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First Computational Genomics Conference Explores Gene Annotation, Function

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HERNDON, Va.--In planning for the past year, the First Annual Conference on Computational Genomics, sponsored by the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) Science Education Foundation, will convene here November 1-4. According to conference cochair Anthony Kerlavage, director of TIGR's Department of Bioinformatics and the TIGR database, the conference aims to "address the wealth of data coming out of complete genomes. It's designed to present the latest methods and techniques in the field for dealing with complete genomes." Kerlavage's cochair is David Searls, group director for bioinformatics at SmithKline Beecham.

The idea for the conference originated with the observation of how popular informatics was at TIGR's annual Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference, Kerlavage told BioInform. While the original meeting will continue to have an informatics component, the Computational Genomics event allows a greater focus on the topic, he said, noting that while there was some overlap in attendance, registrants for this event "are mostly new people." He said 150-200 attendees are expected, including "algorithm developers, database designers, data mining people, and protein structure people."

The event's mission statement notes that "the rapid accumulation of DNA sequence data from humans and model organisms has created one of the greatest scientific and engineering challenges of the molecular biology age. Computational support has proven indispensible in managing the collection and processing of these data." The conference "is intended to bring together practitioners of the new science of computational genomics," the statement continues, "and to promote the further cross-fertilization of the fields of computer science and molecular biology in aid of genomics. Particular attention will be paid to large-scale genomic sequencing projects, high-throughput cDNA-based efforts, and microbial genomes."

Kerlavage identified tools for annotating complete genomes and methods for inferring function as two of the meeting's hottest topics. The agenda features a dozen invited speakers and numerous others chosen on the basis of submitted abstracts. Among the highlights, he said, will be Steven Henikoff of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, discussing "Block-Based Methods for Detecting Homology and Inferring Function"; Temple Smith of Boston University on "ORF Functional Identification via Regulatory Links and Common Patterns"; Chris Sander of the European Bioinformatics Institute on "Mapping the Protein Universe"; George Rose of Johns Hopkins University on "Structure-Based Genomics"; Michael Levitt of Stanford University on "Large-Scale Modeling of Structure from Sequence"; Peter Karp of Pangea Systems on "The Object-Oriented Knowledge-Base Management System That Underlies EcoCyc"; Chris Overton of the University of Pennsylvania on "Information Integration, Data Mining, and Genomics"; and Amos Bairoch of the University of Geneva on "Proteome Databases: The New Frontier."

There will also be both electronic and conventional poster sessions, as well as seven exhibit booths.

Four Major Areas

The agenda is divided into four sections of equal importance, Kerlavage continued: mapping and sequencing; function and annotation; search and analysis; and databases and data visualization. In addition a Componentry Workshop moderated by SmithKline's David Benton will examine "the unification of components for tools and databases," including such technologies as CORBA and bioWidgets. The workshop will be presented as a roundtable discussion "of what direction the genomic area should go in," Kerlavage observed.

Special vendor-sponsored workshops are scheduled immediately before and after the conference itself. Silicon Graphics is holding a Bioinformatics Workshop Saturday, November 1, from 4:00 to 6:00 P.M., and NetGenics has scheduled a seminar on CORBA and Java for Bioinformatics from 1:00 to 3:00 P.M. Tuesday, November 4.

Kerlavage predicted that the conference will preserve the mix of academic, public, and commercial-sector perspectives that is characteristic of other TIGR events. Calling the registration figures "encouraging," he said he anticipated an even larger meeting next year, once the conference becomes established.

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