Getting the big picture from small sources
American Society For Microbiology (ASM)
112th General Meeting
June 16 - 19, 2012
Moscone Center, San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO—Much as with last year’s annual general meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the 2012 ASM General Meeting (asm2012) will offer a very familiar environment to returning attendees, while also offering subtle refinements.
“We always get feedback from those who attend to get an idea of how changes we make work for them and to see what other changes we might want to try out,” notes Dr. David Hooper of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases and the current ASM president, who notes that there are a number of things at this 112th meeting that will be somewhat different compared to years past.
One of those changes will be a broader range of scientific disciplines covered, he says, noting, “there are many areas of science that, while they may not be microbiology specifically, either influence microbiology, are touched upon by microbiological knowledge or use microbiological tools.” Furthermore, he says, the mornings will tend to focus on topics that are more cross-disciplinary, while afternoons will tend to offer lectures on more specialist fare.
Also, the ASM decided to change the handling of divisional and award lectures this year.
“Those lectures were separate before, and now they are integrated into the plenary sessions and symposia during the educational sessions,” Hooper explains, adding that ASM has also extended poster hall hours for asm2012 and added an evening poster hall reception for additional networking opportunities.
Hooper notes that there is no specific unifying theme for asm2012, given that microbiology is such a diverse and broad area of science, but Margaret McFall-Ngai of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, who is chair of the Program Committee for asm2012, does see underlying trends that mark many of the presentations and other offerings.
A trend that is particularly prominent at this meeting, she says, is how new technologies are “not only changing how we do microbiology, but also how we view microbiology. For instance, culture-independent techniques such as those based on 16S RNA sequencing enabled us to answer the question, ‘Who is there?’—what microbes are present—but now technologies are moving forward to the individual role each microbe plays as part of the whole. That’s the focus of another session titled ‘Who’s Doing What in Microbial Communities.’”
All of this technology is driving the field forward from the human genome to the human microbiome, understanding how the rich diversity of bacteria and other microorganisms within the human body affect our health and may even affect behavior, McFall-Ngai says.
“A number of plenary and symposium sessions focus on issues surrounding the microbiome, including how the gut microbiome can help drive patient care and racial and ethnic differences in the microbiome,” she explains. “And it’s not just humans. Other sessions focus on how microbial colonization can affect behavior in animals and how it can drive evolution in both plants and animals.”
“These new technologies are also being employed in the public health arena,” McFall-Ngai adds. “One session in our diagnostic microbiology and epidemiology program focuses on how next-generation sequencing was employed for quick results in the cholera outbreak in Haiti and the E. coli outbreak in Germany last year. Still other sessions will focus on how these new technologies are changing clinical microbiology, moving away from culture-based tests and rapidly identifying new emerging diseases.”
As for other highlights, McFall-Ngai is excited about the opening keynote session that is showcasing how advances in basic science can be applied to biomedical problems. ASM Lecturer Dr. James Collins will focus on the emerging field of synthetic biology and the use of microbes to design therapeutics. Also in the opening session, Dr. Dianne Newman and Dr. Scott O’Neill will focus on the application of the principles of environmental biology to the study of microbial disease.
“Another session we are very excited about is a forward-looking plenary organized by our new Junior Advisory Group entitled ‘Microbiology in 2022: The Single-Cell Point of View.’ The session examines how recent technological advances have revolutionized our ability to examine microbes and the essential mechanisms driving diversity, activity and interactions among individual cells within populations and communities,” McFall-Ngai says. “We’re pleased to be able to involve the younger members of our society in programming sessions for the meeting and take advantage of the fresh viewpoints they can offer.”
ASM takes part in global TB lab initiative
VEYRIER-DU-LAC, France—In mid-April, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) participated in the Stop TB Partnership’s 4th Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI) held in France. The GLI is a network of international partners dedicated to accelerating and expanding access to quality-assured laboratory services in response to the diagnostic challenges of tuberculosis (TB), notably HIV-associated and drug-resistant TB. According the ASM, “the GLI provides a focus for TB within the framework of a multifaceted yet integrated approach to laboratory capacity strengthening.”
Organizationally, the GLI is one of seven main working groups of the Stop TB Partnership (STP), with the GLI secretariat provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva. Functionally, the GLI serves as an independent, technical expert advisory group to WHO, the STP, development agencies and various countries. Structurally, the GLI consists of individuals with expertise in multiple disciplines, representing constituencies of stakeholders and institutions involved in global-, regional- and country-level laboratory strengthening, ASM explains.
Lack of diagnostic capacity is a crucial barrier preventing an effective response to the challenges of HIV-associated TB (TB-HIV) and drug-resistant TB, with less than 5 percent of the estimated burden of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients currently being detected. According to ASM, estimation models and projections confirm that an effective response to the diagnostic challenges of TB-HIV and MDR-TB requires urgent and massive scale-up of laboratory services.
ASM notes that “Stop TB Partnership working groups, technical expert bodies and international research and donor agencies also agree that the critical lack of TB laboratory capacity constitutes a global crisis, requiring a paradigm shift in providing laboratory policy guidance, technical assistance and knowledge transfer within a global and integrated laboratory network.”
ASM busy with policy work
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Early 2012 has seen a flurry of U.S. policy work reach fruition or gain momentum, as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) looked out for the needs of microbiology from its headquarters in the nation’s capital. Most notably, perhaps, the ASM submitted recommendations in March to Congress supporting increased research and public health program funding for fiscal year 2013 appropriations for the federal agencies that support public health programs, biomedical efforts, agriculture and environmental research.
Among the highlights were ASM urging lawmakers to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health above the administration’s proposed flat level funding of $30.7 billion to no less than $32 billion; ASM voicing concern over the proposed budget for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which faces a $664 million (11.6 percent) decrease from fiscal year 2012, and asking Congress to reverse the recent trend of cuts to the CDC budget and core infectious disease programs; and ASM stressing that the proposed net budget increase for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of only $11.5 million would not be adequate to sustain the FDA’s critical role in public health.
In other pharma- and biotech-related policy work, the ASM co-signed a Feb. 22 letter to Congress, prepared by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, that urges the legislators to address the serious and growing problems of antimicrobial resistance and the dry pipeline for antibiotic research and development in upcoming FDA user fee legislation. The letter also asked Congress to incentivize the development of new related diagnostics and to strengthen federal efforts to promote appropriate use of antibiotics.
ASM also made a note to its members that on April 13, the Office of Science and Technology released a report to Congress on issues related to improving the management and access to the results of federally funded scientific research. The report was required by the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010. The report says that the Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications and a working group under the National Science and Technology Council have been evaluating objectives related to increasing public access to federally funded scientific research and that analysis of responses to requests for input show strong support for increasing access to scholarly publications describing research results.
asm2012: What it’s for and whom it serves
The asm2012 meeting covers fundamental microbial cell biology, genetics and physiology, environmental and applied microbiology and microbial ecology, pathogenesis and clinical microbiology and infectious diseases. The meeting showcases the central role of microbes in the biosphere by reporting what it sees as the best current science “in the diverse areas influenced by microbes.”
Upon completion of asm2012, attendees should be able to:
asm2012 is designed to meet the needs of professionals in the field of microbiology, particularly clinical microbiologists, pathologists, researchers, pharmacists, physicians and other healthcare professionals. Current trends will be covered regarding:
Opening session lectures
“Biology by Design: The Emergence of Synthetic Biology”
James Collins of the Center for BioDynamics, Boston
“Infections of Insects and a Potential Role in Reducing the Transmission of Dengue”
Scott O’Neill of Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
“From Iron Oxides to Infections: Linking Geo- and Medical Microbiology”
Dianne Newman of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
Grants that get (you) around
WASHINGTON, D.C.—In an effort to make sure at least some of those with limited means to attend can enjoy the fruits of asm2012, several grant options were available. ASM offered two types of student travel grants, for example, that are associated with abstract presentations—the ASM Student Travel Grant and the Richard and Mary Finkelstein Travel Grant—application for which had to be submitted during the abstract submissions process.
In addition, ASM—in an effort to increase the participation of underrepresented minority (URM) groups in microbiology related fields—offered American General Meeting Minority Travel Grants to help defray expenses associated with travel to asm2012. Postdoctoral scholars, faculty from URM groups and faculty from minority serving institutions and community colleges who have demonstrated their interest in mentoring URM trainees in the microbiological sciences were eligible to receive as much as $2,000.
Looking beyond the U.S. borders, three international exchange programs and grants also were available this year, designed to benefit scientists in the United States and abroad by giving them the opportunity to “present their work overseas and experience the best of microbiology.”
One of those is the Heatley-Payne Exchange Program for Early Career Scientists, which is funded jointly by ASM and the United Kingdom’s Society for General Microbiology. This grant allows for the exchange of one member from each society to present an abstract at the annual general meeting of the other society and to spend one to three weeks at a nearby research laboratory.
Another program, the Millis-Colwell Exchange Program for Early Career Scientists, is funded jointly by ASM and the Australian Society for Microbiology and enables one member from each society to present an abstract at the annual general meeting of the other society and to spend a week at a nearby research laboratory.
Finally, the Carlyn Halde Latin American Student Travel Grant, administered in collaoration with the Medical Mycological Society of the Americas, supports the travel of a student medical microbiologist from Latin America, Puerto Rico or the Caribbean to present an abstract and participate in the annual ASM general meeting.
Continuing education at asm2012
SAN FRANCISCO—If you’re looking for continuing education (CE) credits for attending asm2012, be advised that ASM will only offer P.A.C.E. (Professional Acknowledgment for Continuing Education) credits, in which a disclosure is not required nor will be collected.
P.A.C.E. accreditation is supported through the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, and ASM is offering 26 scientific sessions and 18 workshops at asm2012 that are P.A.C.E.-accredited. P.A.C.E. credits are earned by attending the session, logging onto the ASM’s CE portal after the meeting, completing a session survey and listing the time spent in the session or workshop and printing a P.A.C.E. continuing education certificate.
ASM is accredited by the California Department of Health Services to offer continuing education for California clinical laboratory scientists, so all sessions designated for P.A.C.E. CE credit also qualify for California CE credit toward clinical laboratory scientist license renewal.
Likewise, ASM is accredited by the Florida Department of Health to offer continuing education for Florida clinical laboratory personnel. All sessions designated for P.A.C.E. CE credit also quality for Florida CE credit toward license renewal.
To claim credit for either California or Florida license renewal, asm2012 participants should follow the same process as noted above for attendees looking to get CE credit for P.A.C.E.-oriented sessions and workshops.
ASM onsite career service makes return appearance
SAN FRANCISCO—ASM will once again feature its online job board and onsite placement service, ASM Career Connections, at asm2012. Employers and candidates can post positions and resumes, identify others attending the meeting and communicate by email to arrange face-to-face interviews onsite. Computers will be available to access the service at the ASM Career Connections booth in the Exhibit Hall.
ASM’s Career service is free for job seekers who are members of ASM. Employers who are ASM members receive a discount on their postings. For more information, such as how to register in advance to get a head start on job hunting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caring for the children
SAN FRANCISCO—If you are bringing children along with you to asm2012, be advised that ASM is not providing child-care services at the convention center this year. The organization does offer a few suggestions for child-care services that you can look into to get you started, though none of them are officially endorsed by ASM.
ABC Bay Area Childcare Agency
American Childcare Services
Bay Area 2nd Mom
Also, ASM notes that children are not permitted entry into session rooms and no one under the age of 18 is permitted on the exhibit hall floor during setup or dismantling hours. During scheduled show hours, exceptions are made when parents or guardians complete and sign a minor release form. This form is available in the general meeting information booth and in the ASM headquarters office. Strollers are not allowed in the exhibit hall and may be checked at the coat and baggage check.