16th Annual
International Conference
Intelligent Systems
for Molecular Biology

Metro Toronto Convention Centre (South Building)
Toronto, Canada


Press Release

Media Contact: BJ Morrison McKay, +1 760 522 8805,                                                        


JULY 20 - 23, 2008 (with pre-conference meetings starting July 18)

An invitation to attend Press Conference July 21, 2:30 p.m.

Toronto hosts ground-breaking computational biology researchers


Scientists from around the world working at the intersection of computer science and biology – that is, in the discipline of bioinformatics, or computational biology – will assemble in Toronto in mid-July, when the sixteenth annual international conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB will be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, South Building. For six days, the city will host as many as 1600 of the most highly accomplished researchers in areas ranging from the intricacies of molecular evolution and the processes through which proteins fold to the application of computational biology in the design of drugs against bacterial infections and cancer. This is the premier annual meeting in the field of computational biology, organized by the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB, and includes eight keynote addresses from the most sought after and innovative research leaders of the field, including the two major ISCB award winners for 2008.

At a press conference to be held on Monday, July 21 at 2:30 p.m., local Toronto steering committee member Shoshana Wodak of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto ( will be joined by keynote speaker Gene Myers of Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farm Research Campus (, ISCB 2008 Overton Prize winner Aviv Regev of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (, as well as conference chair Burkhard Rost of Columbia University (, and conference co-chairs Jill Mesirov of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (, and Michal Linial of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( The focus of the press conference is to present highlights of the keynote lectures and to describe the stimulating range of science being presented at the conference as a whole. Summaries of featured ground-breaking research presented at the meeting will be made available and interviews may be requested in advance with any of the keynote speakers, scientific presenters or conference organizers, including ISMB 2008 Honorary Chair Thomas Hudson of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (, who is leading a team in the organization of a special session on Health and Diseases in our Genomes: Mining Genetic Variation to be presented Sunday, July 20 from 10:45 a.m. – 12:40 p.m. All science and medical writers receiving this release are invited to attend this press conference; if you wish to attend and/or arrange an interview, please send your request by email to the named media contact.

ISMB has evolved swiftly, starting in 1993 as a gathering of some 200 scientists, to its present status as the largest academic meeting of bioinformaticists and computational biologists worldwide. The escalation in conference attendance parallels the rapidly evolving field of computational biology, having earned its place as a scientific discipline in most leading institutions around the world. As ISCB’s flagship annual meeting, ISMB traditionally alternates between North American and European cities. The 2002 meeting held in Edmonton, Canada ( was the first ISMB to welcome more than 1500 attendees. Since 2004, whenever ISMB has been held in Europe, it has joined with the major yearly European bioinformatics conference, the European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB). Last year, the joint ISMB / ECCB meeting attracted over 1800 delegates to Vienna, Austria ( Attendance in Toronto this year is expected to exceed 1600 as a solo meeting.

In recent years ISMB has evolved from a single-track meeting into a vastly expanded "One Conference Fits All" event with a greatly increased number of parallel sessions. Following Vienna’s great success, further steps have been taken to shape the most inclusive program ever for Toronto. The organizers of ISMB 2008 have achieved the goal of preparing a conference to appeal equally to the field’s current thought leaders who seek the quality and intimacy of a specialized professional conference and the brightest among the next generation of researchers who may be taking their first steps into the field. The leading principle adopted for the conference is rather straightforward: Each attendee must be offered an exciting and rich program that fulfills his or her own needs and expectations, whether hailing from industry or academia, being an experimental biologist or computer scientist, and regardless of status as a graduate student or experienced and mature scientist.

Pre-conference meetings begin Friday, July 18 with two days of satellite and special interest groups (SIG) meetings that offer the opportunity of exchange and education among colleagues sharing similar research interests with a focus on the quality of recent developments in unique areas including alternative splicing, molecular structure, new methods of genome sequencing, and more. A broad ranged symposium organized entirely by the Student Council of ISCB and specifically for student attendees will be held concurrent to the first day of satellite and SIG meetings. Saturday, July 19 sees the addition of a range of tutorial sessions ideal for young and advancing students looking to extend their knowledge and gain exposure to educational topics presented by skilled teachers.

The main conference opens Sunday, July 20, with four days that offer more than 160 oral presentations, where delegates all come together only twice a day for the keynote lectures. At all other times they choose between parallel sessions of talks selected from submitted original research papers or a range of specialized sessions. Important research will be presented both as Proceedings Papers – new work that will be published in an online issue of the journal Bioinformatics – and in the Highlights Track of work recently published in high impact journals including Science and Nature. Other oral presentations range from technical demonstrations to hands-on software training workshops, and from mini-symposia of emerging topics in the field to insights from the commercial sector on the accomplishments, challenges and future of bioinformatics in industry. Nearly 700 scientific posters on display throughout the entire meeting primarily demonstrate novel, unpublished work, and give all attendees the opportunity to review and openly discuss current research projects using data derived from bioinformatics and computational biology tools and methods.

One of the most exciting novelties of ISMB 2008 includes a series of interactive workshops providing hands-on experience with freely available, popular software packages in the areas of genomic analysis, genome browsers and systems biology.  Another novelty - possibly a first for any bioinformatics or computational biology meeting - is the ISCB Student Council organized "Visual Reflections on Science" exhibition of artistic images and videos related to the conference topics. And returning as an extraordinarily successful conference track introduced last year are the novel "Special Sessions" that probe emerging topics at the frontier of technologies certain to be central in years to come. Each Special Session topic is outside, but related to, the core of computational biology, ranging from the challenges of sequencing multiple genomes to the future of scientific publishing. In addition to the Sunday morning Special Session organized by honorary conference chair Hudson, both Special Sessions on Monday, July 21 are specifically organized by and feature the particular research interests of Toronto-based scientists: Interaction Networks and Disease is organized by ISMB 2008 steering committee member Wodak along with Gary Bader of the University of Toronto (, and Structural Bioinformatics: Deciphering the Proteome is organized by Igor Jurisica ( and Ryan Lilien (, both affiliated with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

An exhibition of vendors and institutions that offer products and services essential to the computational biology community runs throughout the main conference days, and each day is structured with numerous opportunities to network and socialize during breaks and evening poster receptions. An all-out party built around the Matrix movie theme will be enjoyed by all as a final night event at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex.

Registration remains open online at through July 12, and on-site registration opens July 18, 2008.

A brief biography of each co-chair, keynote speaker and award winner, as well as additional details on each of the parallel session tracks, is attached to this press release as an Appendix.

Media contact:             BJ Morrison McKay, ISCB Executive Officer,, +1-760-522-8805; Also available at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre July 20-23, 2008 during conference hours.

About the ISCB

The International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) is a scholarly society dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of living systems through computation. Founded in 1997, the ISCB today serves a global membership of more than 2500 scientists in over 50 countries with the goal of an increased understanding of the significance of bioinformatics in the scientific community, government, and the public at large. More at:

About the ISMB Conferences

The conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) began in 1993 and served as the driving force for the founding of the ISCB in 1997, which has been organizing this conference ever since. ISCB is the only society representing computational biology on a worldwide scale and its flagship conference, ISMB, has become the largest annual academic conference on computational biology worldwide.  More about past and future ISMB conferences at:


ISMB 2008 Conference Chairs

Thomas Hudson, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research

As the honorary chair of ISMB 2008, Dr. Hudson is increasing the global awareness on the excellence of Ontario, Canada’s research community in his role as President and Scientific Research Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Having received his MD at Université de Montréal in 1985, and currently holding professorships at the University of Toronto in the Department of Medical Genetics and Microbiology and in the Department of Medical Biophysics, he continues his work on cancer and population genomics.

Burkhard Rost, Columbia University, New York, USA

Dr. Rost is serving as the current president of the ISCB and chair of ISMB 2008. He graduated with a PhD in theoretical physics and has been working in computational molecular biology since the early 1990s; his research focuses on the prediction of protein structure and function from sequence, and he set up the first protein structure prediction server on the web.

Michal Linial, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Dr. Linial is head of the Sudarsky Center for Computational Biology. She is an ISCB Director, vice chair of the ISCB conferences committee and steering committee chair of the European Conference of Computational Biology, in addition to serving as ISMB 2008 co-chair. Her research spans experimental biology as well as bioinformatics, particularly in the area of proteomics.

Jill Mesirov, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, USA

Dr. Mesirov, a computer scientist, is director of the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Organization at the Broad Institute. She is an ISCB Director and vice chair of its publications committee, and co-chair of IAMB2008. Her research focuses on the development of bioinformatics algorithms and their implementation in accessible, user-friendly tools for biologists.

Keynote Speakers and ISCB Award Winners: Biographical synopses
(45 minute talks Sunday, July 20  – Wednesday, July 23)

Aviv Regev, ISCB Overton Prize, MIT and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, USA (
Monday, July 21, 4:45 p.m.
Dr. Regev develops mathematical models for gene expression networks within specific cell types. She has recently applied this to the malaria parasite, relating differences in gene expression patterns to differences in the clinical course of the disease. Visit

David Haussler, ISCB Senior Scientist Accomplishment Award, Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering, University of California Santa Cruz, USA
Wednesday, July 23, 2:00 p.m.
Dr. Haussler has made significant advances in both the development and application of bioinformatics methods. He was one of the first to introduce Hidden Markov Models into the analysis of patterns in biological data, and, later, his lab played a large part in the Human Genome Project and the sequencing and analysis of mammalian genomes.

Claire M. Fraser-Liggett, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA
Sunday, July 20, 9:00 a.m.
Dr. Fraser-Liggett is director of the Institute of Genome Sciences and was formerly president and director of the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) where the first genome of a free-living organism, Haemophilus influenzae, was sequenced in 1995. She has, for the last ten years, been the most highly cited microbiologist, for work focusing on the genetics and genomics of micro-organisms. Her keynote address will be entitled Microbial Communities in Health and Disease.

David Jaffe, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, USA
Sunday, July 20, 4:45 p.m.
Dr. Jaffe is the Associate Director for Computational Research and Development (CRD) in the Genome Sequencing and Analysis Program at the Broad Institute. His research focuses on the analysis and assembly of genome sequences, working with data from both the conventional Sanger sequencing systems and more novel technologies which produce shorter DNA sequence "reads".

Eugene W. Myers, HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, VA, USA
Monday, July 21, 9:00 a.m.
Dr. Myers is best known for the development of the BLAST program for searching databases for similar gene or protein sequences, which is probably the most widely used bioinformatics tool. More recently, he has been using data mining techniques with electron microscopy and fluorescence imaging to visualize biological processes at the level of individual cells and organelles. His lecture, entitled Imaging Bioinformatics, will describe some of these developments.

Morag Park, Department of Oncology, McGill University, Quebec, Canada
Tuesday, July 22, 9:00 a.m.
Dr. Park studies the relationship between errors in signal transduction pathways and the development of cancer. Her lab is using the Met receptor tyrosine kinase as a model system, examining how deregulation of this kinase may lead to cell transformation and the development of cellular characteristics, such as proliferation and invasiveness, which are associated with cancer.

Bernhard Ø. Palsson, University of California San Diego, USA
Tuesday, July 22, 4:45 p.m.
Dr. Palsson is Galetti Professor of Bioengineering and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at UCSD. His group works on the computational reconstruction and analysis of biochemical networks on a whole genome scale. He is the author of over 220 peer reviewed papers and some acclaimed textbooks, is named on over 25 U.S. patents, and has co-founded several biotechnology companies.

Hanah Margalit, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Wednesday, July 23, 9:00 a.m.
Dr. Margalit was one of the first Israeli academics to establish a research group in bioinformatics, and the first president of the Israeli Society of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Her research focuses on the integration of information from data from disparate biological databases to obtain information about molecular function and mechanisms.

Conference Session Summaries

Satellite Meeting and Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

(One- and two- day meetings held before and throughout the main meeting)
Satellite Meeting (18 & 19 July): 3DSig, Structural Biology and Computational Biophysics
Two-day SIGs (all 18 & 19 July): Alternative Splicing AS-SIG; (Bioinformatics Open Source Conference (BOSC); BioPathways; Joint AFP-Biosapiens SIG (protein function prediction)
One-day SIGs: BioLINK (18 July); Next Generation Sequencing (19 July); Bio-Ontologies (20 July); Genome-Scale Pattern Analysis (21 July)

(Half-day sessions, all held on Saturday 19 July)

Morning (08:30-12:30): (1) PLoS professional development; (2) Computational analyses and biological Iinterpretation of ChIP-chip and ChIP-seq; (3) Computational biology on multi-core computer systems; (4) Identification of biomedical events and rRelations in the literature with ontological support; (5) Introduction to molecular visualization

Afternoon (13:30-17:30): (1) Distances, margins, kernels: Machine learning concepts for computational biology; (2) A structured approach for the engineering of biochemical network models, illustrated for signaling pathways; (3) How to make useful ontologies for biomedicine; (4) Making informed choices about microarray data analysis; (5) Introduction to non-coding RNA gene finding.

Proceedings Papers
(20-minute talks followed by discussion in parallel tracks throughout the main meeting July 20-23)

The core of the meeting is the Proceedings Papaers tracks that feature high-quality research in the following areas:

  • Bioinformatics of Disease
  • Comparative Genomics
  • Databases and Ontologies
  • Evolution and Phylogeny
  • Gene Regulation and Transcriptomics
  • Protein Interactions and Molecular Networks
  • Protein Structure and Function
  • Sequence Analysis and Alignment
  • Text Mining

Titles of Special Sessions
(Seven half-day sessions held throughout the main meeting July 20-23)

  • Health and Diseases in our Genomes: Mining Genetic Variation
  • Frontiers in cell imaging: Automated image analysis
  • Interaction Networks and Disease
  • Structural Bioinformatics: Deciphering the proteome
  • Sequencing thousands of human genomes - perspectives, challenges, and analysis
  • Computational Challenges and Opportunities in Host-Pathogen Systems Biology
  • Future of Scientific Publishing

Highlights Tracks
(20-minute talks followed by discussion, Sunday 20 – Wednesday 23 July)

This highlights work recently published in peer reviewed journals (before March 15, 2008) that is judged to be of exceptional interest to the computational biology community. The criteria by which papers are judged include the impact of the paper on biology and its accessibility to a broad audience. This track was introduced for ISMB / ECCB 2007 and was voted one of the three most popular sections of that meeting.  

Industry Track
(25-minute sessions, Sunday 20 – Wednesday 23 July)

In the industry track, companies describe and present their innovative solutions to problems in computational biology, with an evaluation of their benefits and prospects for future development. There will also be software demonstrations. Industry track abstracts are published in the main conference program.

Nearly 700 posters will be presented in the following categories: arrays, bioinformatics of health and disease, biophysics, chemical and pharmaceutical informatics, comparative genomics, databases, evolution, functional genomics, gene prediction, genome annotation, genomics, institutional research, interactions, machine learning, neuroscience, ontologies, population genetics and variation, proteomics, regulation, sequence analysis, structure and function prediction, structural genomics, systems biology and networks, and text mining.