Ewan Birney To Lead Global Alliance For Genomics and Health

October 14, 2016

October 14, 2016 | The Global Alliance for Genomics in Health (GA4GH) has selected Ewan Birney, Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), to steward its member organizations in producing solutions for sharing genomic and clinical data. Birney’s new position was first held by David Altschuler, then by Tom Hudson. 

The GA4GH brings together over 430 data-science, healthcare, advocacy and life-science organizations – both commercial and not-for-profit – to unlock the potential of genomic data for improving human health. Its projects are designed to enable the large-scale sharing of data on genome sequences and clinical outcomes, which will allow researchers to find the molecular patterns underlying disease and health.

Birney will lead the consortium’s efforts to accelerate medical and research advancements through the responsible sharing of genomic and clinical data. Birney will assume the new role on 1 November.

In his personal blog Birney wrote that “if we want a future in which all people can benefit from this change, we need to solve a number of technical, structural, security and ethical problems. The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health was set up to do just that.”

Birney went on in his blog post to say that he accepted the position because “my overall impression of GA4GH is of a professional orchestra warming up: intense, but disjointed, activity and passion. The different sections are poised to work together, producing an ecosystem of harmonized technical and ethical standards.

The goal Birney has set for the GA4GH over the next 3 years is “to rebalance delivery and structure, building on the partnership’s existing strength of exploratory work,” wrote Birney. “Many people in GA4GH, and some outside the Alliance, are eager to see more alignment, and there is an incredible pool of talent in engineering, genomics, clinical and ethics, all ready to come together around this.”

Birney’s initial focus will be on implementing data standards and tools that maximize the value of genomics data for research and clinical practice. The GA4GH will place a stronger emphasis on implementation, making GA4GH tools and solutions useful in real-world settings such as data-sharing initiatives.