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PSB Conference Kicks off January 3; Hot Topics Include HPC

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High performance computing applications and gene expression arrays are expected to be the hot topics at the sixth annual Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing conference to be held in Hawaii on January 3-7, said conference organizer Larry Hunter.

The conference itself is becoming more of a draw as about 400 attendees are expected — a more than 50 percent jump over last year when over 200 bioinformaticists attended, said Hunter, who is also director of the Center for Computational Pharmacology at the University of Colorado.

“This year, high-performance computing applications are clearly a major interest, including new parallel approaches to gene finding, multiple structure alignment, and various areas related to expression arrays, including quality control and clustering,” said Hunter, noting that the meeting is a good barometer for what’s hot in bioinformatics since the scientific community defines the sessions every year.

David Haussler, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will give the keynote speech on the bioinformatic aspects of creating and using the public working draft of the human genome, as well as about what’s to come with the finished genome and comparisons with other vertebrate genomes. Haussler directed the assembly of the human genome after it was sequenced.

Another rapidly evolving area that will get attention is network and pathway modeling. Several papers on comparing and validating network models induced from expression data will be presented.

In Hunter’s view, these areas of interest are showing that the analysis of post-genomic data, including expression arrays, proteomics, and SNP and variation data, is taking an important place alongside the traditional analysis of gene sequences and protein structures in bioinformatics.

The meeting has a reputation for announcing important technical results and for fostering collaborations among conference attendees, said Hunter. This year’s conference will feature several papers on assessing the significance of variability in gene expression array results.

“After their publication, I believe that simple fold-change results will not be publishable alone,” Hunter said.

Meeting sponsors are 3rd Millennium, BioCarta, Compaq, the Department of Energy, the NASA Center for Computational Astrobiology and Fundamental Biology, the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, Partek, Proteome, Roche, SGI, and Sun Microsystems.

For the 2002 event, session proposals are due in mid- February, and selections will be made in early March.

—Matthew Dougherty

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