CRG Symposium “Computational Biology of Molecular sequences”, part 3

On the second day of the conference, some more interesting talks at the “Computational Biology of Molecular sequences” X CRG Symposium taking place at the PRBB Conference Hall. I will focus on one talk of each of the sessions (genome regulation, RNA analysis and genome annotation), although all were very interesting!

Ron Shamir (Tel Aviv University) presented Amadeus, a software platform for genome-scale detection of known and novel motifs in DNA sequences, and explained some of the findings they have done with it. He also presented his new book “Bioinformatics for biologists”, which will surely be very useful for many biologists drowning in today’s sea of data and tools for analysing it.

Anna Tramontano (Sapienza University), the only female out of the 20 invited speakers and a very well-known figure in the protein world, gave her first RNA talk ever, as she presented it. She talked about a new method for controlling gene expression: a long ncRNA which contains 2 miRNAs within its sequence, and which competes with those miRNAs on binding to their target genes.

Tim Hubbard (Sanger Institute) gave so much information in 45 min that was hard to keep track of it all. He started with the catch 22 of reference genomes: we want it to be complete, but we don’t want it to change… the proposed solution: to keep the reference genome and to release patches with ‘novel’ information or with corrections (the ‘fix’ patches) whenever we get more information. Now, this means that alignment algorithms will need to be aware of patches, he warned the audience.

He then moved on to the costs of sequencing a human genome (5000 pounds, as per October 2011) and said that every 2-4 years the cost drops by 10 times! With this ever-lowing costs, he said, in the UK there has been quite a lot of movement regarding future policies on genomic medicine. And the main question is: what is the health economic value on having all this information, of sequencing the whole population? Nobody knows that yet, but according to Hubbard, one day the cost of sequencing will go low enough and the usefulness of the information will grow enough so that they will both meet and make it viable.

He finally presented the ITFoM (IT Future of medicine) project, one of the six funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) flagship programme of the EU – which has the goal of “encouraging visionary, “mission-oriented” research with the potential to deliver breakthroughs in information technology with major benefits for European society and industry”. The ITFoM project is expected to run for at least 10 years and will receive funding of up to € 100 million per year.  Considering what they aim to do – integrating all available biological data to construct computational models of the biological processes that occur in every individual human – they will certainly need that much money… Just consider this fact: to cover all the ‘cancer genomes’ appearing every day, we would need to sequence a new genome every 2 seconds!

So, that was my own pick of the day. Of course, much more happened at the meeting. You can find summaries of all talks and much more at the Symposium’s website

And if you are interested in Computational Biology, don’t miss two upcoming events also at the PRBB:

Report by Maruxa Martinez, Scientific Editor at the PRBB


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