ISMB2018 – 26th Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology

We as RSG-Turkey are so proud to be part of great organization ISCB and ISCBSC. ISMB2018, one of the conferences organized by ISCB, was held in Chicago between 6-11 July. I have nominated for ISCB-SC RSG Leadership Travel Fellowship for the conference and she had the opportunity to attend the conference. Despite this post were overdue, it has a bunch of highlights which should be recorded.

The first thing worth to mention is ISCB Communities of Special Interest (COSIs) which are topically-focused collaborative communities of shared interest wherein scientists communicate with one another on research problems and/or opportunities in specific areas of computational biology. For detailed information about sixteen COSIs of ISCB, click on the link. One of my favorites is  SysMod COSI where I got a chance to present my Ph.D. project and meet the great scientist as well as my future collaborators.

In the first day of the conference, Thomas Lengauer, ISCB president welcomed over 1,600 delegates to Chicago and started the tight schedule of ISMB2018. During the event, ISCB Conferences mobile application helped each participant to create their own program.
The conference hosted very successful and interesting talks including keynotes. The conference-leading keynote was Steven Salzberg from the Center for Computational Biology McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. His keynote, titled “25 years of human gene finding: are we there yet?” focused on how The Human Genome Project was launched with the promise of revealing all of our genes, the “code” that would help explain our biology. The publication of the human genome in 2001 provided only a very rough answer to this question. For more than a decade following, the number of protein-coding genes steadily shrank, but the introduction of RNA sequencing revealed a vast new world of splice variants and RNA genes. His talk reviewed where we’ve been and where we are today, described a new effort to use an unprecedentedly large RNA sequencing resource to create a comprehensive new human gene catalog. The ISCB Overton Prize Keynote, Cole Trapnell of the University of Washington gave an engaging and informative talk titled “Reconstructing and deforming developmental landscapes” focused on how developing embryos are comprised of highly plastic individual cells that shift from one functional state to another, often reversibly so. A cell executes a different gene expression program for each of its possible roles, switching between them as needed throughout its life. How does the genome encode the developmentally intended sequence of program switches? Which gene regulatory events are crucial for a given cell fate decision? Quantifying each gene’s contribution in governing even one developmental step is a staggeringly difficult challenge. However, massively scalable single-cell transcriptome and epigenome profiling offer a way to quantitatively dissect developmental regulatory circuits. He discussed new assays and algorithms developed by his laboratory to realize this goal, and offer some lessons from several recent projects. Martha L Bulyk from Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston was the next day keynote Her talk titled Transcription factors, and cis-regulatory elements focused on mapping the impact of unique variants on the expression of transcription factors.  Specifically, it highlighted that similar target sequences can have far-reaching impacts when mutated.  The difficulties associated with establishing a proper background were also addressed. The engaging talk culminated in an informative question and answer period. Madan Babu of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the United Kingdom was another keynote speaker. His talk focused on understanding how the amino acid sequence of a protein contributes to its function (sequence-function relationship) and foundation for the sequence–structure–function paradigm. He presented IDR-Screen, which is a high-throughput experimental and computational approach for discovering functional disordered regions in a biologically relevant context and identifying features of functional sequences through statistical learning. The final keynote of the conference, the ISCB Accomplishments by a Senior Scientist Award winner, Ruth Nussinov had inspiring talk entitled A woman’s computational biology journey focused on her journey through the field, beginning when revolutionary sequencing methods produced the first long DNA sequences with the development of an efficient algorithm to fold RNA, followed by pioneering bioinformatic DNA sequence analyses.

Throughout the conference days, attendees were able to meet and seek out information on new technologies, platforms, and ideas. Addition to having an opportunity to meet with exhibitors, attendees could view the poster presentations of the day to seek out new ideas and approaches. With nearly 300 attendee participants interacting with 15 recruiting entities the ISCB Career Fair was also a notable event.  The Career Fair allowed for a designated time for engaging discussion among talented candidates seeking positions in the fields of computational biology and bioinformatics.

Attending an ISCB conference is also a good chance for understanding the ISCB organization structure, transparency should be one of their strengths. Bruno Gaeta, ISCB Treasurer, reviewed the Society’s financial statements and current membership numbers.  Scott Markel, the Nominations Co-Chair, reminded members to vote and gave a brief overview of the Nominations process.  The student council delivered their annual report and highlighted this year’s ISMB Student Symposium.

ISCB offers poster or oral presentation and different numbers of travel fellowship opportunity as well as competitions like Art in Science or Wikipedia in every ISMB. In ISMB2018, 2017-2018 Wikipedia Winners were announced, 2018 Art in Science winners were announced, and over 40 students and post-docs were recognized as ISMB travel fellowship recipients. The ISCB aims to improve the communication of scientific knowledge to the public at large, so the ISCB Wikipedia Competition aims to improve the quality of Wikipedia articles relating to computational biology. Entries to the competition are open now; the competition closes on 31 Dec 2018. Prizes of up to $500 will be awarded to the best contributions as chosen by a judging panel of experts; these will be awarded at the ISMB/ECCB conference in Basel, Switzerland in July 2019. Detailed information on this link. Another annual event is Art in Science. Art in Science competition which offers a way to show the beauty of science in the art form. The winners presented with a USD 200 prize, as well as be the feature cover image for the ISCB Fall Newsletter.

I write just some highlights from the conference, however, more information about the conference is also available in ISCB-newsletter.  If you wonder the selected works from ISMB2018 presenters, you can find the special issue in Bioinformatics

If you feel sorry that you missed this breathtaking event after you read the post, no worries. You can watch the presentations online by clicking the link

Moreover, please save the date for next ISMB in Basel, Switzerland between July 21 – July 25, 2019.

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