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AGBT Agenda Includes Oxford Nanopore Sighting

By Kevin Davies  

February 1, 2012 | At long last, the agenda for the 2012 Advances in Genome Biology and Technology (AGBT) conference in Marco Island, Florida, has been posted.   

Later this month, about 800 genome scientists from academia and industry, along with a cadre of over-dressed financial types, will discuss progress in genome sequencing science, platforms, and software over four days of sessions and after-hours parties.   

Originally created a decade ago as an antidote to the increasingly crowded and commercialized GSAC (Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference), created by Craig Venter, AGBT struggled in the years following 9/11, and the meeting’s academic organizers will admit that its survival owed much to steadfast support from Applied Biosystems.   

Once the NGS revolution took hold in 2006, however, the meeting never looked back. It has become the premier meeting spot for the genomics/NGS crowd, cleverly allowing the major vendors opportunities to showcase their latest gadgets without overshadowing the science. Attendance is strictly limited, which makes those places increasingly coveted. And the beachfront venue doesn’t hurt either.  

(Ironically, Life Technologies, which recently unveiled the Ion Proton sequencer at the Consumer Electronics Show, is not among the sponsors AGBT this year. Pacific Biosciences is the 2012 meeting’s gold sponsor, though there is sensibly no listing of the firm’s traditional fireworks display, an indulgence that wouldn’t jive with the company’s enforced decision to lay off 130 workers six months ago.)  

The three keynote speakers are Lynn Jorde (U. Utah), Rick Myers (Hudson Alpha Institute) and Michel Georges (U. Liege). A notable change is that the final session is now devoted to genome biology, shifting the frequently headline-grabbing new technology presentations to earlier in the program.   

Oxford Ahoy   

Chief among those will be the long anticipated scientific debut of Oxford Nanopore (ONT), in the form of chief technology officer Clive Brown, who will be presenting the British company’s progress in single-molecule DNA ‘strand’ sequencing. In a release today, ONT says it plans a commercial launch by the end of this year, having previewed its GridION instrument 12 months ago.  

It’s been three years since ONT researchers published a promising proof-of-principle in Nature Nanotechnology, demonstrating the ability of protein nanopores to electrically distinguish the four nucleotides in DNA. In 2009, the same year Illumina made an $18-million investment in the company, I persuaded ONT’s reclusive John Milton to talk about the company’s plans on camera. In his talk, Brown will evidently be discussing progress in sequencing single stranded DNA, as was discussed by ONT collaborator Mark Akeson at AGBT last year.  

Other agenda highlights (on paper) include:  

  • European Bioinformatics Institute’s Ewan Birney on the ENCODE project  
  • Heidi Rehm (Partners Healthcare Ctr for Personalized Genetics Medicine) on large-scale clinical sequencing  
  • Darrell Dinwiddie (Mercy Children’s Hospital) on the roll-out of an NGS-based test for more than 600 severe childhood genetic disorders  
  • Stephan Schuster (Penn State), who helped sequence Archbishop Desmond Tutu, discusses the genomes of other historic figures  
  • Mark Adams, a long-time Venter associate at TIGR and Celera now back at the Venter Institute, opens the tutorial sequencing workshop 
  • Back-to-back presentations showcasing the two leading desktop sequencing platforms, the MiSeq and Ion Torrent’s Personal Genome Machine, from Illumina’s Geoff Smith and NCI’s Joe Boland, respectively.   
  • Speaking of desktop sequencers, John Healy discusses start-up GnuBio’s new platform, the iGnuIT 1000   
  • A pair of talks on the use of the Pacific Biosciences single-molecule platform to detect methylation and other epigenetic signatures based on kinetic incorporation data, from Nobel laureate Rich Roberts (New England Biolabs) and CSO Eric Schadt.  
  • Yaniv Erlich (Whitehead Institute) on surname leakage from genome datasets  

If you weren’t lucky enough to grab a slot, you can follow the fun on Twitter (#AGBT), beginning on February 15.  

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