The European Co-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) programme is one of the so-called 'horizontal activities' within the European Union (EU) system of support for scientific research, technology and development. It is the purpose of individual COST Actions to establish networks of co-operation and collaboration between interested researchers (in COST-eligible countries that have signed-up to the appropriate Memorandum of Understanding) in the particular area of science addressed by the Action. In general, the European Commission will maintain support for viable COST Actions for up to 5 years. In June 1995, COST Action 825 'Mammary Gland Biology' was inaugurated. This International Conference was organized by COST Action 825 and, as its timing indicates, was planned to be a culminating activity of the network and one against which its success could be measured.
Around 175 participants gathered in France's Loire Valley for this unashamedly multi disciplinary meeting. The location in Tours was particularly appropriate, since it is near to the final resting place of that archetypal multidisciplinarian, Leonardo da Vinci, whose memory it celebrates as an honorary son of the city. The glossy and well-appointed Congress Centre Vinci, in which the conference took place, exemplifies this continuing homage.
A core aim of the COST 825 action has been to bring together the different scientific traditions which, while sharing an interest in mammary gland biology, have historically remained separate and even remote from one another. The medical (breast cancer) and the agricultural (lactation and animal production) traditions represent the extremes of this separation. The eight sessions of the conference, most with six invited speakers, complemented by 64 posters, picked out key areas across this multi disciplinary spectrum of mammary gland biology.