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On October 25, 2018, the 13th International Conference on Genomics (ICG-13) officially kicked-off in Shenzhen, China. Following the opening ceremony, scholars and experts from all over the world to give speeches on the development in medical, basic research, omics technologies, and other fields.
Dr. Maryam Matar, the Founder and Chairperson, UAE Genetic Diseases Association (GDA), shared the remarkable results of prenatal screening in UAE. She mentioned that the mandatory prenatal and premarital screening has reduced the birth defects effectively and allows people to make birth-related choices with full understanding. In her speech, she pointed out that the UAE is more helpful for certain X-linked disease research because of its small population. She called for more extensive international cooperation to jointly reduce birth defects.
Prof. Wendy Bickmore, MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh, introduced the function of the non-coding genome in her speech titled “Understanding Function in the Non-Coding Genome”. Most parts of the genome are non-coding area and disease-related mutations mainly are located in these areas. Through GWAS research many loci have been found. She described her team laboratory's work in validating these variant functions and validated the function of many coding region mutations in zebrafish and mouse models. She also shared their discoveries of the fundamental role three-dimensional chromatin folding in the nucleus in enhancer-promoter communication.
Mr. Chris Gough, Global Director of Health and Life Sciences Division at Intel Corporation delivered a keynote speech on the topic “Genomic Medicine Goes from Hype to Reality”. Genomic sequencing and analysis are the essential of genomic medicine. With the rapid development of genomics, scientists have made breakthrough discoveries in cancer. The clinical treatment for cancer patients has also advanced from one-session treatment to personalized precision medicine. In the next 20 years, genetic testing will help patients with advanced cancer to significantly increase their 5-year survival rate and allow cancer patients to accurately choose treatments corresponding to their genetic testing results.
Currently, the new trend is to increase the sequencing population. In 2018 7.6 billion people will generate about 2660 exabytes data if per person is around 350 GB. With the burst of data, data size management, throughput processing, architectural processing power and cost will become issues to be addressed. He summarized these potential issues. Intel has made corresponding technological development in planning to these issues, providing important support for data applications in the future gene sequencing era.
Prof. Leroy Hood, Professor and Chief Strategy Officer, Institute for Systems Biology. Co-founder of Applied Biosystems gave a keynote speech titled “21st Century Medicine Will Transform Healthcare”, sharing his vison for P4 medicine – healthcare model that is predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory. Its two major objectives are to quantify wellness and predict and prevent disease.
He also mentioned that seemingly healthy people may have unexpected health risks. He shared his research program – P4 test, which took four years to collect volunteers’ blood samples and used systematic biological analysis methods to more precisely understand human health and disease occurrence processes, as well as the transition between these two states, and is expected to find blood marker for transformation of various diseases. Professor Lee Hood pointed out that they will also apply this P4 system medicine concept to Alzheimer's research to help Alzheimer's risk patients’ early detection and early intervention.
Prof. Walter F. Bodmer, University of Oxford UK, delivered a keynote speech titled “Approaches to Complex Trait Analysis: The Genetics of the Human Face”. He introduced the latest research of Genome-wide association study (GWAS) in face identification.
GWAS is widely applied in the research of phenotype and genotype association studies of various species, like the corps yield, animal skin color and human disease research. Despite the high degree of variability in facial features, children usually resemble their parents, which means that facial feature has high heritability, and this is the result of natural selection. Meanwhile, face recognition is one of the important skills of people's daily life. Babies can remember their mothers’ faces at a very young age and the face recognition in the human brain has a complex mechanism. Therefore, this study is of great significance in sociology and brain science research.
Professor Walter F. Bodmer also introduced his latest research by selecting the face data of twins in PoBI (People of the British Isles) database and using 3dMD image technology the twin data of People of England Isles to identify nearly 10,000 feature points of the face. Based on this, genetic value prediction and principal component analysis extraction can distinguish the facial features of twins. This study deepens the understanding of facial features and lays a solid foundation for future genetic research in this area.
Prof. Evert Jacobsen, Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands, made a keynote speech on the topic of “Plant Breeding and the Need of Genomics as a Tool”. He pointed out that potatoes are the fourth largest food crop in the world following wheat, rice and maize. Because most of the potato are heterozygous tetraploids which are quite complex for sequencing and limits the research progress of the potato genome.
Prof. Jacobsen has more than 40 years’ experience in plant breeding and dedicated to the research of potato crossbreeding. In recent 20 years, he has to lead the development of potato breeding through various technologies – radiation induced mutation, RNA interference, gene editing, and so on. Decreasing the expression of polyphenol oxidase by the RNA interference technology can reduce the tuber bruise and increase the production. Silencing of 6 S (susceptibility) genes in potato, like StDND1 and StPMR4, can result in resistance to late blight and other diseases like powdery mildew and Botrytis cinereal, which can also reduce the breeding period.
Prof. Haifan, Lin, Director, Yale Stem Cell Center, Yale University School of Medicine, USA, gave a keynote speech titled “Multifacted Roles of piRNAs in Gene Regulation”. The Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) is a non-coding RNA and plays important role in regulating gene expression, but piRNA mechanism has not been studied as clearly as siRNA and miRNA, which makes it necessary to study the mechanism of piRNA regulating gene expression. He also introduced the crucial roles of the Piwi-piRNA epigenetic programming and in posttranscriptional regulation of mRNA and lncRNA.
During the three-day conference, more than one hundred experts and scholars will give speeches at the conference, covering topics in medicine, such as genomes and cancer, basic research, such as genomics and evolution and agriculture, and the latest developments in ‘omics’ technology, such as advances in imaging tools. The Conference has attracted more than 1000 participants coming from 30 different research directions in the field of sequencing technology.
Thirteen years since the first ICG was held in 2006, more than a thousand industry leaders, experts, and scholars gather every year to discuss to discuss current issues and innovations in the field of genetics and related disciplines. ICG has grown to become one of the most influential annual meetings in ‘omics’ research. The ICG has proved itself as a platform to share our experiences and expertise, and more importantly, to share our visions and foresight of the whole field of “omics” and life sciences.