The proceedings in this volume follow from the 15(th) Center for Developmental Biology meeting on "Advances in Cyclostome Research" that we organized. The meeting was held at the CDB RIKEN Kobe Institute on 24 and 25 January 2008 with support from the CDB. Jawless vertebrates have been of interest to embryologists and comparative morphologists for more than a century. While the comparative morphology among lampreys, hagfishes, and gnathostomes has long been recognized in contributing to understanding the origin of jaws and other gnathostome traits, the availability of modern molecular methods has rekindled interest in these topics, and evolutionary developmental biology coupled with paleontology has opened new avenues into the study of gnathostome origins. Within the last decade, because of renewed interest in evolutionary developmental biology, the importance of lampreys and hagfishes to our understanding of vertebrate evolution has undergone resurgence in interest, as evidenced by the sea lamprey genome project currently underway at the National Human Genome Research Institute. As new molecular and imaging techniques become available, both paleontological and neontological questions are being readdressed and are providing new insights and speculation into vertebrate evolution. Thus, we determined the timing was optimal to bring together many of the researchers currently contributing to our understanding of the biology of agnathans. The diversity of speakers at the meeting included evolutionary developmental biologists, phylogenetics and genomics investigators, paleontologists, and endocrinology researchers, because as we move into the 21(st) century, integration among these disciplines has encouraged synergistic activities to develop. The goal of this meeting was to highlight in a single setting the most recent advances in this important basal group of vertebrates to facilitate interactions among the cyclostome community. Secondarily, we also hope that this gathering will enhance the visibility of jawless vertebrates as important models in the vertebrate "evo-devo" community. Several topics for further discussion emerged at this symposium, including: genomic data that have spurred renewed interest in gene duplications and their contribution to our understanding of cyclostome phylogeny and vertebrate evolution; the use of paleontology coupled with modern imaging techniques to clarify vertebrate phylogeny; and the evolution of the neuroendocrine and adaptive immune systems. These were among the topics that led to fruitful discussion. Here we summarize key research topics from the symposium that continue to advance as we move forward in the 21(st) century.