All Conferenced Out: Great Experiences at NGx and BioConference Live

We’ve just come off a busy week of conferences! In addition to BioConference Live: Genetics and Genomics, our first virtual scientific meeting, we also attended NGx: Applying Next-Generation Sequencing in Providence, Rhode Island.

NGx, one of the best-known next-gen sequencing events, had stellar keynote speakers, including Yaniv Erlich from Whitehead Biomedical Research Institute and Jeffery Schloss from NHGRI. We were eager to speak with attendees at our booth and to hear the talks; with this meeting, we always get a great glimpse of where the NGS field is. Scientists from major genome centers and smaller labs alike spoke about how they’re keeping up with rapid technology changes and implementing best practices.

One comment that really struck us came from Stuart Brown at New York University School of Medicine. In a talk entitled “Can We Maintain Sanity as NGS Pipelines Change?” Brown noted that in planning a two-year sequencing project, scientists can no longer expect to use the same sequencing kits and bioinformatics solution for the entire project. It’s a great point and one that we think about a lot as we strive to make sure that our size selection tools work seamlessly with each version of all commercially available sequencing platforms.

As the NGx show wrapped up, our experiment with a 100% online conference began. BioConference Live: Genetics and Genomics kicked off bright and early, but the talks are saved on the website and made available on-demand through free registration. Keynoters George Church and Mike Snyder got rave reviews on Twitter (though, as we discovered, that doesn’t really compare to getting a pastry and exchanging reviews with other attendees during a coffee break).

Compelling talk titles were essential in this type of venue. Drew Endy’s keynote presentation on “Aliens, Computers, and Engineering Biology” got attention; others that we found intriguing were “You Can and Must Understand Synthetic Biology” (Andrew Hessel) and “Genome Hacking” (the very popular Yaniv Erlich). We were thrilled to find people visiting our booth — thanks to all the other virtual experimenters who stopped by.

While we really enjoyed this virtual conference, we’re not giving up the old-school, in-person meetings just yet. We missed catching up with our colleagues, the obligatory buffet lunch, and the chance to sneak out of a session for a quick walk on the beach (we’re looking at you, Marco Island). But mingling via our avatar was certainly a new experience!

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