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Booming Interest in Bioinformatics Swells Ranks of ISMB 98 Attendance

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MONTREAL--Organizers expect a recordbreaking crowd at the Sixth Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) here June 28-July 1. Janice Glasgow of the ISMB organizing committee told BioInform that close to 400 people had registered early for the conference, already exceeding 1997 attendance levels. Aside from the current value of the Canadian dollar and the fact that the conference immediately precedes the 12-day International Montreal Jazz Festival, Glasgow attributed high registration numbers to increasing interest in computational biology: new university bioinformatics programs, a boom in bioinformatics startup companies, and a plethora of bioinformatics job openings at pharmaceutical, biotech, and agricultural companies are gaining more attention for ISMB, she said.

The attendee list also indicates that computational biology "is becoming more of a real community," Glasgow said. "It's becoming a real field with its own interdisciplinary language." She said the disparate cultures of computer science and biology have been slowly merging over the years.

Supporting that trend, this year ISMB is being sponsored by the International Society for Computational Biology with cooperation from the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. Larry Hunter, president of the society which was established during last year's ISMB meeting in Greece, said a board meeting June 29 would likely result in several announcements later in the meeting.

Competition for presentation slots was more intense than ever this year. Glasgow said the 25 research papers selected from 92 submissions reflect a movement among practitioners from sequence to structure. "People are moving from a focus on sequencing toward an understanding of function," she said.

Though the organizing committee decided against inviting exhibitors in order to maintain a focus on academic research, Glasgow said several bioinformatics tools and equipment companies would be on hand to demonstrate their products.

--Adrienne Burke

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