Microbial Ecosystems and the Environment Focus Group
Currently Inactive


Chairs: Jill Banfield and Mitch Sogin


CRISPR Mini-Meeting
Berkeley, CA, July 24-25, 2008

Sponsored by NASA NAI Microbial Systems Biology and Virus working groups

Convened by Jill Banfield, Blake Wiedenheft, and Mark Young

The first meeting ever dedicated to the topic of clustered, regularly interspaced palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-based microbial immunity to viruses was held in Berkeley on July 24 and 25, 2008 under the umbrella of the NASA NAI Microbial Systems Biology and Virus Focus Groups. The goal of this meeting was to stimulate discussion and advance understanding of the newly described acquired viral resistance system in bacteria and archaea and to explore its relevance in natural populations and communities. The meeting involved around 30 scientists with a range of backgrounds, with a program designed for extensive discussion. The meeting was scheduled rapidly around a moment of opportunity associated with the presence of Prof. John van der Oost on the Berkeley campus. Despite just over a month from concept to completion, the participant list included three international speakers (Spain, Lithuania, Canada) as well as speakers and participants from many US labs and representing at least three NAI teams.

The meeting was held at the Lau Auditorium, Room106, in Stanley Hall, making use of the atrium area for coffee breaks, lunches, and conversation. Participants are listed in the section at the end of this document (though many other people attended a subset of sessions). Remarkably, the line up of speakers (and participants) included the scientific leaders from a large fraction of the key papers in the field, all published between 2005 and 2008 (plus the first and corresponding authors of one paper to be published in Science shortly). The program appears at the end of this document. Graduate students and postdoctoral scientists introduced most of the speakers. Thanks are due to two graduate students (Joanne Emerson and Christine Sun), who assisted enormously with the meeting logistics.

Funding provided by NAI was used to sponsor international travel and accommodation for Francis Mojica and Virgis Siksnys and for Leonid Minakhin, and Ekaterina Semenova (est. total <$8,000). Melissa Kirven-Brooks is thanked for her assistance in making these arrangements. Funds were also used to cover two lunches, two dinners, and food and drinks for the breaks (est. $2,000, full accounting to be provided separately).

The meeting was very successful. The talks reviewed published work, stimulated discussion of published work and also described new unpublished findings. A subset of talks reported partially complete work and solicited suggestions. All sessions involved extensive discussion, both during and after presentations. Convening the meeting at a relatively early point in time for this field has opened many avenues for new collaborations, notably some that link biochemists and biotechnologists with those of us interested in evolution and natural systems.

At the conclusion of the meeting, there was interest expressed in:

(i) holding another meeting in Summer 2009, perhaps again at Berkeley
(ii) establishment of a website, including a secure repository for papers and the powerpoint presentations (all participants agreed to share these). Brian Thomas and Jill Banfield will arrange this.
(iii) discuss preparation of a paper, potentially to be submitted to Science as a perspective. The topic would be (approximately): “A new perspective on virus-microbe interaction dynamics”.

Although we did not survey the participants for feedback, these outcomes point to a very successful meeting.

Jill Banfield
UC Berkeley
July 26, 2008