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Conference offers new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration

More than 150 people gathered last weekend at the National Academies' Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for the third annual National Academies Keck FUTURES INITIATIVE conference. This year's conference, "The Genomic Revolution: Implications for Treatment and Control of Infectious Disease," attracted scientists, engineers, and medical researchers to work on new interdisciplinary responses using genomics to treat and control infectious diseases.

To encourage further interdisciplinary work on genomics and infectious disease, the Academies announced the availability of $1 million in seed grants up to $75,000 each which will be awarded competitively to conference participants to speed the new lines of research identified at the sessions. Grant recipients will be announced in April 2006.

"Genomics research stands at the intersection of science, engineering, and medicine," said Wm. A. Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering. "With the possibility of a future avian flu pandemic in the headlines, there couldn't be a better time to bring together top researchers to work as interdisciplinary teams, ask new questions, and identify novel directions for inquiry."

To help bridge the communication gaps between experts in genomics and researchers from different fields, the organizers developed "tutorial" sessions in which speakers provided an overview of their fields in a way that scientists, engineers, or medical researchers from other disciplines could understand. Topics included vaccine design, host/pathogen interaction, bioinformatics, microsystems, and sequencing technology, as well as the nature of team science and the special challenges of doing this work in developing countries.

Eleven conference breakout sessions gave the participants eight hours to develop new research approaches to problems in infectious disease using genomics. Among the challenges were designing a new device to detect viral and bacterial pathogens;
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Contact: William Skane
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
14-Nov-2005


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