8th Annual International Gene Forum 2008
12-14 June 2008, Tartu
The participants in this year’s international gene and biotechnology conference, held for the eighth time over three days in Tartu, agreed that genomics is making its presence felt ever more strongly in clinics and that in future the role it plays in everyday therapy is likely to grow. The Gene Forum 2008, entitled “Functional Genomics”, once again brought the world’s leading gene and biotechnology specialists to Tartu to provide overviews of the latest trends and future directions in this rapidly developing field.
Organised by the Estonian Genome Foundation in association with the Estonian Biocentre and the University of Tartu, the eighth international gene and biotechnology conference was held in Tartu from 12 to 14 June 2008 and saw extensive discussion of the implementation of genetic and biotechnology knowledge in medicine. Featuring presentations by 20 renowned figures in the field, the conference was attended by 225 scientists, doctors, students, health care officials, directors and investors, one in nine of which came from the other Baltic States, Scandinavia, Western Europe, North America and Israel.
|Dr. David Gurvitz, the conference’s keynote speaker|
The forum was opened by Professor Richard Villems, President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, who praised the organisers for their work in arranging such a high-level conference and wished the participants a thought-provoking and fruitful three days.
Andres Metspalu, Professor of Biotechnology from the University of Tartu and Director of the Programme Committee, says that the efforts that have been made over the last eight years and the recommendations of the more than one hundred and fifty presenters who have attended the conference are seeing word about the high-level programme of the event spread in genetics circles. He says that the people who come together for the conference present Estonia’s scientists and students with an unrivalled opportunity to attend lectures by some of the world’s leading scientists for themselves – a chance that doesn’t come along every day. It has become a tradition of the gene forum to search for Estonians working abroad or scientists with Estonian roots and to invite them to come to their homeland and make a presentation.
20 high-level presenters contributed to the conference. The keynote speaker, Doctor David Gurvitz from the University of Tel Aviv, opened the event in the main auditorium of the University of Tartu with a presentation on personal medicine. Personal medicine will enable us in future to produce individual medications in the event of illness which are genetically suitable to the patient. Although developments in the field of personal medicine have been rapid, clinical applications have been slow to emerge, mostly due to the sheer volume of work involved in testing medicines and adapting them to human genetic patterns.
|Prof. Jean Jacques Cassiman|
Professor Jean Jacques Cassiman from the Centre for Human Genetics of the University of Leuven and the President of the European Society of Human Genetics spoke about DNA diagnostics, their quality and testing in Europe. He says that the consistent implementation in diagnostics of the results of new trials is of great important, as it will enable the results of genetic studies (including DNA testing) to be more actively implemented in everyday medicine in future.
Professor Per Magnus from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health introduced the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, as part of which more than 10,000 children and their parents have been monitored and with the help of which a number of genes and gene groups associated with severe complex illnesses have been identified.
Estonia’s own Doctor Krista Kaasik from the University of California in San Francisco spoke about circadian rhythms and their genetic mechanisms, known as ‘clock genes’. Their significance is highlighted by the fact that around 15% of the transcription process is time-regulated. Learning about the molecular influence of clock genes will help to both create new medicines and more effectively use those we already have.
|Dr. Krista Kaasik|
Thanks to sponsors, 150 young scientists, doctors and students were able to take part in the conference at a discounted price. The organisation of the 8th Annual International Gene Forum was supported by the European Science Foundation, the Estonian Biocentre, the University of Tartu and the City of Tartu.