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World-Renowned Scientists Gather for 6th Annual HUGO Meeting

CAMBRIDGE, UK, April 18 - A selection of the world’s leading genome scientists are scheduled to arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday for the start of the sixth annual meeting of the Human Genome Organization in the aftermath of one of the biggest scientific achievements of this generation – the mapping of the human genome.

Scientists are expected to report on the current status of the human genome project as the final gaps are closed and it is expected that researchers will announce the completion of chromosome 20.

However, the main focus of the meeting will be the progress made in deciphering the genome. Topics on the agenda include the methods for defining all the genes using laboratory and bioinformatic techniques, gene regulation and protein structures, genome complexity, evolutionary similarities, and differences and variation between individuals and populations.

The four-day conference is being hosted by the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO), an independent charity concerned with facilitating the work of the international scientific community working on mapping, sequencing and understanding the human genome.

‘The possibilities opened up by the Human Genome Project have captured the imagination of the public and of scientists in a unique way,” said Veronica van Heyningen, a local organizer from the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh. “This meeting will bring together charismatic speakers from round the globe: Allan Bradley, the new director of the famed Sanger Center, Eric Lander from the Whitehead Institute, and Nobel Prize winner Christiane Nusslein-Volhard from Germany.”

A public forum will precede the event on Wednesday evening, which will tackle the issue Genetics: Genie or Genius? Experts attending the meeting will take to the floor to discuss some of the legal and ethical implications arising from their research.

One speaker will be Ian Wilmut, one of the Roslin Institute scientists who helped to clone Dolly the sheep. Wilmut is scheduled to discuss the future of cloning and address the question regarding which of its potential uses, from treating Parkinson’s disease to cloning people, should be allowed.

Other speakers will include Peter Goodfellow, senior vice president for discovery research at GlaxoSmithKline, on the subject of genomes, genes, and drugs and David Cox, the scientific director of Perlegen Sciences, who will speak about the human genome and its relevance to everyday life.

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