card.

Genome Therapeutics

Two American Express gift certificates, $100 and $200. Drop off business card to enter.

Sanford Rose Associates

Razor scooter. To enter, drop off business card.





Oct 2

9pm-11pm: Welcome reception, sponsored by TIGR and Millipore

The Marriott, fourth floor


Oct 3

6pm-9pm: Ride the Wave with Accelrys party

Hors d’oeuvres, Mexican beer, and margaritas

Party attendees who enter raffle (see raffle listings) will get minifans to keep cool at the party


9pm-1am: 2nd Annual Genome Technology All-Stars Awards Bash, sponsored by GenomeWeb, PerkinElmer, Gene Logic, Hewlett-Packard, and Iobion

Open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts

Awards presented at 9:30, followed by dancing to Ben Baldwin and the Big Note

Prudential Skywalk


Oct 4

7pm-10pm: Annual celebration, sponsored by TIGR

The Sheraton, second floor ballrooms




So you’re heading to Beantown? Here’s your guide to having a wicked good time — for free, or close to it.

Boston weather in October:

Average high: 62 degrees

Average low: 46 degrees

Mean: 55 degrees

Record High: 90 degrees (1963)

Record Low: 25 degrees (1936)


Restaurants near the Hynes Convention Center

$ - Average entrée less than $10

$$ - Average entrée less than $20

$ Baja Mexican Cantina

California-Mexican cuisine.
111 Dartmouth St. (617) 262-7575

$ Finale

Desserts and ‘pre-desserts.’ 15 Columbus Ave., Theatre District. (617) 423-3184.

$ Gyuhama

Highly rated sushi.
827 Boylston St.
(617) 437-0188

$ Hsin Hsin Chinese Noodle Restaurant
25 Mass Ave.
(617) 536-9852.

$$ Antonio’s Cucina Italiana
288 Cambridge St., Beacon Hill.
(617) 367-3310.

$$ Bangkok Blue

All-around Thai. 651 Boylston St.
(617) 266-1010.

$$ Figs

Pizza with a Mediterranean influence, and what some call the best tiramisu in town. 42 Charles St., Beacon Hill.
(617) 742-3447.

$$ P.F. Chang’s

Chinese food. 8 Park Plaza,
Boston Common (Transportation Bldg).
(617) 573-0821.

$$ Pho Pasteur

Spicy and savory Vietnamese food.
8 Kneeland St., Boston Common.
(617) 451-0247.

Variety placeS

Faneuil Hall Market Place

Wander around and sample the food, bars, and shops.
4 South Market.

North End Area

For Italian food, some cheap, some not so. Expect to wait a couple of hours if you’re there on a Saturday night. Stop by at Mike’s for its famous cannoli.


Bars and Clubs near the Convention Center


A stylish watering hole with fusion-inspired cuisine.
955 Boylston St., (617) 421-1818.

Blue Cat Café

A jazzy restaurant/bar with food, drinks, and atmosphere.
94 Mass Ave., (617) 237-9922.

Brew Moon

One of Boston’s famous micro-breweries in the Theater District.
115 Stuart St. at Tremont St.,
(617) 523-6467.

Cactus Club Restaurant and Bar

Tex-Mex and veggie options.
939 Boylston St., (617) 236-0200.


Bars with history

Have a drink or two at the Bull & Finch Pub, aka “Cheers.” 84 Beacon Street, next to Boston Common. Or check out the actual “Cheers” bar at Faneuil Hall.

Blues fiends wanting to unwind after a day of meetings and networking should be sure to stop in at the original House of Blues, located at 96 Winthrop Street across the river in Cambridge.


Beantown for Freeloaders (and Cheapskates)

The Freedom Trail is a two-and-a-half mile walk that links 16 historic sites in downtown Boston and neighboring Charlestown. Just follow the red lines or red bricks on the sidewalk to such attractions as the Old North Church (where two lanterns hung to warn that the British were arriving by sea in 1775), Bunker Hill Museum, and the Old Corner Bookstore.

At the Old Granary cemetery, you’ll come across the graves of legends including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.

The Franklin Park Zoo is free on the first Saturday of each month.

Call (617) 541-LION.

A baseball fan? Stop by Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, which opened in 1912 and is best known for its Green Monster, Duffy’s Cliff, and that red seat in the bleachers that marks the spot of Ted Williams’ June 9, 1946 home run — the longest inside the park.

Check out the John F. Kennedy Library, open daily 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is $8, $6 if you’re a student (no exceptions for those life-long students, though). Located at Columbia Point, it is easily reached by taking the Red line to the JFK/UMASS stop.

At the Museum of Science, see a movie on a five-story domed screen. Tickets are discounted ($1.50 off the regular price) Sunday through Thursday nights after 6 pm. Ticket prices are regularly $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. On public transportation, take the Green Lechmere train to the Science Park stop.

Check out the bargains at Filene’s Basement. The nation’s oldest discount department store — born in 1908 — where the concept of automatic markdowns first originated.

For last-minute, half-price theater tickets, go to BosTix, located in Faneuil Hall and Copley Square at Boylston and Dartmouth Streets. Open 10am to 6 pm and Sunday from 11 am. Half-price tickets go on sale at 11 am.

Got time for stargazing? We know it’s unlikely, but if you do, check out Boston University’s free Wednesday night program starting at 8:30. 725 Commonwealth Ave. (617) 353-2630.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum comes highly recommended. $10 during the week and $11 on weekends. 280 The Fenway. (617) 566-1401. Take the Green line E train to the Museum of Fine Arts stop.

— compiled by Dana Frisch and Amanda Urban


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