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At Beyond the Genome, Talks Focused on Single-Cell Genomics and Informatics

Beyond the Genome, a top-notch conference hosted by Genome Biology and Genome Medicine, took place at the beautiful Mission Bay Conference Center right here in San Francisco last week. There were lots of great highlights from the event.

#BTG13 We were pleased to see the opening day focus so heavily on single-cell genomics. Nicholas Navin from MD Anderson Cancer Center gave an overview of this burgeoning field, sharing recent studies and walking through challenges such as assembly and distinguishing real biological variants from technical artifacts. This wasn’t new territory for us: one of the user-contributed apps on DNAnexus is a tool called SPAdes, a genome assembler designed specifically for single-cell studies. It has garnered lots of attention with single-cell and metagenomic studies for its ability to properly assemble DNA reads that other assemblers have trouble with. Looking ahead, scientists like Sunney Xie from Harvard spoke about moving toward studies of DNA and RNA from the same single cell.

The final day of the conference was devoted to informatics, so of course we were especially eager for those talks. Speakers highlighted best practices in genome assembly methods, comparing several different available tools. One of the reasons we think it’s so important to offer as many of the leading solutions as possible through the DNAnexus platform is precisely for this reason: scientists should be able to effortlessly compare the performance of various tools on their data sets. We also gave ourselves a pat on the back during a talk from Chris Dagdigian at BioTeam; he noted that Amazon has a multiple-year head start in cloud computing compared to most other providers. We looked long and hard before selecting Amazon Web Services as our cloud source, and it was nice to hear from an outsider that we made the right choice!

The final keynote came from genomics luminary David Haussler at UC Santa Cruz. He spoke about the new Global Alliance, encouraging data sharing and standardization methods to facilitate that. He also cited the need to get rid of silos that are keeping research data separate from clinical data. In a look at cancer genomics data, Haussler said cloud computing was necessary to conduct analysis in such large-scale projects, and that choosing a cloud-based solution allows users to bring computation to the data, rather than slowly and painfully moving these massive data sets to the tools. We heartily agree.

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DNAnexus the leader in biomedical informatics and data management, has created the global network for genomics and other biomedical data, operating in 33 countries including North America, Europe, China, Australia, South America, and Africa. The secure, scalable, and collaborative DNAnexus Platform helps thousands of researchers across a spectrum of industries — biopharmaceutical, bioagricultural, sequencing services, clinical diagnostics, government, and research consortia — accelerate their genomics programs.

The DNAnexus team is made up of experts in computational biology and cloud computing who work with organizations to tackle some of the most exciting opportunities in human health, making it easier—and in many cases feasible—to work with genomic data. With DNAnexus, organizations can stay a step ahead in leveraging genomics to achieve their goals. The future of human health is in genomics. DNAnexus brings it all together.