Research

A Global Genomics Gathering

An annual scientific conference for human genetics and genomics comes to Houston with a focus on implementing genomics-driven approaches to disease


By Texas Medical Center | April 6, 2016

Over the course of four days, the fourth floor of the Hilton Americas in downtown Houston served as a temporary hub for discussions of human genetics, genomics and all things Mendelian. The Houston medical community was proud to welcome the Human Genome Meeting (HGM), an annual scientific conference organized by the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO). The 2016 meeting marked the first time in decades that HUGO was held in the United States.

Offering a unique interplay of plenary lectures, symposia, workshops, poster presentations and laboratory tours, the 2016 HGM brought together genetic and genomic researchers from all corners of the globe. A unifying theme of translation wove potentially disparate threads together, tackling genomics-driven approaches in the diagnosis, treatment and management of cancer and genetic disease—all while inching toward future strategies and technologies for implementation.

“What we wanted to do with this meeting was to focus it down a proper path a bit more than previous meetings and bring experts from all across the world to bear on this issue of translational genomics,” said Andrew Futreal, Ph.D., professor in the department of genomic medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, as well as the chair of HUGO’s local organizing committee. “We wanted to think about it from the aspect of risk all the way through treatment and even novel approaches to understanding genomes. That way, we’ll be able to interpret the coming wave of information that’s being derived from more and more ubiquitous use of genome sequences, allowing for a greater understanding of human health and disease.”

Striving to balance contemporary issues in cancer and genetics with technology, ethics and policy, the conference featured over 40 distinguished speakers from throughout the Texas Medical Center, across the country and beyond—covering topics such as “Interpreting Cancer Genomes,” “Genome Editing” and “Mendelian Genetics”—in addition to 56 oral presentations from submitted abstracts and 60 poster presentations.

The roller-coaster history of genetic medicine is reflected in the evolution of the meeting itself. In 1991, HUGO held its first meeting with a singular purpose in mind: to collaborate on the ambitious goal of mapping the human genome.

“Initially, the goal of HUGO was to coordinate scientific efforts for the mapping and sequencing of the human genome,” said Stylianos E. Antonarakis, M.D., president of HUGO, as well as professor and chairman of genetic medicine at the University of Geneva Medical School. “I remember the meetings that we held at that time were mostly working meetings; there were very few talks. You would come with your lab books that showcased the results of your mapping experiments, and your fellow scientists would do the same. Then we’d put them together and compare them. If they were the same that was great—if not, we’d try to resolve any differences.”

Those targeted ambitions would define the HGM for more than 10 years—when the titular acronym actually stood for “Human Genome Mapping.” Over the years, and spurred by the completion of the Human Genome Project, HUGO was forced to leave the meeting’s origins behind.

“HUGO didn’t have anything left to coordinate afterwards,” Antonarakis said. “That led the organization to concentrate on ethics statements, policy issues and how to best advise different parts of the world on the importance of the genomic variation in phenotypes on disorders and traits. Gradually, the importance of HUGO went from North America and Europe to the parts of the world that were not that developed in genetic services, thinking and research. And that’s where we are today.”

This year’s conference kicked off with a plenary session that showcased both the storied history and daring ambitions of genomic medicine. Entitled, “At 30, Genomics Comes of Age,” and led by Maynard V. Olson, Ph.D., professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington, the talk called for a serious reevaluation of priorities and processes now that genome sequencing has established a firm foothold in medicine.

“Now is decidedly the time to really think boldly about the policies that we’ll need over the next decades to optimize genomics’ potential to advance progress in medicine,” Olson said. “This is going to be an immensely greater challenge than the one that the Human Genome Project represented. Obviously, it’s greater in scale, but the real key is that we get ahead of the curve of scientific progress.”

The 2016 HGM featured a “Meet the Professors” series, during which attendees—from students and postdocs to young faculty members—had an opportunity to sit down with the speakers themselves. The four-day conference also included a tour of Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center. For Antonarakis, the opportunity for a younger generation of researchers to visit real-life sequencing center—rather than experience a series of slides on a screen—is a testament to the value HGM provides its attendees.

“We’d like HUGO to continue to have more focused meetings in the future,” Antonarakis said. “Next year’s meeting will be on how genomics informs treatment. In genetics, diagnosis runs much faster than treatment, so we want to emphasize treating disorders with different approaches, from drugs to interventions and changes in lifestyle. We’d like to learn from the experts and each other while we explore these possibilities.”




Social Posts

profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY: Operation To Help Young Military Veterans Adjust To Everyday Life https://t.co/OnFRQbh1UC via @CBSNewYork

1 hour ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

#Immunotherapy has shown remarkable success, but it doesn’t work for everyone and results can vary.That’s why our researchers are conducting #clinicaltrials that combine immunotherapy with other therapies: https://t.co/klJw9jdvG8 #endcancer

1 hour ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

@thadroher Thank you, Thad. We are grateful for your support.

3 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Bikers honor Vets: ‘Run for the Wall’ stopping in Longview, TX https://t.co/miAB7a2A9b via @KLTV7

3 hours ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran Brad Pesek. Brad served for 20 years and made multiple deployments during Operation Iraqi Freedom.Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, Brad enlisted with the United States Marine Corps in June 1998. He attended boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California and infantry training at Camp Pendleton, California.After completing his training, Brad was assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. There, Brad was deployed twice to Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program.Following his time at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Brad was assigned to the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, California. There, he served as a Marine combat instructor and reached the rank of sergeant.After his time serving as an instructor at Camp Pendleton, Brad was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, where he served as a squad leader, machine gun section leader, mortar section leader, and platoon sergeant. During his time with 3/5, Brad was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, once in January 2006 and once in September 2007.Following his time with 3/5, Brad returned to the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton for a second tour as a Marine Combat Instructor. There, Brad was assigned to the Infantry Squad Leader Course, where he served as a squad instructor, assistant chief instructor, and later chief instructor. By December 2010, Brad had earned the rank of gunnery sergeant.Upon completing his tour as a Marine combat instructor, Brad was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. There, he served as a weapons platoon sergeant and company gunnery sergeant. During this time, Brad deployed twice in support of the Unit Deployment Program, serving in Darwin, Australia in 2012 for the first Marine Rotational Force-Darwin and in Okinawa, Japan in 2013.Following his time with 2/3, Brad began working as the assistant training chief for the 1st Marines, G-3 Training Section at Camp Pendleton, California. In January 2015, Brad was promoted to first sergeant and assigned as company first sergeant of the 1st Marine Raider Support Battalion.Brad retired from the Marine Corps in February 2019 after 20 years of service. Throughout his long service, Brad earned the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Meritorious Service Medal.Thank you for your service, Brad!

4 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @FrontierFiesta: 📸LIVE right now at #FrontierFiesta! https://t.co/PwwxUeSu3V

5 hours ago
profile_image

Veterans Affairs

@DeptVetAffairs

Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran Brad Pesek. Brad served for 20 years and made multiple #OIF deployments https://t.co/JDJk73aIjb

5 hours ago
profile_image

University of Houston

@UHouston

RT @MarchMadnessTV: Houston is on a mission to make the city proud.Kelvin Sampson has fostered a family atmosphere all around @UHCougarMB…

6 hours ago
profile_image

BCMHouston

@bcmhouston

See how Melanie McNeal stays fit in this week's healthy habits post. https://t.co/YDURUq6Ii5 #healthy #habits

7 hours ago
profile_image

Baylor College of Medicine

BaylorCollegeOfMedicine

For decades, the link between education and healthcare has been the driving concept behind development of programs to improve community health at Baylor College of Medicine. Learn more about our initiatives: https://bit.ly/2t4NynV #education #community

7 hours ago
profile_image

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

VeteransAffairs

Happy Birthday, Frank!

7 hours ago
profile_image

Texas Children's

@TexasChildrens

Families with children of all abilities are invited to the annual Texas Children’s West Campus Family Fun Run on Saturday, April 6. Register your family at https://t.co/kj6xpuWTSJ

8 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

@MDAndersonNews

“People who carry hereditary mutations do not necessarily get cancer, but their risk of developing the disease at some point during their lifetime is higher than average,” says our @KarenLuMD.How we help those with genetic risk of #cancer: https://t.co/W6Rf3WPl9r #endcancer

8 hours ago
profile_image

MD Anderson Cancer Center

MDAnderson

"I was really worried about the recovery," recalls Bridgette Fleming, who underwent laparoscopic colon resection in late March 2018 to treat her colon cancer. "But I was surprised that even after a major abdominal surgery, I only had to use the pain pump twice a day for a few days."Here's how our Enhanced Recovery Program is helping patients like Bridgette rebound faster after surgery. #endcancer

8 hours ago
profile_image

Rice University

@RiceUniversity

A candlelight vigil was held March 20 commemorating the 50 lives lost in the New Zealand mosque attacks.On March 27, Rice will host an Islamophobia teach-in all day in solidarity with the Muslim community: https://t.co/ugA11IDcGz https://t.co/8siFEZshmc

9 hours ago