Two satellite workshops were the auspicious opening for the conference on Thursday 26th, focusing on Next-Generation Sequencing as well as epigenetic regulation.
Dr. Ralf Sudbrak from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, organized the first workshop where projects using next-generation sequencing were presented. Here, Adrian Briggs of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology presented the famous Neanderthal project revealing similarities of the human and the Neanderthal genome. The workshop on “Epigenetic Regulation”, chaired by Prof. Peter Lichter from the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, highlighted the great advances of this very young research field. Epigenetic deals with regulatory cellular processes that exceed the level of genetics, such as chromatin assembly, DNA methylation, or non-coding RNA, which are seeming to be promising targets for the development of future cancer therapies.
The 2nd Annual Meeting of NGFN-Plus and NGFN-Transfer in the Program of Medical Genome Research officially started on Friday 27th with the first scientific symposium on “Genomics of Common Diseases”. In his plenary talk Prof. Heribert Schunkert from University Clinics Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck, informed about the genetic basis of cardiac infarction investigated by his research group via genome wide association studies, aiming at the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods.
At the address of welcome, Prof. Martin Hrabé de Angelis, Helmholtz Zentrum München, and speaker of the NGFN-Plus and NGFN-Transfer project committee, officially opened the conference summarizing the vast accomplishments of the program.
Dr. Helge Braun, the Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) emphasized the great importance the BMBF attaches to the national and international genome research.
Prof. Hans Lehrach, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, with Prof. Volker Erdmann, Freie Universität Berlin local host, wished all participants an interesting conference, thanked the local hosts for their dedication and wished the best for the future of the NGFN.
Dr. Ivo Gut from Institut de Génomique Centre National de Génotypage, France, opened the session on “Genomics of Sporadic Cancer” with his plenary talk about the correlation of gene sequence variants of the nicotine receptor and lung cancer. The subsequent symposium, “Animal, Cellular & Tissue Models”, was introduced by Dr. Marc Moore from the Wellcome Trust, London, presenting the “International Knockout Mouse Consortium“. It aims at developing an overarching knockout mice database also containing data about the mice’s phenotypes. The symposium on “Systems Biology” was commenced by Prof. Hans Lehrach from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin. He pointed out that systems biology approaches are needed for developing personalized medicine that may predict the probability of cancer or the effectiveness of certain therapies by gene sequence.
A highlight of the 2009 annual meeting was the evening lecture given by Prof. Jens Reich from the Max-Delbrück Centrum, Berlin, being a member of the German Ethics Council, on ethical questions of research based on chimerical organisms. In his talk he discussed the use of these organisms, consisting of genetically heterogeneous tissue.
The subsequent ”Get-Together” was a wonderful opportunity to discuss the presented talks of the day in a relaxed atmosphere with wine and finger food.
Saturday 28th was dedicated to “New Technologies” and “Transfer from Genomcis to Application”. Prof. Erich Wanker from Max-Delbrück Centrum for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, started the technology session presenting a new model system for the characterization of pathogenous molecules and cellular processes caused by protein misfolding. The transfer symposium was commenced by Prof. Jörg Rademann from the Leibniz-Institut for Molecular Pharmacology, Berlin. He presented the “dynamic ligation screening” (DLS) which has been developed by his research group and has helped to find a putative drug against the corona virus causing SARS.
In a large industry exhibition as well as in satellite sessions, companies with relevance for the field of medical genomics presented their innovations and products.
The “Annemarie Poustka Poster Award for Medical Genome Research 2009” sponsored by Roche Diagnostics GmbH was given to three young scientists. The first price went to Claudia Schulte from the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research for her poster entitled “Genome-Wide Association Study reveals genetic risk underlying Parkinson’s disease”. Dr. Jan Rodriguez Parkitna from the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, received the second price for the poster titled “Conditional ablations of glutamate receptors in dopaminergic and dopaminoceptive neurons”. The poster “In situ protein tagging for proteome analysis in mouse embryonic stem cells” from Frank Schnütgen, J.W. Goethe University Hospital, Frankfurt, got the third price.
The meeting was finally closed by Prof. Hugo Katus, University Hospital Heidelberg, and speaker of the NGFN-Plus and NGFN-Transfer steering committee. He thanked all lecturers, organizers and participants for this successful and scientifically stimulating 2009 annual NGFN conference.