ACGT represented at Biovision Alexandria 2008

The ACGT was represented at the recent Biovision meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, by Dr Jane Morris and Dr Oleg Reva (ACGT Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Unit at the University of Pretoria). Both were invited speakers at the meeting. Prof Norman Casey, from the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Pretoria, also attended and acted as a rapporteur.

The meeting was held in the modern Library of Alexandria, and was the 4th international biennial conference to be held at the venue. The theme of the meeting was “From promises to practice” and focused on why the immense advances that are taking place in science do not adequately translate noticeable improvements in the lives of the poorest 20% of the human race.

The meeting was attended by over 1000 participants from all corners of the globe, including three Nobel Laureates. Some key issues addressed were the challenges of climate change, food production, health and neglected diseases, science in society, globalization and the need for societal responsibility. The impact of these factors on the developing world was a particular concern.

Dr Reva’s talk was entitled “Oligonucleotide Signatures of Pathogenic Microorganisms for Diagnostic Genetic Chips and Metagenomics”. His work focused on development of computer-based algorithms to address the problems of clustering and identification of environmental sequences generated by modern high-throughput sequencers. Discovery of unique oligos and patterns of infrequent oligos allowed for development of a tool to search the most appropriate DNA probes for use in diagnostic chips.

The talk by Jane Morris was given on behalf of the South African Malaria Initiative and addressed “Functional Genomics and Heterologous Expression of Plasmodial proteins as Tools Towards New Drugs Against Malaria”. She outlined the utility of new tools in functional genomics and gene expression to speed up the drug discovery process. Functional genomics has applications in drug discovery to determine the response of an organism to drug challenge and to validate new drug targets. At the same time, novel approaches are being developed to increase the number of putative Plasmodial drug targets that can be solubly expressed in heterologous systems.