With so many talks and panels occurring across our four stages and Live Lounge, we understand that it can be pretty hard to pick out the most unmissable discussions at the festival this year. Given the conundrum, we thought we’d help out! We’ve selected a couple of talks and panels occurring across the two days which we think will be incredibly interesting and enormously informative for a whole range of people.

Of course, these are only our suggestions: with such a wide-ranging audience this year there’s a talk for everyone, and it’s easily possible that the talk you’ll find most useful is elsewhere in our packed agenda. For more information on all of our talks and panels at the festival this year, please visit the Festival of Genomics website or download our app to view the full festival agenda, including descriptions of all talks and bios of our speakers.

Day 1

The 2019 Festival of Genomics starts as it means to go on: whether you’re looking for clinical data or pharma talks you won’t be disappointed. That said, it might just be pharma professionals who edge out the competition in the afternoon, with a series of fantastic talks and panels featuring some of the biggest and most experienced names in global pharmaceuticals. Despite that, with a number of clinical case studies in the afternoon and some serious data heavyweights giving talks including Angela Douglas and Andy Brass, there’s definitely something for everyone.

Highlights include:


Senior Clinical Panel Discussion: Focusing on the Ethics of Genetic Testing: Consent, Confidentiality, GDPR & Data Sharing – Theatre 4, 11:30 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.

Prof. Anneke Lucassen, Professor of Clinical Genetics within Medicine at the University of Southampton; Prof. Madeleine Murtagh, Professor of Sociology and Bioethics at the University of Newcastle; Dr. Lisa Ballard, Research Fellow in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton; and Prof. William Newman, Professor of Translational Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester.

Understanding the framework of ethical obligations for when research and clinical care are completely integrated is paramount. Most public healthcare systems are not adequately prepared for responding to patient demands and to the results of genetic tests when, quite often, there is no available therapy for the identified genetic condition.

This panel discussion will touch on the emerging legal and ethical issues related to genetic testing and the relevant legal framework that has developed so far. Among other things it will look at how to improve patient sample tracking regarding ethical and legal issues and how we overcome the challenges faced with immediate attitude, understanding and perception of the patient.


Planning for the Future Evolution of Biodata: What You Need to Know and Why – Theatre 2, 11:00 A.M. – 11:30 A.M.

Prof. Andy Brass, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Manchester.

Ten years ago, the industry largely failed to adequately prepare infrastructure and processes to work effectively with genomic and other associated data sets today. This session explores what we can do now to prepare for how the use of data will change and increase in the next ten years, looking among other things at the failures and lessons learned from the last decade and what smart investments can be made in adaptable infrastructure to prevent future pain.


Panel: Applications of Human Genetics in Pharma – Theatre 3, 3:30 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.

Dr. Patrick Descombes, Head of Functional Genomics at Nestlé; Dr. Nicola Beer, Senior Head of Department at Novo Nordisk; and Dr. Victor Neduva, Group Leader at GSK.

Patient stratification is an important part of clinical trial planning, but is far from the only application of human genetics in drug discovery and development. This panel will take a critical look at the full pharma workflow and discuss the positive impact that applied human genetics can have in increasing success rates.

Day 2

Those presuming day two of the festival can’t possibly live up to its predecessor are in for a pleasant surprise: some of the most and engaging talks can be found on this day, both in the morning and afternoon sessions. Clinical professionals in particular will find lots to pique their interest here, with an entire theatre dedicated to talks on patient-centric healthcare, genomic integration and pharmacogenomics.

Highlights include:


Data Capabilities: Are We Ready for the Move to Whole Genome Sequencing? – Theatre 2, 3:50 P.M. – 4:10 P.M.

Prof. Tim Hubbard, Head of Department of Medical & Molecular Genetics and Head of Genome Analysis at Genomics England.

Clinical genomic testing is becoming an integral part of medical care, especially with scientists, medical practitioners, academia and industry analysing and evaluating the meaning of genomic sequencing data – thus bridging the gap for a cohesive research setting. But care needs to be taken in transition, so quality isn’t tampered with.  Undoubtedly, there are a range of views on NGS and WGS deployment. Among other things this talk will discuss how to ensure a seamless transition without inconsistency and uncertainty, and where whole genome sequence testing in healthcare will go next.


Data Security and Enabling the Power of Genomic Data – Theatre 4, 1:00 P.M. – 1:30 P.M.

Dame Fiona Caldicott, National Data Guardian within the Government of the United Kingdom.

We are fast moving into an era of consumer-driven healthcare. Patients and other shareholders increasingly want to engage, access and own their data. With that comes a need to remove barriers to consumer access, as well as the findings made from their data. This session covers complexities and barriers to consumer-owned data, as well as offering a vision for the future and looking at the importance of aligning incentives so that the interests of patients and consumers match the interests of organisations and what the genomics/life sciences community can do to prepare for an environment where access to data is more contingent on consumers.


Panel: The Rapidly Emerging Role of AI in Handling Increased Volumes of Unstructured Data Theatre 3, 10:30 A.M. – 11:00 A.M.

Prof. John Overington, Chief Information Officer at Medicines Discovery Catapult; Dr. Miika Ahdesmäki, Director of Bioinformatics at Cambridge Epigenetix; Dr. Satu Nahkuri, Principal Data Scientist at Roche; and Dr. Joshua Kaggie, MRI Physicist at the University of Cambridge.

Significant efforts are being made within the life sciences sector to ensure that data is structured properly. Unless data is structured, it cannot be found (discovered), queried (integrated) or used for analysis or interpretation. This session will outline the role of AI/ML in both handling and making sense of unstructured data. It will also discuss why the requirements for manually structured data will rapidly dissipate as automation takes hold, the importance of curated ontologies and/or metadata vocabularies to drive progress and achieving the correct process for handling unstructured data.

We hope you enjoy these and all our other talks and panels this year. Take a look at our full agenda for more talks that will appeal to you this year.