Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program
Human Genome News Archive Edition
Human Genome News, January 1994; 5(5)
MacroMolecules, Genes, and Computers International Symposium and Workshop: Chapter Three (MGC3) was held August 17-22, 1993, in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. The symposium, organized by Temple Smith (Boston University), was designed and the schedule arranged to facilitate formal and informal discussion in the interdisciplinary domains of computer science, mathematics, genetics, medicine, and molecular biology. Session topics focused on fundamental properties of biological systems, enabling technologies, and anticipated computational challenges.
Software and database workshops coordinated by Wayne Rindone (Harvard University) constituted one of the most active components of the meeting. More than two dozen different computers were available, from workstation minisupercomputers to laptops displaying molecular structure in color graphics. These computers, connected via a local area network, were set up and attended by staff members from two of the meeting's sponsors, Applied Biosystems and Digital Equipment Corporation. "Within 24 hours, we converted an empty demon-stration room into a leading-edge computing facility comprising up to 50 workstations, all interconnecting among themselves and with the rest of the world," commented Joseph Modelevsky, a member of the MGC3 organizing committee.
Demonstrations were presented on all major molecular and genetic databases including GenBank®, Genetics Computer Group, Protein Information Resource, FlyBase, Protein Data Bank, and others. Emphasis was placed on intelligent front ends, relational infrastructures, network servers, multiple database integration, and cross referencing. Attendees at adjacent workstations could simultaneously search, extract, and compare information retrieved from widely dispersed international databases with analyses available on computers at their home institutions.
Lively discussions were held on sequence-data accuracy, genetic algorithms and neural nets as tools for structure analyses, in vitro selection of new ribonucleic acid catalyses, and potential linguistic representation of complex regulatory networks. A number of computer science tools, such as machine learning and advanced pattern grammars, were shown to be moving toward practical biological applications. This represents a shift from past meetings dominated by presentations on comparative sequence algorithms, evolutionary reconstruction problems, and the need for better data structures.
Debate continued on the relative importance of vast amounts of higher eukaryotic intergenic sequences or "junk" DNA. Sydney Brenner (Scripps Research Institute) suggested using a fish as a model organism because of its small, gene-rich genome. Speaking about very large regulatory regions, Carl Parker (California Institute of Technology) questioned whether information on complex higher organisms might be encoded in much of the so-called junk. In the discussions that followed, the possibility was suggested that very complex neural systems involve about the same genes as simpler systems but are regulated in more complex sets, thus requiring many more regulator elements.
Temple Smith, Boston University
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