A Word From: Dana Pe'er


This week, we hosted the 30th CSHL meeting of The Biology of Genomes. Over the past three decades, technology in the field has changed; a change that is reflected in the image above. We checked in with Dana Pe'er, a Biology of Genomes meeting organizer and regular, to get her thoughts on the emerging technologies that are showcased front and center at this year's meeting. 

The Biology of Genomes meeting is the highest-quality genome meeting. I think what makes The Biology of Genomes meeting special is its combined goal of making sure to cover in-depth the core questions of the field, while also covering all of the emerging and  leading topics of the genome field so attendees can get up-to-date of what’s going on in genome biology and, yes, it’s really an expanding, growing field so there’s lots of things. The meeting successfully combines and finds a balance between the core questions of the field and the newest most exciting trends and findings. 
As mentioned, this meeting is uniquely dedicated to a core depth. It never forgets the basic, core question of what are the forces that act upon our genomes? How have the genomes evolved? How do complex traits emerge from this genome? The meeting commits a dedicated fraction of the program to discuss the core forces that created this very, very, very complex object and really tries to grapple in a very serious, deep and rigorous scientific way about this object itself and the forces that created it and how it works.
Two exciting, emerging developments in the field are single cell biology and genome editing; both fields are growing at a rapid pace. Single-cell technologies enable us to measure DNA, RNA and epigenetic modifications at a single cell resolution and are opening entire new opportunities in using genomics to unravel biology’s mysteries. Most predominantly single cell RNA-seq is enabling a new understanding of how our genome gets translated into function. So single cell genomic technologies and the opportunities they open, I think, is the most rapidly and most exciting topic in genome biology and we’ve certainly seen some talks about this here.
Now, with CRISPR and other genome-editing technologies, we can do amazing things to perturb, probe and alter the genome again opening up previously unimagined questions about genome function into the realm of possibilities. Indeed, we see lots of uses of genome editing in the talks, with CRISPR being the dominant technology. What can be done now that we can manipulate, engineer, synthesize the genome and not just passively observe it? Interestingly, one of the keynotes described how one can combine both CRISPR and single cell RNA-seq to crack open an understanding of cellular circuits and regulation.

Thank you to Dana for taking the time to chat with us. For more conversations with our other meeting organizers and course instructors, go here. Also, to gain a participant's perspective on this meeting, read our Q&A with Federica Di Palma and Andrew Rendeiro.