1) Surveillance/detection: We know very little about the universe of microorganisms, only a tiny fraction of the microbial world has been cultured and characterized. Can genomics be used to identify microorganisms in the environment that are likely to come into contact with humans or domestic animals?
2) Predicting pathogenesis/ability to adapt to humans: As avian influenza demonstrates, determining which genetic traits allow a microorganism to adapt to and spread between humans is still very difficult to achieve. The ability to predict from genetic sequence which microorganisms are potential threats to humans is in its infancy. Could genomics be used to help discover what traits are necessary for human adaptation?
3) Diagnostics: The connection between genomics technology and improving diagnostics is important. How can knowledge of pathogen genomics allow us to design better, faster, cheaper diagnostic tests?
4) Vaccine Development (egg-based, cell culture-based, cell-free based): How can genomics be used to design better vaccines? Could genetic engineering be used to generate vaccine strains more quickly to help determine whether there are common epitopes among several genomes that could be the target of a broad-coverage vaccine? This topic should include animal vaccines, which is an important area of R&D. One example might be China’s recent effort to vaccinate all chickens in the country against H5N1 as a means to contain outbreaks and prevent a human epidemic.
5) Drug Development and Resistance: The discovery of common targets or pathways in numerous microorganisms could lead to the design of new antimicrobials; better understanding of the genetic determinants of resistance might allow the design of drugs that circumvent or cripple the pathways bacteria use to evolve resistance to antibiotics. Examples include issues with drug design, dosage, adjuvants, mode of delivery (i.e., subcutaneous, nasal), side effects, etc.
6) Infectious Diseases Case Studies: A variety of highly pathogenic infectious diseases has already inflicted great damage in countries around the world. This panel would serve to apply each of the above topics specifically to these various diseases including Avian Flu, Dengue fever, TB, etc. Presentation examples might include comparisons between various diseases, singular disease case studies, or could identify new research or research gaps in the field.