Joining forces to enable personalized health research

Personalized health research is essential to the development of our knowledge about the treatment and prevention of diseases. In this context, it is necessary to set up mechanisms to make volunteer patients' data available in a secure and interoperable way.
GA4GH is a non profit international alliance coordinating efforts to establish frameworks and standards enabling the responsible and secure sharing of genomic and health-related data. Becoming a Driver Project of the alliance is therefore a strong recognition of Switzerland's SPHN initiative that will contribute to develop and pilot global standards for sharing genomic and health related data.

«Switzerland has a long tradition of actively contributing to international frameworks and standards in life sciences and bioinformatics. Becoming a driver project for GA4GH will allow us to align our national initiatives with global efforts for genomic data sharing for the benefit of human health.», said SIB’s Torsten Schwede, Chair of the SPHN Scientific Expert Board.

While many of the SPHN’s research efforts are already contributing to individual GA4GH work streams (such as clinical phenotypic data capture, security and cloud), this overarching Driver Project will align with GA4GH’s global efforts, contributing to the development of international frameworks and standards. Such a close collaboration will be beneficial to the SPHN initiative, as well as international partners and the biomedical community in general.

How is SIB involved in SPHN?

SPHN is a national initiative designed to promote the development of personalized personalized health in Switzerland. The Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences heads the implementation of the Initiative on behalf of the Federal Government. SPHN will build the infrastructure necessary to exploit the diversity of health-related data for research and innovation.

SIB plays a key role in this context by building the infrastructure backbone and providing essential bioinformatics and data science expertise, through the activities of its Personalized Health Informatics Group (PHI). PHI’s aim is to establish mechanisms enabling nationwide interoperability and sharing of health- related data, in particular in the context of SPHN. It manages both the SPHN Data Coordination Centre and the BioMedIT project, laying the foundations needed to facilitate research projects by building a dynamic scalable network of data providers based on common standards for formats, semantics, governance, and exchange mechanisms.

Joining other leading genomic data initiatives

Together with SPHN, the other leading genomic data initiatives recognized as GA4GH latest Driver Projects are: Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa), GEnome Medical alliance Japan (GEM Japan), European Joint Programme on Rare Diseases (EJP RD), EUCANCancer, EpiShare, and Autism Sharing Initiative.

“When we launched GA4GH Connect two years ago, I could only have hoped to reach the state we are in now, with global buy-in from some of the world’s most important genomics projects and a true mandate for GA4GH to help get data sharing off the ground in the near term,” said Ewan Birney, Director of EMBL-EBI and Chair of GA4GH.

The projects were reviewed by an External Review Committee (Chair: David Altshuler, Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Co-Chairs: Niklas Blomberg, ELIXIR, and Kym Boycott, CHEO) and unanimously approved by the GA4GH Executive Committee. The projects were selected according to three criteria: global representation, scientific merit, and capacity to contribute in-kind resources to GA4GH development efforts.

Read the GA4GH release

Read the SAMS article: SPHN strengthens its international collaboration