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Who Let the Dogs Out? Plant and Animal Genomes Are Getting More Respect


by Meredith Salisbury


If Darrin Scherago’s Web stats are any indication, plant and animal genome researchers are a rapidly growing breed. Scherago, organizer of the ninth annual Plant and Animal Genome conference, says that visits to the meeting’s homepage are up more than 75 percent since last year. While the number of folks expected to push back from their modems and make the trip to San Diego for the January 13-17 event is also an improvement over last year, it’s a less remarkable increase: Scherago expects attendance to top last year’s record 1,500 by as much as 300.

Organizers attribute the steady growth of the traditionally academic meeting in part to increased industry interest. Doug Bigwood, bioinformatics director for Bayer Pharmaceuticals and a member of the PAG organizing committee, says, “The conference started as researchers, but as more companies become interested we’re getting many more corporate people.” Almost 50 vendors will exhibit and the meeting’s corporate sponsors include Anigenics, Applied Biosystems, Compaq, Dow AgroSciences, and InforMax.

Stephen Heller, organizing committee chairman from the US Department of Agriculture, also cites a shift in attitude. “There seems to finally be more respect for the ag genome,” he says. And the “ag genome” he’s talking about could be any of dozens: organisms covered at this meeting range from Arabidopsis, barley, and cotton to horses, swine, and zebrafish.

The meeting’s expanded agenda — more than 50 workshops and several hundred posters — includes several sessions that will look at agricultural applications of genome technologies. Bigwood says technologies such as DNA microarrays and high-throughput sequencing instruments, which have been the tools of more generously funded human genome research, are making their way into plant biology labs. Numerous sessions will address applications of these tools to agriculturally important genomes.

Simone Gauch, plant and animal product manager for Qiagen, is organizing a tech session on Qiagen’s novel tools workshop. She agrees with Bigwood’s assessment: “Definitely the technology part is … growing,” she says, noting the ever-increasing number of vendors and exhibitors at PAG. Qiagen is just one company that’s “specifically addressing this market,” according to Gauch.

Plants and animal folks will also have a chance to mix it up with their microbe counterparts. A few PAG social and scientific sessions will be shared with the separate Agricultural Microbes Genome 2 conference, being held at the same venue January 17-19. Heller says, “We’re trying to link them a little bit.”


PAG Technology Highlights

Saturday, 13 January

7:30 pm - 10:15 pm

NCGR GeneX System Workshop


Sunday 14 January

3:45 pm - 6:00 pm

Controlled Vocabularies/ Ontology for Databases Workshop

3:45 pm - 6:30 pm

US Government Grants/ Funding Workshop:

* Development of Genomic Tools and Resources for Brassica oleracea

* Development of Statistical Methodology for Agricultural Genomics

* Gramene: A Resource for Comparative Grass Genomics

7:30 pm - 10:15 pm

WWW Workshop


Monday 15 January

1:00 pm -3:45 pm

Affymetrix Microarray Workshop

1:00 pm - 3:45 pm

BioDiscovery Workshop:

Platform-Independent Bioinformatics System for High Throughput Gene Expression Data Analysis

1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

EPICENTRE Workshop: Recent Advances that Simplify and Speed Up Sequencing of Plasmid, Cosmid, and BAC Clones

1:00 pm - 3:45 pm

New Developments in Automated Genetic Analysis Workshop

3:45 pm - 6:00 pm

Databases, Gene Systematics, and Nomenclature Workshop:

* Whole Proteome Analysis: The Role of InterPro and CluSTr

* Integration of cDNA Microarray Expression and Sequence Data

* ERGO: an interactive bioinformatics Database

* UK CropNet: Integrating and Analysing Data from Distributed Sources

* MaizeDB: Coping with the Deluge, New Accesses and Linkages

* Standardized Mouse Nomenclature and its Role in the Integration of Genetic and Genomic Resources

* Nomenclature for the Human Genome


Tuesday 16 January

3:45 pm - 6:00 pm

Bioinformatics - Genomic Computing Techniques and Applications Workshop:

* Tools for Comparative Genome Analysis

* Optimal Algorithm Selection for Bioinformatics

* An Automated Method for Constructing Comparative Maps

* Gene Expression Data Management Using GeneX

* genomeSCOUT, the Platform for Computational Comparative Genomics

3:45 pm - 6:00 pm

Integrated Genomics Workshop: ERGO: An Interactive Bioinformatics Database

3:45 pm - 4:15 pm & 4:45 pm - 5:15 pm

Keygene software Products Workshop

3:45 pm - 6:00 pm

Marker-assisted Breeding: The Sequenom Strategy for High-Throughput Allelotyping and Genotyping

7:30 pm - 10:15 pm

Transcription Profiling Workshop


Wednesday 17 January

1:00 pm - 3:45 pm

Array Technology Workshop

1:00 pm - 3:45 pm

Qiagen Novel Tools Workshop:

Novel Tools to Accelerate Genotyping and Gene Expression Analysis


1:00 pm - 3:45 pm

Automated Screening for Unknown Mutations in Plant and Animal Genomes

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