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G2K Fulfills Back to Science Mission, Plans Merger with Automation-in-Mapping Event

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MARCO ISLAND, Fla.--Notwithstanding complaints about a few presentations that amounted to little more than sequencing progress reports, attendees generally agreed that G2K: Advances in Genome Biology and Technology I lived up to its slogan, "Back to Science."

The conference, which registrants commonly referred to as "the anti-Celera meeting," was held here February 5-8. The event was organized by GCorp, a nonprofit group that was established last year by the laboratory equipment company MJ Research.

Meeting organizers acknowledged that they conceived G2K as an alternative to the annual Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference held by the Institute for Genomic Research, whose agenda many scientists contended has become too heavily influenced by Celera Genomics and other commercial interests. At an after-hours gathering where scientists, sales reps, and some newly made genomics millionaires talked shop near a keg of beer into the early morning, one conference cochair remarked that the atmosphere resembled earlier days of genomics research, when TIGR’s meetings were held in Hilton Head, NC.

G2K was by no means devoid of commercialism, however. "MegaBus" drivers clad in Amersham Pharmacia Biotech golf shirts greeted conferees at the airport with chocolate microarrays, and on Monday night, Steve Lincoln pitched Incyte’s new business strategy to a captive, if not captivated, dinner audience. About 75 percent of 483 attendees were from industry.

But an agenda packed with scientific lectures--all but six of which were presented by academic researchers--kept to a minimum traffic in the exhibit hall, where the wares of 38 vendors as well as 60 poster presentations were on display.

Francis Collins, director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, kicked off the meeting with a speech detailing the revised timetable for the international Human Genome Project. While flashing a slide that portrayed a double helix made of dollar bills, Collins stressed the importance of public access to genome data. He said that while the ability to claim intellectual property is critical to pharmaceutical progress, obstructed access to genomic data is a problem. "It is not at all inappropriate to put a tollbooth on the road from basic science to product," Collins remarked. But too many tollbooths too early along the route could stand in the way of scientific progress, he warned.

Collins also remarked upon Human Genome Project priorities other than sequencing, which include cataloging human sequence variation, developing a standard set of cDNAs from the mouse and human genomes, and promoting developments in sequencing, microarray, and expression analysis technologies.

The three-day agenda included 17 presentations on genome projects. Among them: Sanger Centre’s Stephan Beck presented work of the Human and Chicken MHC Sequencing Consortia; Sandra Clifton of the Washington University School of Medicine compared completed genomes to sample sequences of related genomes; and Andrew Simpson of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Sao Paulo, Brazil, talked about using open reading frame ESTs for determining genes and exon usage in complex eukaryotic genomes.

Among 10 functional genomics talks were: Audrey Goddard on Genentech’s Signal Peptide Discovery Initiative; and Mathias Uhlen of Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology on high-throughput pharmacogenetics.

The meeting’s final day was dedicated to computational biology, and included a presentation by Richard Mural on the Genome Channel, a Java-based browser developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for viewing genomic sequence annotation and links to related data and resources. Tim Hubbard of the Sanger Centre explained Ensembl, a joint project between Sanger and the European Bioinformatics Institute to add value to draft human genome data. Christian Rees discussed efforts by his Stanford University School of Medicine team to make web-based applications for visualizing and publicizing microarray results available on the web. Yannick Pouliot explained plans by the company DoubleTwist to provide a web-based computational environment that facilitates interpretation of draft human genome sequence.

G2K will be held again here next year, and organizers said it will be merged with the sixth annual International Automation in Mapping and DNA Sequencing meeting.

--Adrienne Burke

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