Festival of Genomics Boston 2016Day 2 opened under the expert guidance of Dr Robert Green again. He introduced the days major announcement; the winners of the PrecisionFDA Truth Challenge. For those of you not familiar with the challenge, it was an opportunity for users to test their bioinformatic pipelines on data it hadn’t been trained on before. In layman’s terms (my terms), it’s like taking the training wheels off the bicycle, and seeing what it can really do. As we move toward standardisation and greater adoption, this is a great opportunity to see just how good we are at variant calling!

Genomics and DNA have had a long, colourful history in the press, and telling those tales “from the genomics beat” was science writer Carl Zimmer. In a different approach to the Festival plenary, Carl took a look back at the history of reporting on genomics, from the Human Genome Project to the octopus alien genome debacle. A torrent of press releases about newly sequenced genomes, and lacklustre enthusiasm about the results of direct-to-consumer testing, has lead to a phenomenon Carl described as “Boring Genome Syndrome”. But the human genome should not be boring! Making it exciting and engaging is a challenge for science writers everywhere. Like your humble FLG publishing team.

Seven Bridges closed out the session with a talk by Jack DiGiovanna. They’re a company that’s coming out strong. After the obligatory intro to the promised land of genomic medicine, Jack presented on some genuinely very cool stuff. Common Workflow Language, and everything they’re doing to make data that much more easy to use, pretty impressive. He also talked about Graph Genome Tools. I’m not going to link to it here, just so people don’t think I’m under any kind of obligation to be nice about Seven Bridges. But if you want to see an incredibly neat solution to data compression, and a fascinating way to give yourself a new perspective on population genomics, go look it up!

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the standout presentations from the morning, from last year’s plenary speaker George Church. Speaking to a packed room in the Genome Editing stream, George gave us a whistle-stop tour through his work reading and writing “omes”. In a sardonic nod to recent critics, George commented “This isn’t a secret meeting. So feel free to tweet as much as you like.” 

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