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ISCB Celebrates Outstanding Science and Innovation at ISMB 2014

ISMB 2014 came to a close on Tuesday, July 15,  with a standing ovation for ISCB president, Burkhard Rost.  Over 1,300 scientists came to Boston to network, learn, and collaborate.  With another successful meeting in the books, ISCB looks forward to planning ISMB/ECCB 2015.  


ISMB 2014, Day 1: July 13

#ISMB #KN1 Michal Linial opened the meeting with a keynote talk entitled “Good Things Come in Small Packages - Replicators and Innovators”

Linial spoke on her research group’s ‘treasure hunt for hidden functions’ driven by the guiding principles to listen to the ‘big data’ and be aware of outliers, although don’t forget the biology because the outliers may be the interesting elements.

She spent time talking about short peptides as unexplored mode of regulation, including a clan of short peptides, non-toxic TOLIPs (toxin-like proteins), which are found at at the origin of Metazoa and have been duplicated and modified throughout evolution.

#ISMB #KN2 Gene Myers gave his ISCB Senior Scientist Accomplisment Award talk  entitled “DNA Assembly: Past, Present, and Future” and chronicled the history of sequence assembly methods, starting with the “original shotgun sequencing project” on lambda phage by Fred Sanger.

He talked about the whole genome assembly approach (in a nutshell) he and his team used at Celera. All the unique sequences were identified with very low error rates and could be linked together using mate pairs to build scaffolds and assemble a complete genome.

He ended with his perspective of how demand for lower cost sequencing “after the genome” has hampered progress on the production of high quality de novo genome reconstructions.  He talked about his renewed interest in assembly using next gen long-read sequencers, which is chronicled regularly in the Dazzler Blog.

#ISMB #SS01 series of talks on human microbiome studies attracted great interest as well as the launch if the Communities of Special Interest (#COSI), which were discussed in #ISMB #SS02.

The jam-packed day was capped with a full house of football fans at the World Cup viewing area in the exhibit hall, complete with ISMB-themed espresso drinks.

ISMB 2014, Day 2: July 14

#ISMB #KN3 Isaac (Zak) Kohane gave a talk entitled “Biomedical Quants of the Word Unite! We Only Have Our Disease Burden to Lose!” during which he urged the computational biology community to get involved and do something useful to improve health outcomes. He spoke on the challenges facing e-health records, healthcare data, and getting bioinformatics in the clinic.

#ISMB #KN4 Overton Prize winner Dana Pe’er spoke on “A Multidimensional Single Cell Approach to Understand Cellular Behavior” otherwise known as "Dimensionality in Biological Data: the Power of Single Cells" in her keynote talk. She discussed how she studies biological networks in single cells using mass cytometry, which she considers a major game changer in the field. She showed how this approach could differentiate cancer cell populations from healthy populations in novel and robust ways.

ISCB held its annual open business meeting on day 2. Members of the Board spoke about the many flourishing aspects of the society, including its membership (~3000 members), meetings (8 ISCB-sponsored meetings), and other member-driven initiates. Phil Bourne, newly appointed Associate Director for Data Science at NIH and Past-President of ISCB, did a Q & A with this standing room-only audience about NIH’s new data science initiatives.

Another hot spot on Day 2 was the ISMB education workshop (#ISMB #WK06; WEB 2014), which included talks on running MOOCs, bioinformatics curricula, and gamification of bioinformatics.

ISMB 2014, Day 3: July 15

#ISMB #KN5 Robert Langer gave a keynote talk entitled “Biomaterials & Biotechnology: From the discovery of the first angiogenesis inhibitors to the development of controlled drug delivery systems and the foundation of tissue engineering.” He spoke about the many hurdles he faced while developing the first angiogenesis inhibitors and controlled release drugs, and he finished his talk highlighting his new work on “growing” livers, cartilage, and spinal implants.

#ISMB #KN6 Russ Altman delivered the ISCB Fellows keynote talk entitled “Informatics for Understanding Drug Response at All Scales.” He discussed his work on studying drug responses at multiple scales, including molecular, organism, and population responses. He concluded that informatics can be good for inferring and ranking side effects, characterizing gene-drug interactions through text mining, predicting gene expression based on a drug’s chemical structure, and using 3D protein structures to predict fragment binding.

The digital publishing workshop (#ISMB #WK06) generated a lot of interest and included talks about alternative models of peer review, FAIR data publishing (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable), and code review.

ISMB 2014 will be remembered for its fantastic and diverse keynote talks, vibrant SIGs and workshops, and the creative and stimulating atmosphere created by all its delegates. See you in Dublin next year!