9th Annual International Gene Forum 2009 “New Frontiers in Genomics”
12-13 June 2009, Tartu, Estonia
At the international gene and biotechnology conference held for the ninth time in Tartu and lasting two days the participants noted that genetics has become increasingly important in medicine and is making medicine more personal. Therefore Andres Metspalu, the head of the programme committee of the conference, the Director of the Estonian Genome Project of the University of Tartu and a biotechnology professor, believes that in five to six years there will be a database which doctors can use for assessment of the genetic risks of their patients. The conference Gene Forum 2009 with the sub-topic of "New Frontiers in Genomics" once again summoned the world's leading gene and biotechnology specialists, who gave an overview of the recent trends and future developments of this rapidly developing area.
The ninth international Gene Forum, jointly organised by the Estonian Genome Foundation and the Estonian Biocentre, on June 12-13 looked into the future of genetic research and paid a lot of attention to the new trend of gene maps identifying personal genetic predispositions. The conference which offered presentations by 18 renowned professionals attracted 210 researchers, doctors, students, health care officials, executives and investors, incl. a seventh from other Baltic states as well as from Scandinavia, Western Europe, and North and Central America.
The Gene Forum was opened by Professor Alar Karis, the Rector of the University of Tartu, who paid tribute to the organisers for organising a top-class conference and wished the participants a fruitful exchange of ideas. The main speaker of the forum, Professor Jun Wang from the Beijing Genomics Institute, delivered the keynote address about rapid developments in the field of genome sequencing and the possibilities of applying the results in practice. Professor Wang also introduced two ambitious projects of his institute: Life Tree and Gene and Health, the former aiming at sequencing the genomes of all animal and plant species and model organisms of economic and scientific importance and the latter focusing on large-scale population and association research.
Dr. Brian Naughton from 23andMe, a US company that is one of the world’s largest gene map producers, introduced the genotyping service which costs only 400 dollars, is available also for the people of Estonia and the results of which are available on the web. As a practical example he spoke of himself, because owing to a gene map he learned of his diabetes risk and is now able to limit the consumption of sugar in his diet.
Professor Sean Ennis from the University College Dublin introduced the results of the to-date largest autism genome project, covering over 6,000 families, which confirms a strong connection between autism and genetics.
One of the traditions of the Gene Forum is also to try to find Estonians working abroad or researchers of Estonian origin and invite them to make a presentation in their homeland. At this conference Dr. Gerli Pielberg, currently working in Uppsala, spoke of the possibilities of using the dog as the model animal in researching genetic reasons of human complex diseases and of the first achievements and challenges in the field.
Other Estonian researchers who made a presentation at the conference included Professor Jüri Allik from the University of Tartu, who spoke about connections between genetics and personal characteristics and behavioural psychology, and Professor Andres Metspalu, who introduced research carried out by the Estonian Genome Project which already contains the data of 36,000 people.
The organisation of the 9th Annual International Gene Forum was supported by ERA-Net, Estonian Biocentre, University of Tartu, the City of Tartu, the National Institute for Health Development and the Archimedes Foundation.