Six Nobel Prize Winners at International Congress of Genetics

Congress Chairman Balling: Olympic Games of Science in Germany

FahnenHelmholtz-HZI/Heinz GramannFahnenFor the first time in 81 years the International Congress of Genetics takes place in Germany again. From July 12th through 17th 2008, six Nobel Prize winners get together with more than 2000 scientists in Berlin to discuss the latest findings in genetics and genome analysis. The congress, which takes place for the 20th time, was last hosted by Germany in 1927, the venue also being Berlin. Congress Chairman is Prof. Rudi Balling, Scientific Director of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig. To him, the 20th ICG in Berlin stresses the high international reputation of genetic sciences in Germany. “We are as happy as if we had brought the Olympic games into the country”, says Balling.

The congress topics include all relevant genetic fields. Stem cell research, the genetics of cancer, applied plant genetics, and new, futuristic topics like synthetic biology will attract the media’s attention. More than 280 renowned speakers, 10 plenary sessions, 54 symposia, and 1400 scientific posters offer insight into the diversity of current genetic research and science. Aside from the role genetic engineering might play in fighting hunger, legal and ethical aspects of genetic research will also be discussed. The history of the genetic field itself will be the topic of one symposium. The congress is hosted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Genetik (GfG; German Genetics Society).

The “Who’s Who of Genetics” in Berlin
The attending Nobel Prize winners Prof. Mario R. Capecchi and Prof. Oliver Smithies have been honored for their achievements in 2007, Prof. Richard Axel in 2004. Prof. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Prof. Eric F. Wieschaus received the Nobel Prize in 1995, and Prof. Phillip A. Sharp in 1993. Capecchi and Smithies received the Nobel Prize for “Physiology or Medicine” in recognition of their research which contributed significantly to the development of one of the most important model organisms in science, the so called “knock-out-mouse”. The term “knock-out” indicates that it is possible to turn off single targeted genes in such mice. Prof. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard from Tübingen received the highest scientific award together with Eric F. Wieschaus for groundbreaking findings in the genetic control of early embryonic development. Richard Axel has been honored for his contributions to the understanding of the sense of smell, and Phillip A. Sharp received the award for the discovery of so called “mosaic genes”, in which the genetic information for the formation of proteins is interrupted by other information units (introns).

75th Anniversary of the Nazi Eugenics Law Prompts a Statement
On the 14th of July, the topic “eugenics” will be part of the congress program. At 12:30pm, Prof. Andre Reis as President of the German Society of Human Genetics and Prof. Wolfram Henn, president of the society’s ethics committee, will present a statement of German human geneticists on the responsibilities for the history of their field. This will take place on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the enactment of the “law to prevent hereditary diseased offspring”, which was implemented on the 14th of July in 1933, and which gave grounds for the inhuman, forced sterilizations and the euthanasia program. The German Society for Human Genetics comments on the scientists involved then, and takes a stand regarding the current position of German genetics. Afterwards, Mr. Reis and Mr. Henn, as well as Prof. Alfred Nordheim (GfGPresident and co-signer of the statement) and the Canadian expert for health care law, Prof. Bartha Maria Knoppers, will be available for questioning.

Preliminary ICG-Press-Program
12th of July, 3pm, ICC Berlin, room 44: Kick-off-Press conference with the Nobel Prize winners Prof. Mario R. Capecchi, Prof. Oliver Smithies, and Prof. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, the Secretary General of the European Research Council, Prof. Ernst- Ludwig Winnacker and the executive board of the congress.
14th – 16th of July, 12:30pm each day, ICC Berlin, room 44: “Topic Talks” on eugenics (July 14), stem cell research (July 15), disease genetics (July 16)

More information is available at: http://www.geneticsberlin2008.com

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