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Sequencing Sequencing Technologies Steal the Show at Marco Island

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There was no mistaking it at what is affectionately known by attendees as “the Marco Island conference”: DNA sequencing is regaining its glory days.

At the seventh annual Advances in Genome Biology and Technology Conference held on Marco Island, Fla., in early February, attendees spent a good amount of their time hearing about next-generation sequencing technology. In his opening remarks, Rick Wilson, director of the Washington University Genome Sequencing Center, said, “We’re recycling a little bit back to our origins.” AGBT, which began at a time when it was not uncommon for whole conferences to be devoted to sequencing technology and applications, has in more recent years focused on the latest scientific interests such as metagenomics or cancer biology. In tandem with this shift back to its roots, the conference, which has seen waning attendance in recent years, hosted about 300 scientists — up roughly 50 percent from last year.

This year, the message was clear. The first day’s morning and afternoon plenary sessions were dubbed “En Route to the $1,000 Genome.” For diehards (and there was no shortage of them), there were other talks focusing on sequencing technologies sprinkled throughout the agenda. Plenary speakers included Michael Egholm from 454, Mike Metzker from Baylor, Solexa’s David Bentley, John Williams from Li-Cor, Harvard’s George Church, Susan Hardin of VisiGen, Greg Timp from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kevin McKernan of Agencourt, and Peter Griffin from Stanford. Coffee breaks and mealtimes were filled with scientists exchanging information on their experiences with next-generation sequencing data.

One reason for the plethora of sequencing talks was that NHGRI held its meeting for grantees of the $1,000 genome and $100,000 genome programs in conjunction with AGBT. Sequencing grant PIs gathered a few days before the conference began to give talks and compare notes on their technological progress. While that meeting was closed to the public, many of the PIs gave the same or similar talks for the main conference.

Other sessions at AGBT centered on elucidating genome function, translational genomics, and new technology applications, among others. Lead sponsors of the meeting were Applied Biosystems, NHGRI, and DOE.

Richard Gibbs, who directs Baylor’s Human Genome Sequencing Center, chaired one of the sessions on new sequencing technologies. Wrapping up the talks, Gibbs said, “This whole meeting has the excitement that we had at the beginning of the [Human] Genome Project.”

— Meredith Salisbury

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