The Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology, known today as simply ISMB, was started in the early 1990's to bring together researchers with an interest in applying a computational approach to biological investigation. At that time it was challenging to find people who did this work in either computer science or molecular biology, as few scientists in either discipline had a clear idea of what bioinformatics was or how to find other people doing it.
Therefore, Lawrence Hunter, then a programmer at the US National Library of Medicine, put to use a popular database he had generated of researchers interested in artificial intelligence and molecular biology from research papers and conference mailing lists by inviting those researchers to a 1992 joint NLM meeting with the National Science Foundation on the future of what was then termed artificial intelligence in molecular biology. The following year, the meeting evolved into the first Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB), held in Washington DC. That first ISMB attracted approximately 200 scientists; today more than 1500 show up.
In August 2012 PLoS Computational Biology published an article authored by Todd Gibson titled, "The Roots of Bioinformatics in ISMB." The article weaves together the story of ISMB through interviews conducted by the author with several of the founding fathers of the ISMB conference. The results is an interesting look into the origins and maturation of the conference series.
Past keynote addresses. One of the highlights of each ISMB conference is a collection of keynotes delivered by researchers of the highest international esteem who are asked to inform the community of historical perspectives or landmark advances in computational and experimental research, and inject new directions into the field of computational molecular biology. Past keynote speakers are listed below (affiliations are accurate to the year the keynote was given).
Uri Alon (Weizmann Inst of Sci; '04), Stephen Altschul (NCBI; '02), David Altschuler (Harvard; '10), Michale Ashburner (EBI-'02; U of Cambridge-'11), David Baker (U of Washington; '02), Amos Bairoch (U of Geneva; '99), David Balaban (Affymetrix; '99), Ziv Bar-Joseph (Carnegie Mellon U; '12), Ewan Birney (EBI; '05), Bonnie Berger (MIT; '11), Mathieu Blanchette (McGill U; '06), Tom Blundell (U of Cambridge; '06), Steven Brenner (UC Berkeley; '10), Sydney Brenner (Salk Inst; '03), Søren Brunak (DTU; '07), Douglas Brutlag (Stanford; '95), Bruce Buchanan (U of Pittsburg; '94), Chris Burge (MIT; '01), Stephen Burley (SGX; '07), Howard Cash (Gene Codes; '05), Robert Cedergren (U of Montreal; '98), George Church (Harvard; '10), Elena Conti (EMBL; '06), Eugenia Maria del Pino Veintimilla (PUCE; '09), Charles DeLisi (Boston U; '06), Christopher Dobson (U of Oxford; '01), Ford Doolittle (Dalhousie U; '02), Russell Doolittle (UCSD; '96), Richard Durbin (Wellcome Trust Sanger Inst; '12), Sean Eddy (Washington U; '01), Gerald Edelman (Neurosciences Inst; '00), Manfred Eigen (Max-Planck Goettingen; '99), Michael Eisen (Berkely; '07), David Eisenberg (UCLA; '01), Claire Fraser-Liggett (U of Maryland; '08), Terry Gaasterland (Rockefeller U; '02), Anne-Claude Gavin (EMBL; '07), Pierre-Henri Gouyon (MNHN/CNRS; '09), Eric Green (NIH-NHGRI; '04), David Haussler (UCSC; '96 & '08), Barry Honig (Columbia U; '02), Leroy Hood (Inst for Sys Bio; '00 & '04), Robert Huber (Max-Planck Munich; '06), Bernardo Huberman (Hewlett Packard Labs; '01), Peter J Hunter (U of Auckland; '05), Lawrence Hunter (NLM; '94, '12); Trey Ideker (UCSD; '09), David Jaffe (Broad Inst; '08), Fotis Kafatos (EMBL; '07), Minoru Kanehisa (Kyoto U; '00), Richard Karp (U of Washington; '99), Anthony Kerlavage (Celera; '99), Daphne Koller (Stanford; '09), Eugene Koonin (NCBI/NLM; '99), Eric Lander (MIT), Richard Lathrop (UC Irvine; '97, '12), Thomas Lengauer (Max-Planck Saarbrucken; '09), Mike Levine (UC Berkeley), Susan Lindquist (Whitehead Inst; '10), David Lipman (NIH-NCBI; '04), Matthias Mann (CEBI; '99 & '04), Hanah Margalit (Hebrew U of Jerusalem; '08), John Mattick (Queensland; '07), J Andrew McCammon (UCSD; '00), Marcie McClure (U of Nevada; '97), Jill Mesirov (Broad Inst; '05); Webb Miller (PA State U; '09), Satoru Miyano (U of Tokyo; '05), Gene Myers (Celera-'00 & HMMI-'08), Denis Noble (U of Oxford; '04), Erin O'Shea (HHMI; '07), Svante Paabo (Max-Planck Leipzig; '04 &'10), Bernard O Palsson (UCSD; '08), Morag Park (McGill; '08), Pavel Pevzner (UCSD; '05), Tomaso Poggio (MIT; '09), Aviv Regev (Broad Inst; '08), John Reinitz (SUNY; '02), Isidore Rigoutsos (IBM; '02), Richard J Roberts (New England Biolabs; '94 & '06), Gerald Rubin (HHMI), Andrej Sali (UCSF; '12), Chris Sander (EMBL-'96, MIT-'01, MSKCC-'10), David Sankoff (Otttawa), Harold Scheraga (Cornell U; '00), Renee Schroeder (U of Vienna; '07), David Searls (SKB; '00), Eran Segal (Weizmann Inst; '07), Luis Serrano (Ctr for Genomic Regulation; '11), Temple Smith (Boston U; '07), Terry Speed (UC Berkely; '07), Michale J E Sternberg (Imperial Cancer Research Fund; '99), John Sulston (Sanger Ctr; '95), Janet Thornton (U College London-'95, EBI-'05 & '11), Anna Tramontano (U of Rome; '04), Olga Troyanskaya (Princeton; '11), Mathias Uhlen (KTH; '09), Alfonso Valencia (CNIO; '11), Craig Venter (Celera), Gunnar von Heijne (Stockholm U; '01, '05, '12), Michael Waterman (USC; '98 & '06), Robert Waterston (Washington U St. Louis; '96), Robert Weinberg (Whitehead Inst; '10), Hans Westerhoff (Vrije U; '97), Shoshana Wodak (U of Brussells; '98), Barbara Wold (CalTech; '12), Kurt Wuethrich (ETH; '06).