Fifty Years of Reverse Transcriptase

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

20 October 2021


Registration Deadline

22 October 2021

Fifty Years of Reverse Transcriptase

October 20-23, 2021

Posters abstract deadline: July 30, 2021


John Coffin, Tufts University

Steve Goff, Columbia University

Anna-Marie Skalka, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Steve Hughes, National Cancer Institute

Hung Fan, University of California Irvine

The discovery of Reverse Transcriptase 50 years ago was one of the most dramatic findings of the 20th century, for both scientific and non-scientific reasons. The discovery provided instant proof for the previously ridiculed hypothesis that retroviruses replicate through a DNA intermediate, amending a widely held dogma of genetic information flow, and establishing a new paradigm of gene transfer. The unique properties of retroviruses also laid the essential technical and conceptual groundwork for defining discoveries to follow – the molecular basis of cancer, the causes of important animal and human diseases, including T cell lymphoma and AIDS, as well as the rapid development of antiretroviral drugs in response to the HIV pandemic. 

This 2021 Cold Spring Harbor biohistory meeting will address Fifty Years of Reverse Transcriptase  and will begin at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, October 20th and concluding with lunch on Saturday, October 23rd. The goal of this meeting is to bring together the researchers involved in these seminal discoveries, to exchange historical information and insights into what made them possible, and to provide an historical archive of a major turning point in the remarkable story of 20th century biological science.


  • Pre-discovery, Discovery, and Impact of RT:
  • Mechanism of RT and Role in (Retro)Viral Replication
  • RT as Tools and Target
  • RT, Retroviruses, Cancer and Other Disease
  • RT and Evolution I Endogenous Retroviruses
  • RT and Evolution II Other Retroelements/Normal Roles

Session Chairs (to be reconfirmed):

Hung Fan, University of California, Irvine

Dixie Mager, British Columbia Cancer Research Center, Canada

Suzanne Sandmeyer, University of California, Irvine

Marty St. Clair, ViiV Healthcare

Alice Telesnitsky, University of Michigan

Invited Speakers (to be reconfirmed):

Irina Arkhipova, Marine Biological Laboratory

Eddy Arnold, Rutgers University and CABM

David Baltimore, Caltech

Jef Boeke, NYU Langone Health

John Coffin, Tufts University

Kathleen Collins, University of California, Berkeley

Jaquelin Dudley, The University of Texas at Austin

Robert Gallo, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Stephen Goff, Columbia University

Alex Greenwood, Leibniz-Institut fur Zoo-und Wildtierforshug, Germany

Thierry Heidmann, Institut Gustave Roussy, France

Thomas Hohn, Friedrich Miescher-Institut, Switzerland

Stephen Hughes, National Cancer Institute

Welkin Johnson, Boston College

Haig Kazazian, Johns Hopkins University

Christine Kozak, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Alan Lambowitz, The University of Texas at Austin

Jay Levy, University of California, San Francisco

Jeffrey Lifson, National Cancer Institute at Frederick

Maxine Linial, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Tom Maniatis, New York Genome Center

Malcolm Martin, NIAID, National Institutes of Health

William Mason, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Jeffrey Miller, University of California, Los Angeles

Hiroaki Mitsuya, National Cancer Institute

Karin Moelling, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Benjamin Neel, NYU Langone Health

Douglas Richman, University of California, San Diego

Raymond Schinazi, Emory University

John Sedivy, Brown University

Anna Marie Skalka, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Bruce Stillman, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Jonathan Stoye, The Francis Crick Institute, UK

Harold Varmus, Weill Cornell Medical College

Peter Vogt, Scripps Research

Robin Weiss, University College London, UK

For these unique science history meetings, we invite speakers who made many of the seminal discoveries that began a field as well as those currently working in that field. We also invite historians who have examined the scientific and societal context of the field. Like the previous meetings in the series, this meeting will provide an excellent opportunity to look in-depth at the history of a topic in biology and share stories that may be missing from purely academic accounts.

Registrations are warmly welcomed from scientists, clinicians, historians, activists, and journalists. You must be registered in order to present a poster. Once registered you will receive a confirmation email containing the link for abstract submission. If you wish to present a poster, please plan on a maximum size of 4ft x 4ft (1.22m x 1.22m). Click the Information tab above for details on presenting posters at CSHL meetings.

We have applied for funds from industry and other sponsors to partially offset registration costs for some attendees. Please apply in writing via email to Val Pakaluk and state your financial needs.

Social Media: The designated hashtag for this meeting is #cshlhist21. Note that you must obtain permission from an individual presenter before live-tweeting or discussing his/her talk, poster, or research results on social media. Click the Policies tab above to see our full Confidentiality & Reporting Policy.

Financial support provided by: TBA


In-Person Fees

Academic Private Room/Private Bath Package: $1,310

Academic Private Room/Shared Bath Package: $1,235

Academic Shared Room Package: $1,130

Academic No-Housing Package: $860

Student Package*: $1,045

Student No-Housing Package: $755

Corporate Private Room/Private Bath Package: $1,625

Corporate No-Housing Package: $1,175

*Student Housing is default double occupancy. Please enquire about availability and fees to upgrade to private room.

Rules for Virtual Participation: Virtual participation will include access to the oral sessions via Zoom, access to the digital poster sessions and access to the Slack discussion channel, and the Leading Strand video archive.Presenters: Individuals submitting abstracts and facing financial barriers should firstly request financial aid (see above). Permission to present your talk or poster virtually will be given only in exceptional circumstances and on a case-by-case basis. If you think you are eligible for an exemption from the requirement to present in person, please provide a justification in writing via email to Val Pakaluk.

Non-presenting participants: We plan to broaden access to the conference by allowing certain categories of non-presenting participants to attend virtually at reduced fees. Categories include: 

1. Additional members of individual laboratories (4th or more lab member) - PI must supply list of lab members via email to Val Pakaluk

2. Individuals from low & middle income countries; 

3. Individuals from non-LMIC countries in Asia, Australasia, Africa or South America; 

4. Individuals from US & Canadian minority serving institutions; 

5. Individuals with a demonstrable financial barrier; 

6. Individuals with family obligations or other special circumstances. 

For categories 5 & 6 above, please provide a justification via email to Val Pakaluk

Virtual Fees

Academic Virtual Package: $255

Student Virtual Package: $150

Corporate Virtual Package: $375

*Student Housing is default double occupancy. Please enquire about availability and fees to upgrade to private room.

Regular packages are all-inclusive and cover registration, food, housing, parking, a wine-and-cheese party, cocktail reception, and lobster banquet. No-Housing packages include all costs except housing. Full payment is due four weeks prior to the meeting.