Wednesday, February 10, 2016

AGBT16 Preview (aka The Non-Attendee's Lament)

AGBT16  starts this today but I'm again not there. The usual complex set of personal constraints (or imagined ones) kept my hat out of the ring this year, and now I'm again torn between wanting to be there and why it would have been hard.  Easy would be leaving our most recent snow and ice storm and the general cold weather.  A bit harder is it is early in the school term, and back-to-school night is Thursday -- plus I spent last night chatting with a candidate for a local office (School Committee) at a low-key campaign event.  The big, and unforeseeable, challenge is that the other half of Starfleet's bioinformatics group is out on paternity leave, and while I'm proud of how much quotidian work I get done during conferences, it still isn't the same as being on full duty.

The big downer has been being bombarded by queries as to my attendance by both friends and various companies -- AGBT is a great opportunity to meet and (re-) connect with the community.  This year there won't be a pesky beautiful ocean to distract from doing business, so it could have been very productive.   If this week had been school vacation week I would have had huge family pressure to go, as Florida sun in a fancy resort is an easy sell.  That's nice too, but brings on the road the challenge of work-life balance, plus some new concerns -  at the last AGBT I attended, an errant throw TNG and my pool football game nearly bonked the daughter of a prominent CEO in the field (yes, we toned it down after that).

Anyway, what companies am I particularly monitoring this year?  10X Genomics announced at JP Morgan an expansion of their product line, and they are a Silver Sponsor at AGBT this year and so should provide some details, plus David Jaffe is giving a talk.  After I scribbled this, 10X and announced co-marketing deals with both Illumina and QIAGEN. Speaking of Illumina, Jay Flatley has a talk about going beyond the $1K genome, so I'll be watching that for any new technology hints.  QIAGEN has a lunch session; could they possibly let some actual technical details on GeneReader slip out?  Notably absent is Oxford Nanopore: they hold their excitement for London Calling -- though at least a half dozen users have talks covering a range of applications. Nanostring is promising to talk about their foray into sequencing, which may involve little if any library prep.  AATI is going to unveil a new PFGE system for sizing DNA over 165Kb.  NEB and Kapa have new kits that should be insteresting.

The scientific talks look diverse and fun; I will miss those most.  I'm going to highlight some below, but that isn't meant to slight the others -- and if you think I did snub one, you can exact revenge by live Tweeting the hell out of it

The opening session this evening has a star lineup, with David Haussler, Sean Eddy and Pardis Sabeti plus a talk on the viruses of the global ocean (Matthew Sullivan from Ohio State).  Tommorrow morning has a clinical focus, touch in cancer (Sam Aparicio, Luis Diaz, Franck Rapaport, John Martignetti), infectious disease metagenomics (Charles Chiu) and rare diseases (Katia Sol-Church). 
Thursday afternoon should be a lively session -- talks on biological and culture diversity (Eske Willerson) and "why ethnicity matters for precision medicine" (Stephan Shcuster) mixed with stickleback development (Felicity Jones), passenger pigeon population genomics (Beth Shapiro) and the allotetraploid genome of Xenopuys laevis (Daniel Rokhsar).  

Thursday and Friday evenings bring the dreaded round of concurrent sessions; there's always multiple talks to attend.  That might be a time when being there can be just as frustrating as watching by Twitter.  Informatics talks aren't concentrated in an informatics session, but rather assigned to the biological theme.  If I were there, I'd probably park myself in the metagenomics session on Friday, but the cancer session running then looks good too.

A number of talks appear to be around expanding sequencing's role as a detection methodology for "other things".  Tamir Biezuner of the Weizmann's talk is on cell lineage tracing,  Geoffrey Nelson (MRC) on linking genes to phenotypes

Some other talks of note: Eddy Rubin on "metagenomic diamond mining" -- natural products perhaps?  Shawn Levy (HudsonAlpha) on phasing genomes on the HiSeq X. Karen Meltz Steinberg on a "first African reference genome assembly". 

The big closing question is will there be an 800-pound gorilla in the room as Christopher HIll closes out the meeting with "Long-read sequence assembly of the gorilla genome".  After all, who would have a more vested interest?

An advance thank you to anyone who live Tweets (#agbt16) the talks or writes them up later.  AGBT has a host of "official bloggers" this year -- Dale Yuzuki, Meredith Salisbury, and James Hadfield --  but don't let them take all the glory!  Plus, I doubt James will be tweeting his own talk.  I'll be re-tweeting some of the highlights, and probably generating a Storify or two a day (first one is up, though I plan to continue to add to it) of the tweet streams.

1 comment:

Dale Yuzuki said...

Thanks for the preview Keith - on my way myself to Orlando at the moment and agreed that the concurrent sessions one suffers from the 'I chose the wrong line at the supermarket' problem, facing the opportunity cost first-hand of making a choice and then monitoring Twitter in real-time as excitement gets generated in other sessions...

Heck I may just take some time on Friday to call you and chat a bit. Indeed, attending AGBT is quite a privilege, and I in all honesty did not expect to attend this year, but thanks to SeraCare and the kindness of others it all worked out.