While a historic blizzard hammered the northeastern US, more than 1,100 scientists enjoyed balmier climes at the annual meeting of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities held in Long Beach, Calif., in mid-February.
Proteomics-based talks dominated the conference, which gathers core-facility scientists from around the world. Mark Lively of Wake Forest’s Center for Structural Biology and an ABRF organizer noted that “we are peptide-centric” in his review of the group’s membership. Indeed, speakers addressed full conference rooms about the importance of bottom-up proteomics, internal standards for protein labeling, and using replicates. In his presentation, Harvard’s Josh LaBaer noted that “we don’t have a single mass spectrometer in our group” as he outlined functional proteomic approaches to track down biomarkers and drug targets. One of the biggest challenges facing the field, he said, was simply tracking down relevant data from systems like Medline in part because of the different vocabularies researchers use. His group has come up with a database called BioGene, which culls through Medline entries to link related results such as gene-disease relationships. “Scientists would rather wear each other’s underwear than share each other’s nomenclature,” he said.
Other sessions focused more on core facilities in general. In one entitled “Scientific Future for Cores,” attendees listened as the speakers outlined arguments for and against these types of labs. Wake Forest’s Lively said, “We’re still needed, but we will have to adapt” as the scale of analysis and analytical complexity of scientific research grows.
The ABRF Award was given to Roger Tsien from the University of California, San Diego, who has identified and developed an array of fluorescent proteins to help scientists perform imaging in vivo.
— Meredith Salisbury