Bio-IT World Conference & Expo Explores Trends and Innovations Leading Life Sciences

March 17, 2022

March 17, 2022 | The Bio-IT World Conference & Expo kicks off the first week in May, back in its pre-pandemic Spring timeslot. We are looking forward to joining the Bio-IT community both in person and virtually and exploring the progress the community has made over the past two years. While the program is packed full of sessions to flag, here are the sessions outside of the track schedule that we are highlighting. –The Editors

Wrangling Biology’s Big Data

George Church, Robert Winthrop Professor, Genetics, Harvard Medical School, kicks off the event with the Tuesday evening keynote outlining what IT can do for biology and how biology can serve IT. Biology has a data volume problem, he says, and the IT lift there seems fairly clear. We have 7.7 billion diploid humans yet to be sequenced and correlated with their environments and traits in the Personal Genome Project, he points out, plus over 8.7 million eukaryotic species, pathogenic and commensal bacteria, allergens, viruses, ancient DNA, and more. But biology can lend a hand to IT as well, he argues. Enormous chemical and biological 'libraries' can perform 'Natural Computing' for tasks far beyond current von-Neumann silicon and quantum computers. He plans to explore how these machine learning + megalibraries (ML-ML) are already having a commercial impact.

Thursday morning’s plenary speaker in conjunction with the bioinformatics track, will dig deeper into the big data problems facing biology. Shankar Subramaniam, Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering, University of California at San Diego, will overview how population-scale genomics programs like UK Biobank, All of US, TOPMed and others uncover new insights into cellular processes in the normal and disease state and facilitated the search for safe and effective medicines.

From there, a series of speakers in the Bioinformatics track will share their experiences generating and analyzing large-scale genomics data. Researchers from Janssen, Johnson & Johnson, University of Oxford, and University of Southern California will get granular, sharing how they analyzed massive datasets and converted those findings into real therapeutic advances for neurodegenerative diseases, Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Diseases, and other complex diseases. Then experts from Janssen, San Diego Supercomputer Center, UK Biobank, AstraZeneca, and University of California at San Diego will address the compute burden of such large datasets, sharing how they set up the high performance computing needed to translate data into discovery.


Thursday evening, Chris Dagdigian leads the Trends from the Trenches panel, and will again welcome friends to weigh in on the best, most worthwhile, and most overhyped information technologies (IT) for life sciences. Dagdigian always emphasizes that his platform comes because of his unique balance of domain insight and the permission to speak freely, and he consistently uses it to flag the cultural issues he feels bio-IT needs to address.

This year the Trends from the Trenches podcast is the newest member of the Trends content family, regularly inviting industry insiders to share their own views on the science, technology, and executive trends driving the life sciences.

Sandbox Options

The Bio-IT World Conference & Expo also has opportunity for hands-on collaboration and learning as well. Bio-IT World is again hosting a Hackathon, bringing together life science and IT teams to tackle actual bioinformatics projects with maximum impact potential. Submissions are still open (until Friday, April 1) for 2022 Hackathon projects; they are meant to feature either open source tools or some or all aspects of making data FAIR: findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. All projects will be broadly applicable to the data science community. Past projects have included “DOE JGI Genomics Data Set” from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, “Bringing the Power of Synthetic Data Generation to the Masses” from the Broad Institute, and “FAIR Beyond Data – Applications as FAIR” from the Jackson Laboratory.

Pre-conference workshops and symposia also offer attendees opportunities to walk through case studies and learn how and where to apply new technologies. This year a half-day symposium focuses on FAIR data with speakers from NIH, Stanford, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, UK Biobank, DNAnexus, Google Cloud, and many more. Speakers will highlight the “how” and “why” between making—and maintaining FAIR data.  

Finally, the pre-conference workshops offer a menu of deeper dives into digital twins, AI and ML, knowledge graphs for pharma, data lakes with Amazon Web Services, and more. These instructional and interactive sessions give attendees more opportunity for deeper learning and one-on-one interaction.