[About Sandia]
[Unique Solutions]
[Working With Us]
[Contacting Us]
[News Center]
[navigation panel]

[Sandia National Laboratories]

News Release
January 13, 1996
Computational Molecular Biology Conference Attracts O.J. Simpson Luminaries

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The first international conference on computational molecular biology will be held at the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe, N.M., from January 20-23, 1997.

Among the expected 200 participants are Nobel laureate Rich Roberts and Turing Award winner Richard Karp.

"Interestingly, some of the scientists involved in this conference are so famous in their fields that they were tapped to testify at the O. J. Simpson criminal trial," said Sorin Istrail, a Sandia National Laboratories scientist and one of the conference organizers.

Among conference attendees, statisticians Bruce Weir (North Carolina State) and Terry Speed (University of California at Berkeley) directly testified at the Simpson trial, said Istrail. Invited speaker Daniel Botstein, a professor of genetics at Stanford University, is credited with development of a widely used method of blood testing called RLFP used in the trial. And Eric Lander, an MIT biology professor, pioneered mathematical methods of forensic analysis that led to the use of DNA as identification tags as unique as fingerprints. Lander will deliver the meeting's most prestigious talk, the Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Computational Biology Address.

Biologists and computer scientists will discuss advances in the ability of computers to discover aspects of the human genome -- the three billion bases of DNA that encode our genes -- and help solve fundamental questions of biology such as the shape into which a just-born protein folds before it acts.

Folded proteins form almost all of the human body -- from genes to blood, bone, muscle, and hair. Proteins also form viruses that attack the body. To predict how to build desirable proteins is of extreme interest to the world's pharmaceutical industry, which could then design from scratch the drugs, hormones and other protein-based materials needed in medicine. Finding a gene or designing a protein by laboratory experiments alone is a complex process that can take years or even decades.

Rich Roberts, director of pharmaceutical research at New England Biolabs, will speak at 9 a.m. on January 20 about the hunt for new restriction enzymes -- the enzymes that cut genes. Roberts won the Nobel Prize in biology in 1984. Richard Karp, University of Washington, won the Turing Award in 1984. The award is provided by the Association for Computing Machinery and is sometimes referred to as the "Nobel Prize of computing." Other speakers include chemistry professor Martin Karplus from Harvard University and biologist Jonathan King from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The conference is organized by Michael Waterman, one of the most influential pioneers of computational biology, with co-organizers Istrail and Pavel Pevzner. Waterman and Pevzner are Professors of Mathematics and Biology at the University of Southern California.

Bill Hart, from Sandia, will share the conference award for "Best paper by a Young Scientist" with Alberto Caprara from the University of Bologna in Italy. Sandia contributed three of the 43 papers to be delivered. One hundred seventeen were submitted. "The competition was fierce," said Istrail.

The meeting is supported by the Sloan Foundation and by the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy.
Media contact:
Neal Singer, nsinger@sandia.gov (505) 845-7078

Technical contact:
Sorin Istrail, scistra@sandia.gov (505) 845-7612

Back to top of page

Questions and Comments || Acknowledgment and Disclaimer