Participants at the meeting include Francis Collins (National Human Genome Research Institute), Ronald Davis (Stanford University), Richard Gibbs (Baylor College of Medicine), Jim Kent (University of California, Santa Cruz), Eric Lander (Whitehead Institute, MIT Center for Genome Research), Svante Paabo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), Michael Ashburner (EMBL-EBI), Robert Waterston (Washington University School of Medicine), and Ewan Birney (EMBL-EBI).
At the Cold Spring Harbor Genome Meeting in May 2000, Birney created Genesweep, a whimsical wagering pool in which many scientists have placed their bets on their own estimates of the number of genes in the human genome. Currently, estimates range from approximately 25,000 to over 150,000. There will be many losers when the Genesweep winner is announced in May, 2003.
"The total number of genes in an organism's genome depends on subtle, non-universal definitions of what constitutes a gene, so there's been a great debate about the 'number' of human genes," says David Stewart, Director of Meetings and Courses at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "In any case, the field of remaining Genesweep contenders could narrow considerably at this year's meeting when researchers will try to reach a consensus, though necessarily somewhat arbitrary, on the rules for defining a gene."
"As a break from the serious work involved in genome research, Genesweep has been a lot of fun," says Stewart, who adds, "In the struggle to find the best methods for detecting known and discovering new elements and properties of genes and genomes, we're learning many interesting lessons."