March 3, 2017

How Successful Bioinformatics is just like Cooking - Review of Eagle’s 4th Annual Symposium

“The more data, the more difficult discovery is,” was how Abel Ureta-Vidal, Eagle’s CEO described the challenges of big data at Eagle’s 4th Annual Symposium. Having highlighted the challenges of big data, Abel went on to use a properly organised kitchen as an analogy for how to conduct manage bioinformatics data. By having the right set up, such as chopping boards, knives and ingredients, in the right place, preparing a complex meal can be made so much easier. Applying this analogy, Abel described how a similar approach could be used in bioinformatics to ensure data is handled directly, and the best results guaranteed.


With the opening remarks over, the symposium was able to begin in earnest. First up was Martin Strahm from F. Hoffman-La Roche, who talked about UDIS (Understanding Disease Informatics System), an in-house solution, created by F. Hoffman-La Roche to integrate omics data in one place. The system brings clinical and pre-clinical data from internal and public sources, serving as a data source for simple visualisations. Martin described the challenges involved in building a system, and how they were able to overcome then, before calling for an industry wide standard on data loading and curation.

Anthony Rowe, Janssen R&D IT talked about how to scale up the experimental approach used in identifying biomarkers of disease detection in large patient studies, and how to integrate this with electronic healthcare records. He also offered a series of perspectives on how to gain insights at a population scale by using digital biomarkers.

Next up, was Cameron Naylon, from PLOS who talked about the role of open source and open thinking. He described how bioinformatics is among the most networked of research communities, and how we can apply the expertise we have on the study of networks in the creation of effective networks for research communication.

Philippe Rocca-Serra, from University of Oxford followed, and he talked about not forgetting the small data, and the use ISA infrastructure for tracking experimental metadata. In his talk, he highlighted the key features, ongoing development and current collaborations, demonstrating the flexibility of the resources.

Last up before lunch was Arek Kasprzyk,  from BioMart and the San Raffaele Hospital. Arek talked about the challenges and potential solutions in data management for large collaborative projects. He described his experiences in managing data for large international collaborations, which have included academic and commercial partners, as well as discussing the status of BioMart and its recent developments.

Following a break for lunch, Fiona Nielsen from DNA Digest took to the stage to talk about privacy preserving access and improved data reuse for human genomics research. Fiona described the difficulties involved in data sharing in human genetics, and why there is a need to find a way around these problems to unlock the potential of the human genome in research.  She also described the work of DNA Digest in promoting and enabling more efficient sharing of genomic data.

Aline Nink, from Bayer Business Services talked about how Bayer has developed an approach to the challenge of big data by establishing a long term interdisciplinary programme. She described how the team brings together scientists and IT experts to develop new solutions.

The last talk of the day was given by Steve Gardner, from Biolauncher and RowAnalytics. Steve looked at some of the historical and future approaches to large scale semantic data integration and new graph and modelling approaches to large scale knowledge modelling.

The day closed with a panel discussion on big data, which was followed by a networking reception.  


As part of the day, Eagle, also took the opportunity to get some pieces to camera from the symposium participants where they were asked to talk about the biggest challenges relating to big data and how we can overcome those. These will be appearing on the website soon, so to hear the latest views from the likes Eagle, Janssen, PLOS, DNA Digest and the University of Oxford, keep an eye on the Eagle website where you will be able to see them.

Topics: Bioinformatics