Microbiome at BioData World West 2017

Last month, from April 26th to April 27th, I attended the BioData World West conference representing GENEWIZ, where I am a Bioinformatics Analyst (developer) working primarily on metagenomics.  The focus of the conference were three major areas: Genomics & Health, Precision Medicine, and Artificial Intelligence.  The conference, in San Francisco, hosted a variety of forward thinking and interdisciplinary organizations ranging from the top academic institutions to big industry players from abroad (Google, Merck, Illumina, etc.) to start ups in AI/tech/biotech/pharma.  The talks and conversations I had there were exciting and educational and the networking opportunities were amazing – I believe a number of collaborations were born there.   You can see details about the conference through this link: BioData World West 2017

My highlighted talks were by Atul Butte (UCSF), Jeff Dean (Google), Ronald Pryzgodski (MVP), Steve Miller (USCF, developed SURPI), Ali Torkamani (Scripps), and Sylvain Costes (NASA).  However, every talk was fascinating in its own way and I’d highly recommend this conference to anyone in this space – I could write 10 posts about what I learned but I’ll focus on the microbiome below.  It seemed everyone loved to talk and learn from each other about microbiome-related science, even the people focused mainly on AI.

In regard to the microbiome, many if not most talks incorporated, mentioned, or focused on the importance of this area of research.  Here are some of my high level notes related to the microbiome:

  • Phenotyping is a big area that we need to develop and are establishing right now.  The microbiome is an aspect of our phenotype and should be considered a distinct biomarker.
  • Mobile / site of study lab and metagenomic techniques are important to develop
  • We need to work together to share our genomic data, including metagenomic data
  • AI can be used to find new information where we never thought to look – this, in my opinion, will have implications in studying the massive network of interactions between microbes but also in discovery of new microbes among other things
  • Steve Miller’s (SURPI) talk was fascinating.  Without going into too many details he is moving forward clinically with using metagenomics for pathogen detection and diagnoses – something I believe will be the future of infectious disease diagnostics (or at least could be used to establish accurate SNP-based panels).  I’d highly recommend following his publications and well as Dr. Chiu.  I believe exciting things are coming from his lab in the next year or so http://profiles.ucsf.edu/steve.miller
  • Cannabis microbiome studies are paramount because microbes are the only risk for cannabis – and pesticides typically cannot be used in production

I hope this post was interesting – the conference surely was – I can’t wait to see the advances we’ve made presented there next year!

Edward Messick

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