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Diving into Clinical Genomics

Carri-Lyn Mead
| Nov 02, 2012

Illumina's Workshop at AMPFollowing the Understand Your Genome event with the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) meeting the very next day made last week quite the whirlwind. But what better way to dive into all aspects of clinical genomics? Wednesday  was a day of corporate workshops organized by industry. This was my first time at the AMP meeting, and I realized that my background in academic research and my experiences trying to keep up with the newest research developments did not prepare me for this meeting, which focused heavily on established techniques that probably appeared on the researcher’s bench over a decade ago. 

Themes around Next-Generation Sequencing and Clinical Application

After a few sessions, I noticed a few consistent themes among the audience at this meeting.  First of all, in order to use the new tools in a clinical setting, not only should the technology be the most recent and advanced, but clinicians must also feel assured that the technology and applications they will use are robust, accurate, and consistent. They want to know that they will find the right answer every time they run a test, regardless of who runs it— and that’s a tall order. Secondly, while someone who has spent the majority of the last decade immersed in genetics might be familiar with the concepts, technology, and techniques being discussed, the target audience for this meeting might not. It’s a lot of information, and the clinical audience is focused on improving health, not always on understanding the nuances of specific techniques. But the AMP audience knows that this difference doesn’t mean that they have to live in the dark ages. They know that next-generation sequencing (NGS) is on the verge of being truly embraced in the clinical world, which was demonstrated again and again by the audience’s appetite for any and all sessions that included NGS. 

A Highly Engaged Audience

The Illumina workshop on Wednesday was packed, with standing room only, as were the regular sessions. While a session generally included 3-4 speakers, each speaking for 20-30 minutes, attendees flooded into the room at the beginning of talks with that had in their titles and slowly dispersed afterwards. And as if the organizers wanted to torture attendees, they stacked the end of the AMP meeting with NGS-related talks by Will Parsons, Marilyn Li, Matthew Ferber, Sherri Bale, and Shashikant Kulkarni that ran until 5 pm on Saturday. While I’m sure some people opted for the fantastic, sunny, truly Californian weather on display outside the Long Beach Conference Center, the ballroom hall remained full right until the end of the last talk.