EUCANCan and ESPACE co-hosted the webinar ‘New IT approaches in genome analysis’ on January 11

To jump-start the new year, LINQ’s two projects EUCANCan and ESPACE teamed up to co-host the webinar ‘New IT approaches in genome analysis’ on January 11, 2021. LINQ organized the event together with the moderator Christian Lawerenz of Steinbeis.

Industry-academia partnerships are becoming increasingly important to research. EUCANCan and ESPACE’s joint webinar brought together members of both fields and provided a platform for discussions on how they can collaborate to improve genome research and patient care.

The three-hour-long interactive webinar began with an introduction of EUCANCan and ESPACE, followed by a walkthrough of the Global Alliance for Genomic Data’s open sharing platform. The second half of the webinar consisted of five keynotes by representatives of Dell, Illumina, SVA, Intel, and Institute Curie. A short Q&A session moderated by Christian Lawerenz followed each presentation.

The webinar was planned as part of EUCANCan’s Work Package 7, Dissemination and Exploitation, which LINQ leads. LINQ organized the event together with the moderator Christian Lawerenz, and we managed, among other things, the advertising of the event, all communication with participants prior, during, and after the event, and the set-up of the event registration page as well as the virtual meeting room.

Both EUCANCan and ESPACE, which LINQ manages, have received funding through the EU’s previous framework programme, Horizon 2020. (We have summarized the key information about Horizon 2020’s successor programme, Horizon Europe, in a recent article).

This article provides a summary of the key topics discussed during the webinar. A slightly modified version of this article was also published on both EUCANCan’s and ESPACE’s website.

About EUCANCan 

Presenter: David Torrents (Barcelona Supercomputing Center / EUCANCan Coordinator)

EUCANCan aims to support and enhance modern oncology by implementing a cultural, technological, and legal integrated framework across Europe and Canada. The framework will facilitate efficient analysis, management, and sharing of cancer genomic data within and between the project’s nodes.

David Torrents of Barcelona Supercomputing Center coordinates EUCANCan. The project is funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme on the European side and the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) on the Canadian side.


Presenter: Christian Conrad (Berlin Institute of Health)

ESPACE, an acronym for Expression and Spatial analysis Pancreas Atlas Consortium Europe, is part of the Human Cell Atlas (HCA), a global mission that aims to create comprehensive reference maps of all human cells to better understand human health and diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease. The ESPACE consortium will build a first version of the HCA of the pancreas.

The project is coordinated by Roland Eils of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and has received funding through Horizon 2020.

A walkthrough of the GA4GH platform

Presenter: Sven Twardziok (Charité Berlin)

The first attempt to sequence a whole human genome took over a decade. Today, this same feat can be accomplished in a single day. By 2025, it is estimated that over 60 million patients will have their genome sequenced in a healthcare context.
This development offers plentiful opportunities for science. However, managing these large volumes of data effectively and securely is a considerable challenge – a challenge that the GA4GH is trying to tackle with its open sharing platform. 

The GA4GH is a policy-framing and technical standards organization that aims to make the large amounts of life science data collected in healthcare and research institutions around the globe more easily accessible to researchers. The platform takes a low-tech approach where users can, for example, query an individual beacon to determine if the associated dataset contains information about a given genetic variant. If there is a match, the user can access the anonymized data through a computing cloud located near the protected source data.

For this type of platform to function properly, standards for how data should be stored, categorize, authorized, etcetera, must be in place.

5 presentations by representatives from leading industry partners

EUCANCan and ESPACE’s webinar aimed to offer a platform for business and academia representatives to meet and engage on common issues. To this purpose, the webinar included five keynote presentations by industry representatives, each followed by a short Q&A session.

Dell: Cloud technologies and the potentials for research

Presenter: Marten Neubauer 

Opening with a story about when he visited the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard two years ago, Marten Neubauer told how he was first surprised to learn that most of the Broad Genomics Platform’s data was not saved on local servers but on Google Cloud. Since then, more and more researchers and businesses have adopted cloud storage in some capacity. 

In his presentation, Neubauer talked about some of the key advantages of storing data in the cloud and explained how Dell can help their partners to, among other things, generate, store, analyze, and archiving data.

Illumina: Expand Your Understanding of Biology with Illumina Single-Cell & Spatial Sequencing

Presenter: Pawel Zajac 

Single-cell sequencing examines the sequence information from individual cells with optimized next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, a method of analysis that can help improve human understanding of biological health and disease. Illumina develop, manufacture, and market the type of NGS technologies required for single-cell sequencing studies. 

In his presentation, Pawel Zajac showcased how Illumina’s technology can be used in science, focusing on the technology’s cancer research application.

SVA: Automation of analysis processes in genomics 

Presenter: Giscard Venn

Giscard Venn began his presentation by reminding the audience that much data analysis was still done with paper and pen only a few decades ago. Illustrating how things have changed in recent years, he showed a crowded slide with hundreds of logos of current Big Data and AI tooling providers. 

The abundance of tools available today makes setting up efficient workflows between different systems increasingly difficult and time-consuming. Giscard Venn presented several examples of how smart integrations allow people working in life science to conduct more efficient data analyses. He also provided examples of how SVA can help companies and universities integrate their different systems.

Intel: A discussion about the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in genomics

Presenter: Michael McManus

Today, there is a severe shortage of genetic counselors in the U.S. Only around 15,000 genetic counselors are currently working in the country, though over two million people in the country are being actively sequenced in government projects. At the same time, tons of sequencing is also undertaken in the medical sector. 

As more and more people are having their genomes sequenced, the demand for new or improved digital methods of analysis is increasing. In his presentation, Michael McManus provided examples of how Artificial Intelligence can help speed up the interpretation process. He also showcased how Intel works to ramp up large-scale sequencing and analysis.  

Institut Curie: Alignment and sorting HTS data with Message Passing Interface

Presenter: Fredric Jarlier

In his presentation, Fredric Jarlier talked about how high-performance computing and parallelization tools can compress delivery time in the early processes of high-throughput sequencing data. 

Emphasizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to patient care is no longer enough, he provided examples of how high-throughput screening data analysis can be used to advance precision medicine.


The EUCANCan and ESPACE consortia direct a huge ‘thank you’ to all presenters and participants in the webinar. 

The webinar ‘New IT approaches in genomic analysis’ was the first in EUCANCan’s planned series of Industry Workshops. It was followed by a half-day online training in how to use cloud computing efficiently in biomedical research
one day later, on January 12. This event too was co-hosted by EUCANCan and ESPACE and moderated by Christian Lawerenz. 

If you have any questions about the webinar or about LINQ’s role in organizing it, please do not hesitate to contact us.