Biomedical Conference Begins In Burlington

Aug 16, 2017

A biomedical conference that is held once a decade in Vermont began this afternoon in Burlington.

The Northeast Regional IDeA Conference is bringing more than 300 biomedical researchers to Vermont’s largest city to review research, gain collaborative opportunities and meet with National Institutes of Health officials.   

The Institutional Development Awards from the NIH target smaller rural states, according to Vermont Genetics Network and UVM Biology professor Judith Van Houten, a conference co-coordinator.   “This is a coming together of all the funded faculty and students in what NIH calls the Northeast IDeA region.  And that means Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Delaware.  Not every state is an IDeA state.  There are some themes that come out of this. You can always find neuroscience or immunology,  bioinformatics but there isn’t one grand theme.”

While there are sessions on scientific research in areas such as genetics, cancer, and infectious diseases, meetings also touch on careers, writing, patents and grant applications. Van Houten says one of the aims of IDeA is to help scientists in the region become more competitive.   “There’s a big emphasis on careers and mentoring and getting people into the funding stream. So we’ll have a grant specialist from NIH working with us and we’ll have staff from NIH.  So a lot of what we do is mentoring.”

The NIH Northeast Regional conference brings together researchers from designated Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence from Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware and Vermont.  Conference co-coordinator Dr. Ralph Budd, the director of the Vermont Center for Immunology and Infectious Diseases, says the agenda reflects the biomedical research occurring in each state.   “Each of those may have a theme very different from the one we have here in infectious disease and immunology. There’s one with cancer, one’s in cardiovascular disease and so on.  And so that’s why you’re seeing a broad array of biomedical research because each of those centers has its own theme. And it’s a chance to do many things.  It’s a chance to obviously exchange scientific ideas and to form collaborations.  Truth be known you know when you get someone from immunology talking with someone from infectious disease talking with someone from cancer biology over a cup of coffee they’re going to find common ground. And that’s what this is about.”

The regional conference rotates biennially in each state.  During the off years, national meetings are held in Washington, D.C.