Comparative Genomics - lectures and practicals - now on YouTube

16 - 18 September 2020
Cancellation deadline:
16 September 2020
Christophe Dessimoz, Robert Waterhouse, Marc Robinson-Rechavi
0.75 credits

No future instance of this course is planned yet

The videos of the lectures can be found in the SIB YouTube channel.


The aims of this course are to (i) explore key evolutionary concepts, (ii) examine different methodological approaches, and (iii) gain hands-on experience in eukaryotic comparative genomic analyses.

This course will focus on concepts and methods for orthology and paralogy of protein-coding genes, complemented with practical examples of applications of comparative genomics approaches to investigate biological and/or evolutionary questions. It will be structured with lectures in the mornings followed by hands-on sessions in the afternoons.

This course may touch on, but will not cover in any detail, topics relating to genome sequencing and assembly, genome annotation, population genomics, or genomics of prokaryotes.


This course is aimed at PhD students, postdoctoral and other researchers in the life sciences who are planning how to proceed with comparative genomics analyses to investigate biological or evolutionary questions of importance to their study system.

Learning objectives

At the end of the course participants should be able to:

  • Interpret phylogenetic trees and sequence alignments
  • Infer orthologs and paralogs using graph- and tree-based methods
  • Design and implement comparative analyses to interrogate genomics data, e.g. phylogenomics or gene family dynamics


Knowledge / competencies:

Participants should have a good understanding of command line tools. If you do not feel comfortable with these UNIX commands, please take our UNIX fundamentals e-learning module.


This course will be streamed, you are thus required to have your own computer with an internet connection, and at least 8 GB RAM, 50 GB free disk space.


Registration fees are 180 CHF for academics and 900 CHF for for-profit companies. You will be informed by email of your registration confirmation. Upon reception of the confirmation email, participants will be asked to confirm attendance by paying the fees within 5 days.

Deadline for registration and free-of-charge cancellation is set to 02 September 2020. Cancellation after this date will not be reimbursed. Please note that participation in SIB courses is subject to this and other general conditions, available here.

If you are interested to attend only the free-of-charge lectures in the mornings, apply here.

Venue and time

This course will be streamed.

The course will start at 9:00 and end around 17:00. Precise information will be provided to the participants in due time.

Schedule - CET time zone

Day 1 - Christophe Dessimoz (UniL and SIB) - Introduction to molecular evolution & phylogenetics

Interpret phylogenetic trees and alignments; general understanding of how trees are inferred; knowing the definition of orthology, paralogy and their subtypes; understanding the difference between pairwise and groupwise comparisons; ability to perform orthology inference through tree overlap method; ability to retrieve orthology information from the OMA database; ability to infer orthologs using the OMA standalone pipeline. Teaching assistants for practical exercises: Natacha Glover, Yannis Nevers and Alex Warwick Vesztrocy.

  • 9:00-12:00: Lectures - Introduction to molecular evolution & phylogenetics; Inferring Orthology and Paralogy
  • 12:00 - 13:00: Lunch break
  • 13:00-17:00: Hands-on - exercises on orthology inference through tree overlap methods, tree reconciliation, OMA database, OMA standalone

Day 2 - Robert Waterhouse (UniL and SIB) - Orthology-focused arthropod comparative genomics

Understand the principles of graph-based orthology delineation using OrthoDB as an example; learn how to browse and programmatically query OrthoDB; learn how to use BUSCO to assess genomics data quality; learn how to formulate comparative genomics questions, develop and apply approaches to address them (with a focus on using orthology data), and then critically interpret them, through case studies from arthropods. Teaching assistants for practical exercises: Livio Ruzzante.

  • 9:00-12:00: Lectures - Introduction to OrthoDB & BUSCO; case studies from Arthropod Comparative Genomics
  • 12:00 - 13:00: Lunch break
  • 13:00-17:00: Hands-on - exercises with BUSCO for phylogenomics and OrthoDB for gene family evolution

Day 3 - Marc Robinson-Rechavi (UniL and SIB) - Duplication of genes and genomes, expression

Understand the importance of gene and genome duplication in comparative genomics; understand the difficulty of comparing “function” between homologous genes, and know some tools to do so. Teaching assistant for practical exercises: Amina Echchiki and Victor Rossier.

  • 9:00-12:00: Lectures - Introduction to Bgee (curated data, ontologies, present calls, homology, TopAnat); patterns of gene and genome duplication; evolution after duplication
  • 12:00 - 13:00: Lunch break
  • 13:00-17:00: Hands-on - exercises with gene set enrichment of biased duplicate retention, expression comparison, positive selection, functional shifts, Bgee SPARQL endpoint

Additional information

Coordination: Patricia Palagi

We will recommend 0.75 ECTS credits for this course (given a passed exam at the end of the course).

You are welcome to register to the SIB courses mailing list to be informed of all future courses and workshops, as well as all important deadlines using the form here.

SIB abides by the ELIXIR Code of Conduct. Participants of SIB courses are also required to abide by the same code.

For more information, please contact