BioData World Congress: First in-person Conference of 2021

The first in-person conference of 2021, BioData World Congress and Genomics Live, was held in Basel, Switzerland. Over 800 attendees from all over the world met here from 2-4th November. From The Hyve, Harry van Haften, Sjoerd van Hagen, Maria Escala-Garcia, Bjorn Wouters and I attended. During the conference, Maria gave a talk on OMOP/OHDSI in the biomedical data landscape. Bjorn chaired the track session on “Real World Evidence/Real World Data.” We all attended numerous talks and panel discussions, made new friends, and caught up with old ones.

The conference drew many experts from various fields: Data Integration and FAIR, RWE/RWD (Real-world evidence/Real-world data), Digital Transformation, AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning), Data Privacy, and Regulation, to name a few. It was great to have an opportunity to hear so many talks from opinion leaders, all gathered in one place.

The first day of the conference started with keynote lectures centred around unlocking the true potential of real-world data. The talks covered topics such as “Unlocking Secondary Use of Data”, “Transforming Healthcare Delivery with Evidence and Data”, and “Using the power of AI, data analytics, and community to discover the true potential of real-world data”. It was inspiring to listen to these talks and discuss how to improve open science, make data more FAIR and enhance data usage to improve patient outcomes—developments that we at The Hyve have been advocating for years.

Our Business Analyst and Genomics and Health Data Expert, Maria Escala-Garcia presented her talk on “Where OMOP/OHDSI fits in the biomedical data landscape: Limits and possibilities for integration with genomics and other data types” on the first day as well. Key take-home messages from Maria’s talk were that reliable evidence is strengthened when organizations use a common shared framework and standardized analytics. International collaboration is possible and should be encouraged with international standards. We should also think beyond clinical data since other medical data types can also be integrated into the OMOP CDM. Maria’s slide deck can be found here.

Bjorn Wouters, our Open Targets and Human Population Genetics Expert, chaired the Real World Evidence/Real World Data track. The track's panel discussion was on "Failings of the application of Big Data in the COVID-19 pandemic" and explored where Big Data could have provided a more significant impact. The conclusion was that the key lies in industry, academia and policymakers working in synergy to make results and data actionable.

The first day ended with a Networking and Drinks reception and an excellent performance by the Neri and Sons band from Tübingen, Germany, most of whose members are physicians at University Children's Hospital Tübingen.

The second and third days of the conference were equally enthralling. I got the chance to attend talks in Genomics Live's Single Cell track and learn about the latest trends and updates in this up-and-coming field. My learnings from those talks will help me, for example, improve my work on single-cell visualization tools. (More information on single-cell visualization tools can be found in this article.) All The Hyve’s colleagues had a great time meeting new people, learning about the interesting work other companies are doing, catching up with collaborators. All thanks to this well-organized conference.

To conclude

It was great to revisit the BioData World Congress and have the opportunity to catch up, talk, and share ideas with collaborators and people from like-minded organizations. The chance to attend a congress in person after two years of virtual conferences was invaluable to us. We are already looking forward to BioData World Congress 2022, to be held in Basel, Switzerland. We hope to see you there!

Written by

Jessica Singh