Open Access alliance on genomic data

Nieuws | de redactie
23 maart 2012 | Netherlands eScience Center will cooperate with the top Chinese institute BGI on open access to genomic data. eScience director Prof Jacob de Vlieg believes that “this is a very exciting initiative to promote ‘Big Data’ driven scientific discoveries in the fields of genomics and bioinformatics”.

eScience Center will enter a collaboration with the NetherlandsInstitute of Bioinformatics (NBIC), the Technological Top Instituteof Green Genetics (TTI GG) and the Chinese Beijing GenomicsInstitute (BGI). Goal of the alliance will be to foster open accessin genomics and bioinformatics. The group wants to “encouragecollaborative initiatives and community building in the areas ofdata management, infrastructure and analysis within theirrespective programmes.”

BGI gained particular fame last year when it managed tocompletely sequence the bacterium causing the “cucumber”EHEC epidemic. Only last month, the Chinese institute expanded its European operations by opening itsfirst sequencing center in Denmark. Netherlands eScience Centeritself has gone to great lengths in promoting open access. Theorganization’s two chairman, Amandus Lundqvist and Jos Engelen, explained their vision in an interview withScienceGuide.

Full press statement by BGI

BGI, the world’s largest genomics organisation, TechnologicalTop Institute of Green Genetics (TTI GG), Netherlands eScienceCentre (NLeSC), and Netherlands Institute of Bioinformatics (NBIC)signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to address the challengeof managing, transporting, integrating and analysing today’stremendous flow of genomic data. The collaborating organisationsadvocate the adoption and application of Open Source and OpenAccess initiatives to genomic data to more easily and rapidlyexplore the mysteries of life science.

Genomic data generation is accelerating at an exponential rate,driven by the rapid development of high-throughput sequencingtechnologies, posing new demands and challenges for data handling,storage and transmission. Under the MOU, researchers from BGI, TTIGG, NLeSC and NBIC have agreed to encourage collaborativeinitiatives and community building in the areas of data management,infrastructure and analysis within their respective programmes.Such collaboration will encourage the development and sharing ofservices, infrastructure and facilities with the goal of enablingmore sustainable and effective access and understanding of genomicdata.

BGI has conducted considerable research to tackle the flood ofgenomic data. In late 2011, it developed a BGI-BOX cloud computingterminal server for users lacking a bioinformatics background toaccess genomic data and bioinformatics analyses in their ownlaboratories. In addition, BGI and open-access publisher BioMedCentral launchedGigaScience,a new combined database and journalfocused on the publication and hosting of large-scale data. Thejournal makes it possible for the release of large data sets morerapidly to the wider research community.

“Genomics revolutionized the life sciences,” said Professor JianWang, president of BGI, “but the growing flood of genomic dataposes an enormous challenge to optimizing and sustaining thebenefit of high-throughput sequencing technologies. BGI has madesignificant efforts to tackle this challenge to advancing lifescience research, and this cooperative agreement should provide anexample for researchers worldwide on the importance and value ofshared, sustainable data management and data manipulation inbiological and medical studies.”

The signing of MOU provides an opportunity for scientists fromChina and Netherlands to achieve powerful cooperation for bettertaming tremendous data. Dr. Bernard de Geus, director of TTI GG,said in brief, “Big data: Big expectation, big challenge, bigopportunity.” TTI GG has been established jointly by Dutchcompanies in the area of plant breeding and propagation,universities and knowledge institutions with the mission being topromote research and education and to create continuity in Dutchknowledge and education base.

NLeSC is a joint initiative by the Netherlands Organization forScientific Research NWO and SURF, which supports and reinforcesmultidisciplinary and data-intensive research througheScience, thecreative and innovative use of ICT and e-infrastructures in all itsmanifestations with the aim to change scientific practice byenabling large-scale “Big Data” analysis across multipledisciplines. Professor dr. Jacob de Vlieg, director of NLeSC, said,”This is a very exciting initiative to link minds and eScienceconcepts between scientists from BGI and the Netherlands, and topromote ‘Big Data’ driven scientific discoveries in the fields ofgenomics and bioinformatics.”

NBIC, the national networked organization of bioinformatics,pursues innovation in life sciences R&D through seamlessintegration of life science data, information and models in thequantitative analysis of biological systems. Dr. Barend Mons,Scientific director of NBIC, stated, “As soon as one measuresanything in the ‘Omics’ era, one needs computers even to manage thedata. For understanding them and turning them into knowledge,computational methods are indispensable and traditional methods ofinformation sharing are hopelessly out of date. We should worktogether to face this challenge.”

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