Wednesday, October 5, 2011

GLIIFCA 20 Wrap-up.

If you're unfamiliar with the Great Lakes International Imaging and Flow Cytometry Association (GLIIFCA) meeting, you can check out this year's program online here.  It's sort of a morph between a technology focused user group meeting and a smaller scale scientific meeting.  The focus really is on the utilization of our technology (which I'll refer to under the umbrella term Cytometry) in clinical, translational, and basic research.  There is also a strong cytometry vendor presence; about 30 different companies bringing their latest and greatest products.  If you'd like to see who attends and supports the association, you can see a list of sponsors on the GLIIFCA site.  A part of the meeting that's always a bit disconcerting for me is the Friday night Industrial Science Symposium, which is code-language for "vendor sales pitches."  It's been pretty poor some years and not-so-bad others.  It really depends on the presentation and the quality of information put forth.  You can tell some people are up there literally just trying to sell a product.  A good presenter will educate the audience so that the individuals sitting in the chairs come to the conclusion on their own that this is the product they need.  And I have to say, we witnessed one of the best examples of this last Friday night in a presentation given by a Chicago-favorite, Kelly Lundsten from BioLegend.  Great talk, and actually a pretty good session in total.

A Slide grabbed from Janet Siebert's
(Cytoanalytics) Presentation at GLIIFCA 20
The "theme" of the meeting was Cytoinformatics (as opposed to Bioinformatics).  As far as the scientific program, it was the first time I found myself thinking, maybe these informatics people aren't wacked.  I hear what they're saying, but it usually doesn't strike a chord with me.  The basic idea is that you're generating tons of data of various kinds that needs to be quickly integrated in a consistent format in order to support analysis and subsequent decision-making.  And I think my resistance has always been in the format of, "Well I don't really generate THAT much data, so I don't have to worry about this stuff."  After sitting through a few examples of data generation from some groups that I know pretty well, it got me thinking.  The quantity of data can be pretty big even if you're only doing 8-12 parameter flow cytometry or less.  This isn't something only for the 18-parameter groups, it's for everyone.  Besides the flow data, it would be nice to integrate this info with subject info, imaging info, genomics info, etc..  I think what was pretty successful for this meeting is the fact that it was setup in such a way that you could see the progression of ideas surrounding management of data.  1.  Here's the problem: People collect lots of heterogeneous data types.  2.  Here's the types of tools needed:  Data warehousing, including dimensional models, ETL (extract, transform and load data), and end-user tools to read the relational database.  3.  Here are some examples of how people are using these tools with real data and how it impacts decision-making.  That was basically GLIIFCA 20, Symposium 1, 2, 3.  Kudos to the program committee.

UCFlow's GLIIFCA 20 Poster
There were also a pretty good crop of posters presented this year, including mine (which won a poster award, thank you very much).  Two of them which stuck with me were the "Increased number of laser lines on your cytometer might mess stuff up, so be careful" poster and "Look at this awesome temperature control/antagonist injection apparatus I soldered together with some parts from Home Depot" poster.  I'm paraphrasing the titles, of course, and you can find the full poster abstract in the GLIIFCA 20 program linked above.  The first one is from the folks just up the road at Northwestern (Geoff Kraker and James Marvin), and the second one comes to us from Roswell Park courtesy of Ed Podniesinski and Paul Wallace.  The UCFlow poster was about how "I can't stand looking at QC data, so I'll start using cool Google tools and graphics to make it more interesting and maybe I'll stick with it longer."

So, there you have it.  Another year, another GLIIFCA.  For the record, this was my 11th GLIIFCA attendance.  I have officially attended a majority of GLIIFCA meetings.