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E. Coli Talk Brings All-Stars of Genetics to Campus

April 8, 1997

A conference celebrating the complete decoding of E. coli by a team led by UW–Madison geneticist Frederick Blattner will draw the field’s top researchers to campus April 10-12.

Among the presenters in “Frontiers of Genomics” will be Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist Hamilton Smith of Johns Hopkins University. Smith received the Nobel Prize in 1978 for his development of some of the key tools of DNA research.

Smith and Blattner will present their work from 2-4 p.m. on Thursday, April 10, in room 125 of the Biochemistry building, 420 Henry Mall. Both will discuss their role in astonishingly complex DNA sequencing projects, where they determined the nature and order of millions of chemical building blocks that make up genes.

Earlier this year, Blattner completed the sequence of the bacteria Escherichia coli, a harmless relative of the dangerous pathogen in meat products. The bacteria is important because it is the most widely used experimental organism in science.

DNA sequencing has been likened to the development of the periodic table in chemistry. The work holds the promise of identifying and curing many genetic diseases, developing new drugs, improving the quality and quantity of food, and solving environmental problems.

The E. coli project is part of a $3 billion “human genome project.” Completing the human genome is thousands of times more complex than these smaller organisms.

On Friday, the conference will feature a full day of sessions from six nationally prominent scientists in genomics. Those talks will be held from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. in the auditorium of the Genetics/Biotechnology Building, 425 Henry Mall.

A public roundtable with nine scientific panelists will be held Saturday on “Genetics, Genomics and the Future.” The session will be from 8:30-11 a.m. in the Grainger Auditorium of Engineering Hall, 1415 Johnson Drive. The public is invited to attend the session, which will focus on the health and societal implications of DNA research.

The conference is sponsored by the Biotechnology Center and the Laboratory of Genetics, and five biotechnology companies. For more information, contact Dedee Wardle at (608) 262-2604.