From bitcoins to single cells, and health data to big data

Keynote speakers and special topics talks presented the audience with new perspectives as well as the latest trends in bioinformatics in a variety of domains.

DNA, data storage, bitcoins and even James Joyce, were just a few of the themes Nick Goldman (EMBL-EBI) used in his keynote lecture to highlight the pervasive and crucial part bioinformatics plays in research and our everyday life. In a second keynote, Fabian Theis (Institute of Computational Biology at the Helmholtz Zentrum, München) presented the ambitious Human Cell Atlas project – or, in other words, how to map every single cell in the human body.

Other special topics talks also shed light on two specific projects led in the context of the Swiss Personalized Health Network initiative, whose aim is to bring the country at the forefront of personalized health. SIB Group Leader Manfred Claassen (ETHZ) presented the PRECISE project with a view to identify biomarkers and therapeutic targets in inflammatory disease immunotherapy, while Ernst Hafen (ETHZ) presented the MIDATA initiative, whose goal is to put citizens at the heart of personal health data sharing by giving them direct control over their data.

Finally, in the last special topic talk of the conference, SIB Group Leader Christophe Dessimoz addressed the four main challenges of big data (Volume, Variety, Velocity and Veracity) in terms of orthology and the latest advances in the field.

Spotlight on the winners of the SIB Awards 2018

Among the ten young researchers selected to pitch their work in front of a jury panel, Emma Ricart, a PhD student from the Proteome Informatics Group in Geneva (Group Leader: Frédérique Lisacek), Adithi Varadarajan, also a PhD student from the Bioinformatics and Proteogenomics Group in Wädenswil (Group Leader: Christian Ahrens) both won the Best Lightening Talk Award.

The Best Poster Award went to David Dylus, from the Comparative Genomics Group, Lausanne (Group Leader: Christophe Dessimoz).

A little more about their research and themselves:

  • What was the research you presented?
    Emma Ricart: I presented the tools I have been developing during my PhD to study non-ribosomal peptides. NRPro is a tool used to analyse the tandem mass spectrometry of these compounds, and Bionotator was developed to convert a given chemical structure into a monomeric representation of the molecule.
    Adithi Varadarajan: During my talk I presented my PhD in computational proteogenomics, whose aim is twofold: 1) to develop an integrated proteogenomic database that covers the entire protein-coding potential of a prokaryotic genome, and 2) to release it as individual downloadable databases for the microbial research community.
    David Dylus: My poster was about a novel pipeline that we are developing called read2tree. The novelty lies in the fact that we skip the traditional steps of assembly, gene annotation and orthology prediction to directly generate a dataset based on the experimental results and a set of reference data. In my poster, I presented several benchmarks showing that our pipeline can work with reads coming from the three major technologies and that it produces a nearly identical tree compared to a traditional pipeline.

  • What aspect of your work do you like the most?
    E.R.: The originality that involves developing new tools using your own ideas.
    A.V.: The ability to use state-of-the-art technologies and computer algorithms to address the unsolved mysteries in genome annotations of prokaryotes. And needless to say, my nerd team and colleagues!
    D.D.: Spending my days between a high variety of different activities, from coding and supervising to project development, and the fact that I can do this from any location that has internet access.

  • When you are not in front of the computer, you are...
    E.R.: I love cinema so probably watching a movie.
    A.V.: Playing badminton, cooking and meeting friends.
    D.D.: Either going out or travelling.

  • A fond memory of the SIB Days 2018?
    E.R.: The beautiful cocktail party next to the lake.
    A.V.: I enjoyed every bit of the conference, including the talks, the networking opportunities and of course the unforgettable gala evening! Thanks SIB for this amazing opportunity.
    D.D.: All the discussions I had about science with SIB Members and naturally a lot of great memories from the fantastic party.