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The Center holds workshop-discussion style meetings on topics in almost every area of modern experimental biology and on important policy issues. Typically, subject areas may be very new and in need of assessment; they may be well-established but in need of critical review to examine where the best leads are; or controversial so that the meeting brings the warring parties together on neutral ground. Whatever the topic, we try to have an interesting mix of participants who would not normally meet. Meetings generally have some policy aspect to them and several major initiatives can be traced to discussions held at Banbury.

The Center concentrated initially on controversial topics relating to carcinogenesis and environmental hazards. For example, there were meetings on:
  • Assessing Chemical Mutagens
  • Quantification of Occupational Cancer
  • Genetically Altered Viruses and the Environment
  • Biology of Mammalian Germ Cell Mutagenesis

There was an early interest in molecular biology and genetics, in part because of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's historic association with genetics. An early example was Enhancers and Controlling Elements held in 1983. Other examples include:
  • Superantigens and Antigenic Presentation
  • Epigenetic Mechanisms of Gene Regulation
  • Protein Design/Folding
  • CREB and Memory
  • Mechanisms of Transcriptional Initation

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Human genetics has played a key role in the Center's activities, with a very early discussion of linkage analysis using restriction fragment polymorphisms at the Recombinant DNA Applications to Human Disease meeting in 1982.
  • Genetics and Molecular Biology of Complex Diseases
  • Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology of Marfan Syndrome
  • DNA Repeats and Human Gene Mutations
  • The Genetics of Manic Depressive Illness
  • Candidate Gene Approaches to ALS
  • Molecular Diagnosis of Inherited Breast Cancer

The human genetic meetings have also discussed the implications of advances in molecular human genetics for society:
  • Prospects for Gene Therapy: Fact and Fiction
  • The Impact of Human Molecular Genetics on Society
  • The Commercialization of Biology (1992)
  • Manic-depressive Illness: Evolutionary and Ethical Issues

From the beginnings of the Center's activites, there has been a strong emphasis on technical aspects of recombinant DNA technology and its applications in biotechnology:
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Oligonucleotide Manipulation of Gene Expression: Its Therapeutic Potential
  • In Vitro Selection from Combinatorial Libraries
  • Modified Nucleic Acids: Chemistry and Applications

The Center also specializes in meetings that involve both scientific research and policy. These meetings typically review current research and the mechanisms by which it is funded, and include scientists as well as individuals from relevant agencies. There have been such meetings on:
  • The Genomes of Agriculturally Important Animals.
  • Neurofibromatosis: How to Develop Therapies?
  • The Arabidopsis Genome Project

There are also meetings dealing almost exclusively with policy issues, including historic meetings on:
  • Patenting of Life Forms
  • DNA Technology and Forensic Science
  • Scientific Misconduct
  • Funding for the Decade of the Brain
  • Incorporating Genetics into Medicine and Nursing Education and Practice

There have also been special meetings each year that discuss important scientific topics for science journalists, Congressional staff, and senior executives of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.