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Updates from the Plant & Animal Genome Conference

Jan 14, 2016, by Elizabeth Boten
Tags: Internet2 Network

Written by Dan Taylor, Internet2, director, business development

The Plant & Animal Genome Conference (PAG) is designed to provide a forum on recent developments and future plans for plant & animal genome projects. Consisting of technical presentations, poster sessions, exhibits and workshops, the conference is an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and applications on this internationally important project. I had the opportunity to attend the event this past week in San Diego. PAG brings together more than 3,000 leading genetic scientists and researchers in plant and animal research, and over 130 exhibits, 150 workshops, 1100 posters and over 1800 abstracts. I had a great time at the event representing the Internet2 community. Here are a few takeaways from the event:

Hello, Cyverse

To better recognize the platform’s utility for animal, as well as plant genomic analysis, over the weekend, iPlant Collaborative announced a new name – Cyverse - at the conference. Parker Antin of University of Arizona is the new PI and Project Director; USDA’s Doreen Ware remains a Co-PI and Steve Goff is Director of Public/Private Partnerships. And some of the best news for me, was that Cyverse is now dockers friendly.

In their workshop, Columbia Professor Dr Stephen Harris talked about his genomics STEM program in a New York high school. Among his fascinating results, students found many products that advertised gingko ingredients actually contained none, a finding the NY Attorney General validated months later with civil suits against several manufacturers! The students in the STEM program also tackled questions such as “what is living in your kitchen sink drain?” and “what’s in that fish fillet?”


NCBI’s Dr. James Ostell reported that there was a continued explosive growth of genomic data it serves – 60Tb a day in downloads, 25M site visits per day. NCBI is creating services for scientists uploading information; increasingly these scientists see genomic information produced as a tool and by product of their work towards publication, not as a finished genomic product like they saw in the early years of NGS. NCBI is very excited about their new pathogen surveillance collaboration with FDA Food Safety which uses genomics to prevent outbreaks like salmonella and listeria before they become outbreaks. 

Women in life sciences recognized

Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam of UC-D gave a keynote that built on historical data, with a slope reminiscent of Moore’s law, which showed half of the 400% productivity improvements in dairy agriculture since 1944 are attributable to scientific breeding. Citing her Intelligence Squared  television “performance,” she presented an inspiring case for food scientists to do a better job advocating for the use of  genomic science to feed the world. Finally, she recognized the contributions of women in life science – half the scientists at the conference are female – with her YouTube video called #SCIFIE.