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11th GSAC Meeting Spotlights Drosophila, Arabidopsis, and Industry s Latest Technologies

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla.--As the annual International Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference continues to evolve from what was once a small scientific meeting into what, in its eleventh year, has become a true trade show, visitors have said they are attracted as much by new developments they'll see in the exhibit hall as by the cutting-edge science they'll hear about in conference rooms.

This year's event, to be held here September 18-21 by the Institute for Genomic Research, has already drawn 1,600 registrants. Organizers told BioInform they expect a large number of people to register on-site, and that overall attendance could exceed last year's total of 1,800.

What makes this meeting unique compared to others in the genomics field is that it is more a trade show, remarked meeting cochair Gerald Rubin, professor in the molecular and cell biology department at the University of California, Berkeley, and leader of the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project, who will host a scientific session during the meeting. "Obviously there are some good science talks, but the things this meeting has that none of the others do is that all the vendors of the various equipment are here, and this is a very equipment-driven field," he said. "That's where I expect to see the surprises, in the exhibitors' room."

Indeed, exhibit space is sold out. About 95 vendors plan to display their wares. Many will also demonstrate their technologies at seminars and workshops during the meeting. Those include a bioinformatics workshop hosted by SGI on Saturday afternoon, a genome sequencing session sponsored by Compaq Computer on Sunday, and an integration workshop held by NetGenics on Monday.

Claire Fraser, president of the Institute for Genomic Research, said this year's conference has been designed to provide continuity to the 1998 event by updating attendees on a number of key genome projects. Plenary sessions will address agriculture, model organisms, mammalian genome projects, and "Hot Button Topics for the Next Millennium." Concurrent sessions on genomics, technology, and bioinformatics will be held Sunday and Tuesday afternoon. On Monday, the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities will sponsor a roundtable discussion on current technology and methodology in DNA sequencing laboratories.

Given the progress made on the sequences of the Arabidopsis and Drosophila genomes during the past year, several presentations will focus on those projects. "There's an entire session on Arabidopsis genomics given the fact that two Arabidopsis chromosome sequences have been finished and the manuscripts are in preparation," Fraser explained. Chris Somerville of the Carnegie Institution of Washington will chair that session Saturday evening.

Rubin will chair a half-day session devoted to Drosophila on Sunday. After he presents the public sector effort, Mark Adams and Gene Myers will share Celera Genomics' perspective. Allan Spradling of the Carnegie Institution of Washington will discuss how sequence will be interpreted using biological experimentation such as gene knockouts. Computational interpretations will be the focus of a presentation by Michael Ashburner of the European Bioinformatics Institute. Gary Karpen will wind up the Drosophila session by delving into parts of the genome such as centromeres that "aren't normally tackled by the conventional genome projects" because this involves taking pieces of DNA that can't be cloned in any known cloning vector, added Rubin.

Richard Gibbs of Baylor College of Medicine will speak on US National Institutes of Health-funded human genome research and Trevor Hawkins will discuss what's been done at the US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute since it was established last year. Presentations by Miriam Meisler of the University of Michigan Medical School and Howard Jacob of the Medical College of Wisconsin will highlight mouse and rat genomics, respectively.

While most presenters will represent government and academic research efforts, commercial entities other than Celera that will present scientific lectures are Exelixis Pharmaceuticals, Incyte Pharmaceuticals, Microcide, and Novartis.

Randy Scott, president and chief scientific officer of Incyte, will discuss the view of the human genome emerging from his company's research and work in bioinformatics. Scott's presentation, in which he is also expected to announce expanded access to Incyte databases and services, will be broadcast live over the internet at http://www.incyte.com on Monday evening.

The concluding session, chaired by conference cochair Craig Venter, president and chief scientific officer of Celera, will raise issues for the future such as where genomics is going and what, aside from sequence data, will result from sequencing projects, according to Fraser. Jenifer Smith from the Federal Bureau of Investigation will talk about "Forensics Applications of DNA Technologies," while other final-day lectures include discussions of gene chips, microarrays for expression analysis, and proteomics to "touch on some things that might not be covered otherwise in more sequencing-specific talks," added Fraser.

The 12th International Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference will be held here September 11-14, 2000.

--Matthew Dougherty

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