Barcelona shapes the future of medicine

30 September 2022

GA4GH Chair Ewan Birney offers opening remarks at the 10th Plenary.

GA4GH Chair Ewan Birney offers opening remarks at the 10th Plenary.

Press release courtesy of Bioinformatics Barcelona (BIB).

Barcelona’s science museum CosmoCaixa hosted the Global Alliance for Genomics & Health (GA4GH) 10th Plenary meeting on 22 and 23 September. During these two days, genomics and health experts from all over the world agreed on the importance of promoting a more humane medicine by means of state-of-the-art technology.

The conference gathered 250 attendees and consisted of 36 speakers and 23 panels and workshops, focusing on the challenges posed by the generation, management, and analysis of large amounts of genomic and clinical data. Topics ranged from the relevance of genomics in sequencing and tracing SARS-CoV-2, to the future application of personalised treatments for diabetes or cancer patients.

GA4GH is an international alliance leading the promotion of technical standards and policy frameworks which aim to break down the current barriers to biomedical data sharing, in order to advance research and facilitate implementation. Peter Goodhand, CEO of GA4GH, was very satisfied with the outcome of the first in-person Plenary after the pandemic: “It is great to be back in person, and people have said we couldn’t have chosen a better place: Barcelona has made us very much feel at home.”

Goodhand also highlighted the role of the Catalan capital as a genomic research hub, noting Spain was among the top five contributors to GA4GH’s activities. He thanked Bioinformatics Barcelona (BIB) for making this conference possible. BIB, a non-profit association, comprises 70 public and private institutions dedicated to research in biology and computer science with three common goals: knowledge generation, research advances, and industrial competitiveness.

Dr. Ana Ripoll, President of BIB, shared Goodhand’s enthusiasm: “Hosting this meeting is an opportunity to visualise what is being done worldwide, and learning firsthand the latest advances towards a global and personalised healthcare.” Ripoll trusts that technology will humanise medicine by helping health professionals with decision-making so they can dedicate more time to patients.

The conference ended with a guest star, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization. Swaminathan insisted on the need of implementing genomic research on a global scale, also in low and middle income countries, but always in a responsible way that respects standards and policies such as the ones GA4GH promotes.

San Francisco will take over hosting next year’s GA4GH’s Plenary meeting, with the mission to continue guiding technology towards a healthcare model that really serves people.