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Cornell hosts its first-ever Immunogenomics Symposium

Speakers and co-organizers of the first Immunogenomics Symposium at Cornell. Photo: Darcy Rose/CVM

On Friday, Sept. 30, Cornell’s first Immunogenomics Symposium was held in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Schurman Hall.  The event was hosted by the Center for Immunology, Center for Vertebrate Genomics and the Provost’s Genome Biology Initiative. Roughly 170 attendees from the veterinary college, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Human Ecology gathered for talks and a poster session that showcased the breadth and depth of this interdisciplinary field.

“The symposium was both enjoyable and inspiring,” says Praveen Sethupathy ‘03, professor of physiological genomics, director of the Center for Vertebrate Genomics, and co-organizer of the event. “It was energizing to share and discuss new ideas in person with so many brilliant scientists in one space.” To make the scientific gathering happen, Sethupathy worked with co-organizers and colleagues Dr. Ilana Brito, assistant professor and Mong Family Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow in Biomedical Engineering; Dr. Brian Rudd, associate professor of immunology; and Dr. Gary Koretzky ’78, vice provost for academic integration at Cornell and co-director of the Cornell Center for Immunology. Critical to the logistics and oversight of the event were Heather Muniz, assistant to the chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Molly Towne, program manager for the Cornell Center for Immunology.

Immunogenomics is defined as the use of genome-scale approaches to understand the biology of the immune system in health and disease. Under this broad umbrella, the symposium featured several high-profile speakers from institutions including the Broad Institute, the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Cincinnati Children’s, and Caltech. The sessions also featured internal trainee speakers hailing from three different colleges and departments across campus: Madhav Mantri of the De Vlaminck lab, Laura Dunn of the Baines lab, and Jason Chobirko of the Feschotte/Grimson labs. Talks were followed by a poster session in which over 20 trainees presented their research to attendees, with three students’ posters selected for awards: Alexandria Shumway of the Sethupathy lab, Cybelle Tabilas of the Rudd lab, and Karla Garcia-Martinez of the Leifer lab. The event concluded with a keynote lecture from National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Ellen Rothenberg, who is also currently a Cornell A.D. White Professor-at-large.

The symposium also featured the announcement of three internal seed grants to catalyze new collaborative immunogenomics projects among Ithaca faculty. These $50,000 one-year awards are jointly funded by the Cornell Center for Immunology and the Provost’s Genome Biology Radical Collaboration Initiative and designed to help a pair of investigators take their laboratories in new directions. The award recipients were from the College of Engineering, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Written by Lauren Cahoon Roberts