Getting the big picture from small sources

American Society for Microbiology’s annual meeting covers a lot of ground

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American Society For Microbiology (ASM)
112th General Meeting
June 16 - 19, 2012
Moscone Center, San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO—Much as with last year's annualgeneral meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the 2012 ASMGeneral Meeting (asm2012) will offer a very familiar environment to returningattendees, while also offering subtle refinements.
"We always get feedback from those who attend toget an idea of how changes we make work for them and to see what other changeswe might want to try out," notes Dr. David Hooper of Massachusetts GeneralHospital's Division of Infectious Diseases and the current ASM president, whonotes that there are a number of things at this 112th meeting thatwill be somewhat different compared to years past.
One of those changes will be a broader range ofscientific disciplines covered, he says, noting, "there are many areas ofscience that, while they may not be microbiology specifically, either influencemicrobiology, are touched upon by microbiological knowledge or usemicrobiological tools." Furthermore, he says, the mornings will tend to focuson topics that are more cross-disciplinary, while afternoons will tend to offerlectures on more specialist fare.
Also, the ASM decided to change the handling ofdivisional and award lectures this year.
"Those lectures were separate before, and now theyare integrated into the plenary sessions and symposia during the educationalsessions," Hooper explains, adding that ASM has also extended poster hall hoursfor asm2012 and added an evening poster hall reception for additionalnetworking opportunities.
Hooper notes that there is no specific unifyingtheme for asm2012, given that microbiology is such a diverse and broad area ofscience, but Margaret McFall-Ngai of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Schoolof Medicine and Public Health, who is chair of the Program Committee for asm2012,does see underlying trends that mark many of the presentations and otherofferings.
A trend that is particularly prominent at thismeeting, 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 sequencingenabled us to answer the question, 'Who is there?'—what microbes are present—butnow technologies are moving forward to the individual role each microbe playsas part of the whole. That's the focus of another session titled 'Who'sDoing What in Microbial Communities.'"
All of this technology is driving the fieldforward from the human genome to the human microbiome, understanding how therich diversity of bacteria and other microorganisms within the human bodyaffect our health and may even affect behavior, McFall-Ngai says.
"A number of plenary and symposium sessions focuson issues surrounding the microbiome, including how the gut microbiome can helpdrive patient care and racial and ethnic differences in the microbiome," sheexplains. "And it's not just humans. Other sessions focus on how microbialcolonization can affect behavior in animals and how it can drive evolution inboth plants and animals."
"These new technologies are also being employed inthe public health arena," McFall-Ngai adds. "One session in our diagnosticmicrobiology and epidemiology program focuses on how next-generation sequencingwas employed for quick results in the cholera outbreak in Haiti and the E.coli outbreak in Germany last year. Still other sessions will focus onhow these new technologies are changing clinical microbiology, moving away fromculture-based tests and rapidly identifying new emerging diseases."
As for other highlights, McFall-Ngai is excitedabout the opening keynote session that is showcasing how advances in basicscience can be applied to biomedical problems. ASM Lecturer Dr. James Collinswill focus on the emerging field of synthetic biology and the use of microbesto design therapeutics. Also in the opening session, Dr. Dianne Newman and Dr.Scott O'Neill will focus on the application of the principles of environmentalbiology to the study of microbial disease.
"Another session we are very excited about is aforward-looking plenary organized by our new Junior Advisory Group entitled'Microbiology in 2022: The Single-Cell Point of View.' The session examines howrecent technological advances have revolutionized our ability to examinemicrobes and the essential mechanisms driving diversity, activity andinteractions among individual cells within populations and communities,"McFall-Ngai says. "We're pleased to be able to involve the younger members ofour society in programming sessions for the meeting and take advantage of thefresh viewpoints they can offer."

ASM takespart in global TB lab initiative
VEYRIER-DU-LAC, France—In mid-April, the AmericanSociety for Microbiology (ASM) participated in the Stop TB Partnership's 4thGlobal Laboratory Initiative (GLI) held in France. The GLI is a network ofinternational partners dedicated to accelerating and expanding access toquality-assured laboratory services in response to the diagnostic challenges oftuberculosis (TB), notably HIV-associated and drug-resistant TB. According theASM, "the GLI provides a focus for TB within the framework of a multifacetedyet integrated approach to laboratory capacity strengthening."
Organizationally, the GLI is one of seven mainworking groups of the Stop TB Partnership (STP), with the GLI secretariatprovided by the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva.Functionally, the GLI serves as an independent, technical expert advisory groupto WHO, the STP, development agencies and various countries. Structurally, theGLI consists of individuals with expertise in multiple disciplines,representing constituencies of stakeholders and institutions involved inglobal-, regional- and country-level laboratory strengthening, ASM explains.
Lack of diagnostic capacity is a crucial barrierpreventing 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 ofmultidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients currently being detected. According toASM, estimation models and projections confirm that an effective response tothe diagnostic challenges of TB-HIV and MDR-TB requires urgent and massivescale-up of laboratory services.
ASM notes that "Stop TB Partnership workinggroups, technical expert bodies and international research and donor agenciesalso agree that the critical lack of TB laboratory capacity constitutes aglobal crisis, requiring a paradigm shift in providing laboratory policyguidance, technical assistance and knowledge transfer within a global andintegrated laboratory network."

ASM busywith policy work
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Early 2012 has seen a flurry ofU.S. policy work reach fruition or gain momentum, as the American Society forMicrobiology (ASM) looked out for the needs of microbiology from itsheadquarters in the nation's capital. Most notably, perhaps, the ASMsubmitted recommendations in March to Congress supporting increased researchand public health program funding for fiscal year 2013 appropriations for thefederal agencies that support public health programs, biomedical efforts,agriculture and environmental research. 
Among the highlights were ASM urging lawmakers toincrease funding for the National Institutes of Health above theadministration'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. Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention, which faces a $664 million (11.6 percent)decrease from fiscal year 2012, and asking Congress to reverse the recent trendof cuts to the CDC budget and core infectious disease programs; and ASM stressingthat the proposed net budget increase for the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationof only $11.5 million would not be adequate to sustain the FDA's critical rolein public health.
In other pharma- and biotech-related policy work,the ASM co-signed a Feb. 22 letter to Congress, prepared by the InfectiousDiseases Society of America, that urges the legislators to address the seriousand growing problems of antimicrobial resistance and the dry pipeline forantibiotic research and development in upcoming FDAuser fee legislation. The letter also asked Congress to incentivize thedevelopment of new related diagnostics and to strengthen federal efforts topromote appropriate use of antibiotics.
ASM also made a note to its members that on April13, the Office of Science and Technology released a report to Congress onissues related to improving the management and access to the results offederally funded scientific research. The report was required by the AmericaCompetes Reauthorization Act of 2010. The report says that the Task Force onPublic Access to Scholarly Publications and a working group under the NationalScience and Technology Council have been evaluating objectives related toincreasing public access to federally funded scientific research and thatanalysis of responses to requests for input show strong support for increasingaccess to scholarly publications describing research results. 

asm2012:What it's for and whom it serves
The asm2012 meeting covers fundamental microbialcell biology, genetics and physiology, environmental and applied microbiologyand microbial ecology, pathogenesis and clinical microbiology and infectiousdiseases. The meeting showcases the central role of microbes in the biosphereby reporting what it sees as the best current science "in the diverse areasinfluenced by microbes."
Uponcompletion of asm2012, attendees should be able to:
  • Use newtechnologies, new practices and developments in clinical microbiology toimprove their clinical practice and patient outcomes
  • Recognize andinterpret critical information regarding physiology, genetics and cellbiology of microbes
  • Discuss keyupdates in the areas of microbial pathogenesis, environmental microbiologyand applied microbiology
  • Synthesize newdata on the roles of microbes in health and disease and aspects of hostimmunity to infectious diseases

Intended Audience
asm2012 is designed to meet the needs ofprofessionals in the field of microbiology, particularly clinicalmicrobiologists, pathologists, researchers, pharmacists, physicians and otherhealthcare professionals. Current trends will be covered regarding:
  • Microbiology (general, clinical and medical)
  • Genetics andMolecular Biology 
  • Medical Mycology 
  • Cell and Structural Biology 
  • Nosocomial Infections 
  • Microbial Ecology 
  • Microbial Physiology and Metabolism 
  • Fermentation and Biotechnology 
  • Bacteriophage 
  • Public Health 
  • Parasitology 
  • Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 
  • Environmental and General Applied Microbiology 
  • Virology 
  • Microbial Pathogenesis 
  • Evolutionary and Genomic Microbiology 
  • Molecular, Cellular and General Biology of Eukaryotes
  • Immunology (clinical and diagnostic)
  • Microbiology Education 
  • Free-Living, Symbiotic and Parasitic Protists 
  • Animal Health Microbiology
  • Food Microbiology

    Openingsession lectures

    "Biology by Design: The Emergence of SyntheticBiology"
    James Collins of the Center for BioDynamics,Boston

    "Infections of Insects and a Potential Role inReducing the Transmission of Dengue"
    Scott O'Neill of Monash University, Melbourne,Australia

    "From Iron Oxides to Infections: Linking Geo- andMedical Microbiology"

    Dianne Newman of the California Institute ofTechnology, Pasadena, Calif.

    Grants thatget (you) around 

    WASHINGTON, D.C.—In an effort to make sure at leastsome of those with limited means to attend can enjoy the fruits of asm2012,several grant options were available. ASM offered two types of student travelgrants, for example, that are associated with abstract presentations—the ASMStudent Travel Grant and the Richard and Mary Finkelstein TravelGrant—application for which had to be submitted during the abstract submissionsprocess.

    In addition, ASM—in an effort to increase theparticipation of underrepresented minority (URM) groups in microbiology relatedfields—offered American General Meeting Minority Travel Grants to help defrayexpenses associated with travel to asm2012. Postdoctoral scholars, faculty fromURM groups and faculty from minority serving institutions and communitycolleges who have demonstrated their interest in mentoring URM trainees in themicrobiological sciences were eligible to receive as much as $2,000.

    Looking beyond the U.S. borders, threeinternational exchange programs and grants also were available this year,designed to benefit scientists in the United States and abroad by giving themthe opportunity to "present their work overseas and experience the best ofmicrobiology."

    One of those is the Heatley-Payne Exchange Programfor Early Career Scientists, which is funded jointly by ASM and the UnitedKingdom's Society for General Microbiology. This grant allows for the exchangeof one member from each society to present an abstract at the annual generalmeeting of the other society and to spend one to three weeks at a nearby researchlaboratory.

    Another program, the Millis-Colwell ExchangeProgram for Early Career Scientists, is funded jointly by ASM and theAustralian Society for Microbiology and enables one member from each society topresent an abstract at the annual general meeting of the other society and tospend a week at a nearby research laboratory. 

    Finally, the Carlyn Halde Latin American StudentTravel Grant, administered in collaoration with the Medical MycologicalSociety of the Americas, supports the travel of a student medicalmicrobiologist from Latin America, Puerto Rico or the Caribbean to present anabstract and participate in the annual ASM general meeting.

    Continuingeducation at asm2012

    SAN FRANCISCO—If you're looking for continuingeducation (CE) credits for attending asm2012, be advised that ASM will onlyoffer 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 theAmerican Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, and ASM is offering 26scientific 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 CEportal after the meeting, completing a session survey and listing the timespent in the session or workshop and printing a P.A.C.E. continuing educationcertificate.
    ASM is accredited by the California Department ofHealth Services to offer continuing education for California clinical laboratoryscientists, so all sessions designated for P.A.C.E. CE credit also qualify forCalifornia CE credit toward clinical laboratory scientist license renewal.

    Likewise, ASM is accredited by the FloridaDepartment of Health to offer continuing education for Florida clinicallaboratory personnel. All sessions designated for P.A.C.E. CE credit alsoquality for Florida CE credit toward license renewal.

    To claim credit for either California or Floridalicense renewal, asm2012 participants should follow the same process as notedabove for attendees looking to get CE credit for P.A.C.E.-oriented sessions andworkshops.

    ASM onsite careerservice makes return appearance


    SAN FRANCISCO—ASM will once again feature itsonline job board and onsite placement service, ASM Career Connections, atasm2012. Employers and candidates can post positions and resumes, identifyothers attending the meeting and communicate by email to arrange face-to-faceinterviews onsite. Computers will be available to access the service at the ASMCareer Connections booth in the Exhibit Hall.

    ASM's Career service is free for job seekers whoare members of ASM. Employers who are ASM members receive a discount on theirpostings. For more information, such as how to register in advance to get ahead start on job hunting, email

    Caring forthe children

    SAN FRANCISCO—If you are bringing children alongwith you to asm2012, be advised that ASM is not providing child-care servicesat the convention center this year. The organization does offer a fewsuggestions for child-care services that you can look into to get you started,though none of them are officially endorsed by ASM. 

    ABC BayArea Childcare Agency

    AmericanChildcare Services

    Bay Area2nd Mom

    Also, ASM notes that children are not permittedentry into session rooms and no one under the age of 18 is permitted on the exhibithall floor during setup or dismantling hours. During scheduled show hours,exceptions are made when parents or guardians complete and sign a minor releaseform. This form is available in the general meeting information booth and inthe ASM headquarters office. Strollers are not allowed in the exhibit hall andmay be checked at the coat and baggage check.


    For more about the asm2012 (award lectures and division lectures) as well as photos of things to do and places to visit in San Francisco, click here.

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