August 2001

From University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC Center for Genome Sciences to inaugurate new seminar series with help of national experts

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s new Center for Genome Sciences will kick off a seminar series on functional genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics Aug. 27 with a talk by Dr. Oliver Smithies, one of the university’s most distinguished scientists.

More than a dozen other national experts in those fields will follow during the 2001-2002 academic year. Smithies’ address is titled “Mouse Solutions to Pharmacological Problems.” He is excellence professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UNC School of Medicine. He also is developer of “gene targeting,” a renowned technique that allows scientists to disable genes in mice and breed successive generations of the animals to learn what role genes play in mammals, including humans.

Talks are free, and the public is encouraged to attend. All but the Oct. 1 presentation will be held on Mondays from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Room 136 of the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building, located off Pittsboro Street. Genomics and proteomics are studies of information in genes and proteins, respectively, and bioinformatics is the science of handling and using biological data.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the university community and the public to hear from some of the nation’s top scientists about the revolution in our current understanding of what genes and proteins do,” said Dr. Harold L. Kohn. Kenan professor of medicinal chemistry at the school of pharmacy, Kohn co-chairs the new seminar series with Dr. Jeffrey L. Dangl, John N. Couch professor of biology.

The Human Genome Project is nearly complete, Kohn said. It has provided a wealth of sequence information leading to identification of all known genes. Similarly, rapid progress is being made to sequence the genetic material of known pathogens and organisms that affect life and well being.

“The next challenge will be to provide meaning to this vast catalog of information, a challenge orders of magnitude more difficult than those previously faced,” he said. “For example, knowing which gene networks are not properly functional or which genetic variants influence disease predisposition will contribute to our ability to develop effective treatments for a particular disease.”

In September, the seminar series will feature Dr. Stuart Kim of Stanford University on Sept. 17, followed by Dr. Jack Szostak of Harvard University on Sept. 24. The Oct. 1 speaker will be Dr. Sydney Brenner at 4:15 p.m. in 201 Coker Hall.

Presenters on Nov. 5 and 19 will be Drs. Xing-Wang Deng of Yale University and Terry Gaasterland of Rockefeller University, respectively. Speakers in December will be Drs. Ronald Sederoff of N.C. State University on the 3rd and Kathleen Giacomini of the University of California at San Francisco on the 10th.

In January, Drs. David Flockhart of Indiana University and Brian Chait of Rockefeller University, will speak on the 14th and 21st, respectively. Drs. William Evans of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Joseph Ecker of the Salk Institute will speak Feb. 4 and 11, respectively.

Drs. Allen Roses of GlaxoSmithKline and Thomas McCormick, a bioethicist at the University of Washington, are scheduled for March 4 and April 8. On April 19-20, school of medicine organizers plan a symposium titled ‘Exploring Medicine in the Post-Genome World’ at the William and Ida Friday Continuing Education Center. Details will be announced later. Dr. Terry Magnuson, chair of genetics and director of the Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, will conclude the year’s talks on May 6. The UNC schools of pharmacy and medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences are sponsoring the seminar series. More information is available at http://www.med.unc.edu/geneticsdept

Last February, the Chapel Hill campus committed at least $245 million over the next decade to the emerging field of genome sciences. The campuswide initiative, which represents public and private investments, will allow Carolina to be a driving force in determining how the genomics revolution will change the way humans treat diseases, design drugs and grow crops.

This collaborative effort includes construction of four new buildings to house genomics research, more than $50 million in recurring funds for 40 new faculty positions and a $25 million anonymous gift to create the Michael Hooker Center for Proteomics to study a specialized area of genetics.

Note: Kohn can be reached at 919-966-2680, Dangl at 962-5624. Contact: David Williamson, 919-962-8596.











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