My US Trip

Well I have returned from my US excursion where I attended the Annual Meeting of the AACR, Denver, Colorado. 22,000 people, 6000 abstracts over 5 days. Yes it is as tiring as it sounds. You would think that 15hours flight time from AKL is a long enough ride. However United Airlines/ US Airways decided to extend this to 48 hours, leaving us 1 hour to get ready before shooting out the hotel door for the beginning of the conference. This was not to mention the zero degree temperature, the falling snow and a kiwi in shorts and a t-shirt :).

A couple of things were evident from the conference showing that the current economic state is effecting all. The lack of jobs available from both industry and academia, the lack of big freebies (plenty of free coffee and cookies though) and a lack of ‘energy’ or ‘buzz’ (I must keep in mind that this is a bunch of scientists here) in the field. Despite this the recent news that Obama’s stimulus filters down to a very substantial bolus of funds for the research community has provided something for all to smile about.

Denver isn’t a big city with a inner city population of 600,000.And the fact that a the city has a purpose built convention centre serves as a great source of revenue for the city. In fact one electronic store had mentioned they had sold 100 digital cameras solely to conference delegates. Just think 22,000 people spending at least $30US a day.

As mentioned in an early post I was lucky enough to be selected for an oral presentation. As with most US research conferences, presenters (often the inexperienced ones, such as myself) often fear, not the presentation itself, but the 5 minute question period to follow, opening up your research to interrogation, scrutiny and sometimes destruction. However I was surprised to see that most question sessions were actually quite light hearted and overall quite positive and constructive especially those involving young researchers. One thing I noticed that seemed to run proportional to the success of a lab was the number of collaborations they had with other organisations/ labs. It is something we in NZ must be aware of and should strive to forge new relationships through events like this one (sometimes the only chance most of us get to have access to such a large and diverse group of global researchers).

Attendance at these international conferences are essential for the development of young scientists. Thankfully there are several avenues available for students to gain travel funding especially in the cancer field. Other than the general eye opening effect of the conference, the opportunity to absorb the latest content in the field while being able to engage in conversations with field pioneers presents an unparallel opportunity for all researchers. Together it provides a great way to put your own research into a wider context (i.e. the whole cancer field; different cancers, tissues, models, development stages) allowing you to connect many of your once isolated dots and open up new avenues of research exploration through the adaption of new techniques or assimilation of new hypotheses or perspectives.

Its was great to see that quite a few other kiwis were able to make the journey over as well including the two Bill’s, Denny and Wilson, the former who was also presenting PI3K inhibitor research, presumably that which underpins the pipeline of Pathway Therapeutics. More so I ran into Peter Foster, CEO Symansis who was part of the exhibitor alongside the world’s leading biotechs, pharmas and research tool providers.

A big thanks to the Genesis Oncology Trust and the Royal Society of NZ for funding my travel.

I have pasted in 4 of my 995 photos below.


Peter Foster & Symansis


The Colorado Convention Centre, Denver


Novartis on show


Scientists partying


Graeme @


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