Program Overview

Scientific Program
The 2007 Program Committee of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, partnering with the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), Neurobehavioral Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention (NBTS), and Behavioral Toxicology Society (BTS) arranged for an outstanding and expansive scientific program that includes education courses (2), scientific symposia (6), and workshops (3) as well as opportunities for open research communications as platform talks or poster presentations. The session topics address newer concepts in the field and are likely to generate lively interaction.

Education Courses
The Education Course will revisit principles in teratology with a focus on basic concepts and research applications. Topics include methods for detecting birth defects, regulatory study design and interpretation, maternal-fetal considerations, animal-human concordance, nutritional factors, and new information in understanding mechanisms. Our Sunrise Mini-Course will address developmental and reproductive toxicity testing of biopharmaceuticals–agents used for therapeutic or in vivo diagnostic purposes that are produced (engineered) by biotechnology. Separate registration is required for both the Education Course and the Sunrise Mini-Course, so please register early!

Joint Symposia with TS/NBTS/OTIS
The general scientific program will begin Sunday afternoon with a joint symposium on prenatal drug abuse and adolescent developmental trajectories. More than 9.2 million children (12.7 percent) live with at least one illicit-drug-using parent or other adult. Mounting findings warn of the harmful links between parental drug use and children’s developmental trajectories, and these effects may be exacerbated by prenatal drug exposure. This symposium will focus on the effects of prenatal drug exposure, the multiple factors associated with parent drug use, and potential connections to subsequent drug abuse vulnerability. A second joint TS/NBTS/OTIS symposium will be held Monday on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This session will address a wide range of basic and clinical issues associated with alcohol use during pregnancy. Prenatal alcohol damage affects an estimated 1% of liveborn infants and is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. The complex etiology of FASD requires basic research to improve mechanistic understanding of prenatal alcohol damage and clinical research to identify at-risk newborns at the earliest possible age.

Symposia on Cutting-Edge Mechanistic Research
The March of Dimes will sponsor a symposium Tuesday on epigenetics and developmental programming of metabolic disorders. Clinical and epidemiological studies have shown significant correlations between the in utero and early life environments and increased risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and obesity that are components of the metabolic syndrome. Understanding what epigenetic marks critically scar the genome is a new area referred to as “fetal or developmental programming”. This symposium will present the state of the science in developmental programming with a particular focus on the metabolic syndrome. It also marks the 10th Anniversary of symposium support from the March of Dimes! Wiley-Liss will sponsor a symposium Wednesday on molecular clocks in embryonic development. This symposium, organized by the Publications Committee, will cover a new and exciting area of research that investigates how cells measure time in the embryo. Studies have found that developmental timekeeping is controlled by intrinsic “molecular clocks” expressed in cyclic pulses with periodicity independent of popular oscillatory functions such as the cell cycle. Their timing is essential for understanding the patterning of temporal gradients such as in somite segmentation, and this work can be translated into understanding human vertebral anomalies.

Symposia on Clinical and Epidemiological Advances
The Office of Rare Diseases, National Institutes of Health, DHHS will sponsor a symposium Wednesday on genetic and environmental risk factors for several major birth defects. The interaction of genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure explains some of the variance in expression of adverse genetic traits and offers an opportunity for prevention of exposure in susceptible individuals. This symposium will examine four disorders (renal agenesis, polydactyly, hypospadias, and SALL1-related malformations) to illustrate the ways in which the environment may interact with genetic endowment to produce rare but important malformations. On Thursday we have a symposium that addresses the impact of personalized nutrition and medicine on perinatal development. The goal of personalized medicine is to get the right therapeutic to the right individual at the right time. Dietary agents such as vitamin A and folic acid are prime examples of food-borne chemicals that can be better understood at this level and thereby consumed in a manner promoting normal perinatal development. These and other cases will be used to demonstrate the utility of personalized nutrition and medicine to enhance children’s health.

Sessions to Forge New Ground
ILSI Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI)-Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology Technical Committee will sponsor a platform session Sunday organized by the Public Affairs Committee which will be derived from abstract submissions. This year, the theme will be nonclinical studies that focus on applications and lessons learned regarding pharmacogenomics in drug development and regulatory science. “Pharmacogenomics” investigates how an individual’s genetic composition affects response to drugs. Although many factors can influence the individual response to drugs, an understanding of individual genetic makeup is key to advanced diagnosis of individual susceptibility, as well as more powerful therapeutic efficacy and safety.

New research in cheminformatics and bioinformatics is underway to utilize emerging resources in information technology and molecular databases for making predictions related to developmental and reproductive toxicity. A Tuesday workshop will address the applications of high-information content data in reproductive and developmental toxicology. On Thursday, a workshop will tackle the issue of achieving worldwide elimination of folic acid-preventable spina bifida and anencephaly. Folate optimization is essential to this important public health campaign and this workshop will include a panel discussion with opportunity for input from meeting attendees. Also on Thursday, our regional partner the Midwest Teratology Association, will sponsor a workshop on selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs).

Special Lectures
As Society tradition, Monday morning will kick-off with the Josef Warkany Lecture, given annually by a scientist who has significantly contributed to the field of teratology. The Warkany Lecture will be followed by the James G. Wilson Publication Award for best paper published in the Teratology Society journal Birth Defects Research, and later in the day by The Robert L. Brent Lecture. This year marks the first sponsorship of the Brent Lecture by Charles River Laboratories, Inc. and will be given by Dr. Kenneth Lyons Jones. Dr. Jones’ lecture entitled “Alcohol and Pregnancy: What Have We Learned in 30 Years?” will lead into the FASD symposium. On Wednesday we will have a special lecture from the 2007 recipient of the F. Clarke Fraser Award, Dr. Sonia Rasmussen.

Special Events
On Monday evening all students and fellows are invited to a special Student Career Event sponsored by MTA/MARTA. An “issues forum” will be held Tuesday to report on, and discuss, the 2007 Strategic Planning Session held every 5 years by the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention. This is an important time for input to chart the course of the future of our Society. And of course the usual opportunities exist to firm-up special relations with colleagues at the Welcome Reception on Sunday and the Banquet on Wednesday.

As you can see, the 2007 program represents the great strengths of our multidisciplinary Society and presents something for everyone. We invite you to experience the excitement in Pittsburgh 2007!

rev. 6-April, 2007

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