Bioinformatics Conference--Day 1

by Bruce Stewart

The hackers are hacking and the tutorials are packed here in Tucson as the O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference gets under way. The keynotes and conference sessions don't start until tomorrow, but the energy is already palpable here in the hallways at the Westin La Paloma. The cross-breed of biologists and computer scientists known as bioinformaticists are eating up the day of tutorials, and an elite group of open source bioinformaticist hackers are coding up a storm in the first ever Bioinformatics Hackathon.

Most of the tutorials are completely full as these researchers and scientists soak up the latest info on the techniques and programming concepts that are becoming essential knowledge in this emerging field. O'Reilly has long been known for our strong support of Perl, and Perl has rapidly become the language of choice for bioinformatics research. The affinity this crowd has for Perl is obvious as the Perl-related tutorials are causing some of the most excitement here today. Peter Schattner's tutorial on Perl and BioPerl: Tools for Automated Analysis of Biological Sequence Data was an early sell-out, and generated so much interest that a second class was added. Perl-guru Damian Conway led another packed tutorial on Parsing Perl for Bioinformatics. And for those just getting started with Perl, O'Reilly author James Tisdall held a popular workshop on Beginning Perl for Bioinformatics.

Ewan Birney, another active Perl coder and one of the key players behind the BioPerl project, is leading the hackathon and will also be giving the opening keynote Tuesday morning on Open Source Bioinformatics. O'Reilly is co-sponsoring the hackathon with South Africa-based Electric Genetics, and this event puts some of the most important bioinformatics developers together face-to-face in a room full of computers (along with copious amounts of pizza and coffee). Good things are bound to happen.

Lincoln Stein, another Perl legend, who wrote the popular module because of his needs in bioinformatics, will be giving a highly anticipated keynote tomorrow afternoon. Lincoln is also presenting a session on the Distributed Sequence Annotation System (DAS) which promises to allow genomic annotations to be shared by researchers all over the world. Check back daily for in-depth coverage of Ewan's and Lincoln's keynotes, important sessions, and other happenings here at the O'Reilly Bioinformatics Technology Conference.