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A High Time at GSAC

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“Post-Conference Blues” was the heading on an e-mail that arrived in our inbox in late September. With an electronic wink ;), its sender lamented the end of another TIGR meeting — “working all day…partying/ working all night!” — and the return to the daily grind of running a bioinformatics business.

After three days of back-to-back booth duty, lectures, customer meetings, and parties that lasted into the wee hours, we’re sure post-Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference crash wasn’t an isolated phenomenon.

September 11-14 in Miami made an indelible impression on our GenomeWeb team, which included several GSAC first-timers. Here’s what our veterans and newbies observed during the week:

( Genomics is high energy! As veterans of trade shows and meetings in other markets, including securities, safety, and anesthesiology (yawn), we’ve never seen anything like the buzz about genomics. Spending all day talking genomics isn’t enough: people keep it up all night, hopping from party to party and then streaming out to the beach for sunrise dips in the ocean.

All this made for more than a few bloodshot eyes, haggard faces, and people giddy with exhaustion. But we wonder if this behavior is restricted to GSAC week, or is it par for the course in this biz? Clearly, there are lots of people deferring sleep and home lives in the name of genomics. We know one scientist who arrived to the meeting on Wednesday direct from a sales call in Amsterdam and was still seen hanging around the pool at 2 am. Another bioinformatics marketing director who flew in from Baltimore on Sunday, out to a meeting in San Francisco on Monday, and back on the red-eye to Miami that night was up schmoozing bright and early on Tuesday.

( Exhibits are high quality. Traffic never slows on the GSAC show floor. What’s more, booth visitors hang around a while. Those are sure signs that vendors are hawking new, complex products that customers are eager to hear about. We also couldn’t help noticing all the high-level execs and CEOs doing booth duty. That’s another mark of a young industry that’s still striving to explain itself.

( Marketing is highly financed. The hype seemed to reach new heights at GSAC this year. Costumed DoubleTwist research agents roamed the floor, and drum beats echoed from Lion’s jungle-styled booth. Even the beach was no escape: Each afternoon, an airplane trailed Incyte’s banner across the sky. We’re pleased to see advertising departments getting a big slice of venture capital, new financing, and IPO dollars!

( But with all this comes high anxiety. At one cocktail party an ex-employee of a bioinformatics company explained her current status: “What the investor said was…” It set us to wondering about how many changes in the industry this year, to CEOs and otherwise, have had something to do with what some investor said.

We heard another grumble too: GSAC’s scientific sessions seemed anticlimactic. Considering the big announcement in June, many expected this meeting to give forth some groundbreaking science, or at least more fanfare. But we at GenomeWeb aren’t complaining. One of our reporters, who came to us from Reuters in Jerusalem, says the last time she saw this much fanfare was when an Israeli transvestite won the Eurovision song contest.

Harry P. Greenwald, Publisher

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