#BioITExpo: Agenda Highlights for the 2024 Bio-IT World Conference & Expo

March 22, 2024

By Bio-IT World Staff 

March 22, 2024 | With the Bio-IT World Conference & Expo less than a month away, we are busy marking our schedules and planning our week.  

This year the event shifts a day, starting on Monday, and offers six deep-dive full day symposia on topics including automation, quantum computing, knowledge graphs, and more. If a deep dive is not needed, there is also a menu of shorter morning and afternoon workshops on digital twins, digitizing R&D, semantic technologies, practical data science, and many more.  

We’ll join together on Monday afternoon for the main program, starting with Dan Stanzione’s opening plenary keynote. Stanzione, Executive Director, Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), will share how TACC is harnessing the potential of high-performance computing (HPC), machine learning (ML), and data analytics to revolutionize medicine. He’ll share TACC’s vision for shaping the future of biomedical informatics where innovation, collaboration, and cutting-edge technologies converge to redefine the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of medicine. 

In Tuesday’s plenary session—after the Innovative Practices Awards Ceremony—Caroline Chung, a physician and Vice President and Chief Data Officer and Director of Data Science Development and Implementation of the Institute for Data Science in Oncology, MD Anderson Cancer Center will explore the transformative potential of digital twins in revolutionizing cancer care and research. She’ll share how digital twins can help deepen biological understanding, accelerate drug discovery, and personalize therapeutic strategies as well as outline the challenges that must be tackled to improve patient outcomes. 

Finally, on Wednesday, David Hewlett, Actor/Writer/Director and Creator of The Tech Bandits will challenge the scientific and technology communities take back the discovery narrative, filling gaps between what’s real and what could be real soon! He’s meeting the future generation where they are in schools, on YouTube, and on Twitch, championing real science in all its iterative, messy, exploratory glory, to recruit bright, diverse minds to lead the next generation of real scientists.  

If you’re more interested in Bio-IT business than research and discovery, don’t miss the inaugural Bio-IT World Venture, Innovation, and Partnering Conference on Wednesday. The Bio-IT VIP event lets executives explore the spectrum of investors—from venture capitalists to institutional funds—and discover the pivotal role of pharmaceutical companies and the technologies commanding investment interest. 

Adding to Agenda  

From there, we’re just starting to flag sessions we can’t miss—some in person; some we’ll come back to later virtually! 

While the promise of an all-encompassing and integrated data platform may be clear to the community, the execution and value generation is never a straight line. Peng Cheng Zhang, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, speaks to the promise and evolution of an integrated data platform. A modern data platform must continue to evolve and adapt based on the needs of the users, he says. Tuesday, April 16, 10:25am 

John Damask, Vice President, Data & Systems Engineering, Flagship Pioneering, will provide some balance to the abundance of cloud adoption success stories. He’ll explore real-world examples from start-ups and big pharma of things that didn’t go quite as expected. Some stories may be familiar, some not, but they all contribute to our understanding of how life science organizations can make the best use of the cloud. The experiences presented are with AWS but generalizable to other cloud providers. Tuesday, April 16, 2:30pm 

Since 2010, the “Trends from the Trenches” session has delivered a candid assessment of the best, the most worthwhile, and the most overhyped information technologies (IT) for life sciences. This year, Ari Berman, CEO of BioTeam, will share about computing, storage, data transfer, networks, cloud, data science, machine learning, and more that are involved in supporting data-intensive science. Wednesday, April 17, 2:35pm 

Eric Ma, Principal Data Scientist, Moderna, plans to explore the potential of data science through the strategic integration of Large Language Models (LLMs) and software skills. This symbiotic relationship accelerates workflows and facilitates efficient data analysis and interpretation, offering a gateway to enhanced productivity and innovation in the dynamic realm of data science. Tuesday, April 16, 10:55am 

Brian Martin, Head of AI, R&D Information Research at AbbVie shares the stage with Kayvan Najarian, PhD, Professor, Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan to discuss how industry-university collaboration can enable early research. They will share about an example collaboration as part of the Center for Data-Driven Drug Development and Treatment Assessment (DATA) at the University of Michigan, supported by the National Science Foundation, and will describe a powerful model of collaboration that enables high-risk/high-potential early research while preserving most intellectual property concerns and encouraging industry and academia-wide collaboration. Wednesday, April 17, 10:40am 

The task of developing, testing, and evaluating research and regulatory-grade AI systems is challenging, especially when it involves multi-modal clinical and scientific data. Asha Mahesh, Senior Director, Data Science Solutions, Privacy & Ethics at Janssen R&D, will discuss the pharma’s framework, processes, quality system, and technology stack to overcome these challenges and develop and deploy AI systems at scale. Tuesday, April 16, 10:25am 

Naga Karthik Ghantasala, Director, Cloud Architecture and Strategy at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, will give insight into how Vertex modernized its image segmentation platform using AWS Serverless technologies. Vertex’s legacy system had pain points associated with it, but the new cloud-based system using AWS Serverless offered benefits and ease of use for researchers. Tuesday, April 16, 11:25am 

Real-world data (RWD) is revolutionizing the pharmaceutical industry by offering valuable insights beyond clinical trials. It allows for the assessment of drug effectiveness, patient outcomes, and safety in real-world scenarios. However, the heterogeneity of data types, varying degrees of data completeness and incompatible legacy systems create significant challenges and opportunities to perform any scientific study. Anu Sharma, Principal Scientist, Center for Observational & Real-World Evidence and Merck & Co. shares how Generative AI can address challenges to enhance data-driven decisions, help identify trends, correlations, and insights aiding researchers. Tuesday, April 16, 10:25am 

Murthy Devarakonda, PhD, Executive Director and Head of NLP, AI Innovations Center, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research poses a provocative question: Can we engineer biology using generative AI techniques? AlphaFold 2, of course, has the capability to predict protein folds, and recently many foundation models have been proposed to represent single cell RNA sequences. Devarakonda will argue that engineering a cell with desired characteristics with these models is closer than we think. Tuesday, April 16, 2:30pm 

Generative AI has the potential to revolutionize clinical development from optimizing trial design, automating trial document generation to regulatory filling support says Jenny Wei, PhD, Head R&D Informatics and Technology at Kite Pharma. She will share Kite’s experience automating clinical study protocol generation using Google’s Palm2 32k and share Kite’s guiding principles for achieving value of GenAI quickly. Wednesday, April 17, 11:10 

A panel takes on what drug discovery might look like with human virtual models (HVMs). By harnessing computational approaches—HVMs as well as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), generative AI, predictive analytics, and high-performance computing—the simulation of intricate biological systems offers a nuanced understanding of molecular-level drug interactions. Priyanka Banerjee, PhD, Principal Investigator & Scientist, Charite University of Medicine (Germany); Eric Stahlberg, PhD, Director, Cancer Data Science Initiatives, Cancer Research Technology Program, Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research; and Mariano Vazquez, PhD, Co-Founder and CTO, ELEM Biotech (Spain) will explore the current realities and the potential for the future. Wednesday, April 17, 2:35pm 

James Cole, Vice President, Product Innovation, GenomOncology and Samir Courdy, Senior Vice President, Informatics, City of Hope will share how City of Hope's POSEIDON (Precision Oncology Software Environment Interoperable Data Ontologies Network—a 2023 Innovative Practices Award winner) integrates both structured and unstructured patient and clinical data through HopeIQ—an advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) data curation solution that leverages GenomOncology’s igniteIQ data-enablement solution. Tuesday, April 16, 3pm 

Mirella Kalafati, Team Leader Genomics and Target Discovery at The Hyve shares how to develop an automated pipeline bridging cBioPortal's curated cancer genomics data with Open Targets (OT), facilitating target-disease associations. The pipeline, employing Scala and Python, transforms cBioPortal evidence into OT-compatible scores, effectively integrating evidence into OT with a user-friendly interface. This integration enhances cancer research by enabling a streamlined ranking of drug targets based on advanced genomics, fostering a more interconnected ecosystem for researchers and clinicians. Tuesday, April 16, 10:40am  

Knowledge graphs require deep expertise to assemble and are challenging to maintain. Large language models can “learn” from a broad corpus but may hallucinate for under-trained queries. In 2023 an impromptu expert panel debated the relative benefits/drawbacks of both. This year, Tom Plasterer, Director, Bioinformatics, Data Science & AI, Biopharmaceutical R&D at AstraZeneca moderates a formal panel to debate the landscape's transformation throughout the year. Panelists include Benjamin R. Busby, PhD, Director, Solution Science, DNAnexus; Helena Deus, PhD, Principal, Technology Consulting, EPAM Systems; and Brian Martin, Head of AI, R&D Information Research; Research Fellow, AbbVie. Tuesday, April 16, 3:30pm