Melbourne to host international genetics congress

By Iain Scott
Monday, 04 March, 2002

Bumper year, 2003 - it's the 50th anniversary of the Watson and Crick's now famous paper on the structure of the DNA molecule.

It's also the first time that the 'Olympics of genetics', the International Congress of Genetics, heads down under.

Melbourne will host the 19th congress, which is only held every five years, in July 2003.

Prof John Shine, director of Sydney's Garvan Institute, said the congress was timely. "Last year was the pinnacle of those last 50 years - the first draft of the human genome," he said.

Launching an appeal for sponsorship at the Garvan recently, congress secretary-general Dr Philip Batterham said that with the genome so recently complete, the science of genetics was "just at the starting line".

The congress will feature more than 270 speakers, and will deal with both basic and strategic research. Batterham said he expected that 1000 of the planned 3000 delegates would be Australian, and another sizable number from Asia.

Among the celebrity attendees is James Watson himself. Watson, who has shown no signs of mellowing with age, recently admitted to the New York Times that he was not politically correct, and that he became bored after giving five lectures about the double helix. He will take part in a live on-stage interview at the Congress.

Another guest will be Francis Collins, who headed the public side of the race to map the human genome.

Batterham said the public's involvement in the congress was important.

"We believe that there will be public involvement, whether they're invited or not," he said. "I don't want any protesters outside the building - I want them inside."

Several satellite conferences, including a major bioinformatics meeting, will be set up around the congress.

For more information about the congress, visit the website:, call (03) 9417 0899, or e-mail to

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