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Bio•IT World’s Oktoberfest & Consumer Genetics Show and Tell


By Kevin Davies

July 20, 2009

Bio•IT World’s Oktoberfest
Bio-IT World Expo debuted in Boston in 2002, and with one exception (San Diego later that same year) has made Beantown its home. But this October, we will be taking the show on the road… to Hannover, Germany, home of the BIOTECHNICA 2009 trade exhibition, with the exciting debut of Bio-IT World Expo Europe.

BIOTECHNICA is one of Europe’s foremost biotech trade fairs, drawing thousands of attendees each year. This year, our parent company Cambridge Healthtech Institute (CHI) was invited to collocate one or more conferences at the show. The timing was perfect: we have been eager to take Bio-IT World to other locales for many years, and BIOTECHNICA provides the ideal platform. (CHI is also debuting PEGS Europe 2009.)

Elsewhere in this issue, you will find a full run down of the program (p. 38-39). The Bio-IT World conference will be divided into four tracks, each running about a day and a half. The conference contains plenty of heavy hitters from both sides of the pond. The Europeans are represented by the likes of Phil Butcher (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute), Jan Korbel and Reinhard Schneider (EMBL), Corrado Priami (Microsoft Research/CoSBi), Hans Lehrach (Max Planck Institute), and John Overington (EMBL-EBI). Waving the flag for the U.S. are Matthew Trunnell (Broad Institute) and our 2009 Boston keynoter, Chris Dagdigian (BioTeam).

The conference also contains a wealth of big pharma representation, with talks on the agenda from companies such as AstraZeneca, Bayer Schering, Novartis, Merck Serono, and Pfizer.

You can find the full program at
 www.bio-itworldexpoeurope.com. We hope to see you in Deutschland!

Consumer Genetics Show and Tell
Illumina CEO Jay Flatley stole the Consumer Genetics Show by unveiling Illumina’s new personal genome sequencing service priced at $48,000. He capped that by showing a picture of the first doctor’s prescription for a whole genome sequence–his own. Flatley says he has wanted to embark on personal genomics for several years. “It started right when we bought Solexa,” he told Bio•IT World. “It was just a matter of what was the right time in terms of the market and our technology.”

Illumina’s new sequencing service will be conducted in the firm’s CLIA-certified laboratory, offering 30-fold sequence coverage assembled against the reference genome, plus information on single nucleotide polymorphisms, structural variations, insertions, and deletions. Illumina will not, however, be providing the detailed medical interpretation of the sequence, preferring to partner with 23andMe, deCODEme, Navigenics and Knome for consumers who want additional layers of analysis. “It’s not Illumina’s intent, nor is it our skill, to connect genetic information to medically relevant information, and that’s a role we’re going to ask other companies to help us play,” Flatley said.

Flatley is the first of four volunteers for the new service, along with venture capitalist Hermann Hauser, Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., and his father Henry Louis Gates Sr. The pricing dramatically undercuts Knome’s $99,000 personal sequencing service, although that includes very detailed counseling and interpretation and slick IT security. Flatley isn’t expecting to be flooded with prescriptions, but believes that by providing the service now, “Illumina can help catalyze the development of the infrastructure and physician education that will be necessary as genomic information becomes medically more meaningful.”

“Ultimately, we think the data needs to be mobile connected and wind up in the cloud,” said Flatley. “You can’t fit the entire genome onto an iPhone today, but once we’ve calculated the Vnome (variant genome), this becomes feasible.” Flatley even showed a preliminary concept of the iPhone personal genomes app, produced by a developer in a mere ten days. Following fingerprint identification, the app would present data on many different diseases and traits. It could list by disease, drug response, or chromosome; search by genes; share facilities with friends and family; and so on. Finally, Flatley joked that if people spend too much time analyzing their genome on their iPhone and the boss walks in, “all they have to do is shake and they’ll be right back to the spreadsheet analyzing their sales numbers.”

The Consumer Genetics Show was the brainchild of John Boyce, former head of business development at Helicos. The event attracted hundreds of attendees with little advance marketing. Boyce is to be congratulated for pulling together this event, which promises to grow dramatically in the years to come.


This article also appeared in the July-August 2009 issue of Bio-IT World Magazine.
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