MARCO ISLAND, Fla., Feb. 6 (GenomeWeb News) - At a conference where scientists willingly forego the start of the annual party to stay late at a session debating the merits of finished versus high-quality draft sequence, there seems to be little concern that the number of vendors has dropped significantly or that overall attendance is down from years past. For the 300 people here for the fifth annual Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference, that just means more time for good science.
Opening the first session yesterday morning, Rick Wilson welcomed researchers and stayed at the podium just long enough to urge people to get down to science. Chad Nusbaum, co-director of genome sequencing and analysis for the Broad Institute and a member of the conference organizing committee, told GenomeWeb that the focus this year has in some ways shifted from technology back to biology. While there are a few technology tracks at the conference this year, Nusbaum said, "the basic technology of sequencing and genotyping is pretty mature. Technology may be of less interest to the casual attendee."
For Nusbaum, that means scientists can go back to the science that got them into genomics in the first place. "The shadow of the human genome sequencing project is off the meeting," he said. "That's a relief. Let's get on with business." Plenty of other genomes are in the limelight now - yesterday's marathon talks, starting at 9 am and going till almost 10 pm, looked at C. elegans, zebrafish, mouse, maize, and chimp, to name just a few.
Getting on with business includes examining the impact of genomics in the clinic, one of yesterday's themes and a relatively new focus for AGBT. To that end, Wednesday's keynote speaker was Allen Roses of GlaxoSmithKline, whose talk was entitled, "Pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics: view from a pharmaceutical pipeline." Roses, who noted that his company performed 45 million genotypes last year and expects to double that this year, spent most of his time looking at how genomics can help identify non-responders and track adverse events in clinical trials.
"We really want to keep this meeting forward-looking," Nusbaum said.
As for the private-sector side, it's not as if the exhibit hall has disappeared. Though there are noticeably fewer vendors than in previous years, there are still enough booths to lure attendees down during the coffee breaks. And corporate sponsors of the show include Agencourt Bioscience, Applied Biosystems, GlaxoSmithKline, MJ Research, New England Biolabs, and Velocity 1.1. NHGRI is also a sponsor.