In his keynote talk at the Genetics Society of America's Genetics 2010: Model Organisms to Human Biology meeting in Boston this week, Harvard Medical School’s Gary Ruvkun spoke to the importance of basic research in model organisms — or "cardinal organisms," as he prefers to call them. "The reason I don't like 'model organisms,'" he told the audience of geneticists, is because it "sounds like model airplanes — it just sounds tiny. ... Comparative genomics is empowering human genomics and human genetics; we have to be much more aggressive as people who work on invertebrates and yeast and things." Ruvkun suggests that those who study Drosophila genetics "have been the least aggressive" in staking their claim of advances in applied genetics which have had important clinical applications. Some oncologists, he said, "don't know why it's called 'wingless.'"
"If we renamed it 'cardinal organisms,' that sounds much more important," Ruvkun told attendees. "In navigation, you have these cardinal sites that tell you where to go" - which is appropriate because geneticists who study model systems are "really the beacons for genetic analysis" in humans," he said.