Heidi Rehm will succeed Ewan Birney as GA4GH Chair

20 Sep 2023

The GA4GH Inc. Board of Directors has elected Heidi Rehm to succeed Ewan Birney, who will complete his term as Chair of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) at the end of 2023. 

“We thank Ewan Birney for his many years of committed service as Chair, and congratulate Heidi Rehm on her election and leadership. With more than 40 open-source standards, frameworks, and tools, GA4GH has built a strong foundation to support responsible genomic data use. Thanks to leaders like Heidi and Ewan, we are getting closer to a world where genomic knowledge benefits patients and people everywhere,” said Peter Goodhand, CEO of GA4GH.  

Rehm has served as a GA4GH Vice-Chair since 2018. She is also Chief Genomics Officer at Massachusetts General Hospital and Co-Director of the Program in Medical and Population Genetics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

“Patients deserve healthcare informed by broad, democratised, and responsible sharing of data and knowledge. GA4GH is an alliance for both genomics and health. As Chair, I intend to bridge those sometimes disparate worlds, bringing the clinic more fully into the GA4GH community and truly fulfilling the mission of accelerating progress in human health,” said Rehm.

“Ewan Birney has transformed GA4GH into the world’s foremost genomics standards organisation. I look forward to building on his legacy and collaborating with the GA4GH community to further expand responsible genomic and health data use,” she said.

Rehm has plans to expand support for GA4GH product implementation and strengthen collaboration with clinical communities to ensure GA4GH work benefits the interface of research and clinical care.

Rehm will serve as Chair Elect until January 2024, when she will become Chair of the GA4GH Inc. Board of Directors, as well as of the wider alliance.

GA4GH Inc. is a not-for-profit organisation that serves as the legal entity for GA4GH. Recently its Board of Directors adopted a new model for Chair term lengths following the practices of similar organisations. Each Chair will serve one year as Chair Elect, one three-year term as Chair (with an option to extend for up to three additional years), and one year as Chair Emeritus.

Birney will become Chair Emeritus at the end of this year and remain a member of the GA4GH Inc. Board of Directors.

Birney, who is also Deputy Director General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and Joint Director of EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute, has served as GA4GH Chair since November 2016.

During his tenure, Birney built momentum for the work of global genomics standards development. He established a new organisational structure for GA4GH, recruited supporters across the genomics and health community, championed fit-for-purpose standards, and raised the profile of GA4GH around the world.

“When I started as Chair, I could only have hoped to see GA4GH standards underpin many of the millions of human genomic analyses conducted around the world, as they now do,” said Birney. “I plan to stay deeply involved in GA4GH and am excited to get started on a number of projects that will build global enthusiasm for GA4GH standards, with a focus on implementation of GA4GH standards in Europe.”

“I couldn’t be more thrilled that Heidi Rehm will lead genomic standards and policy development into the future, and look forward to supporting her,” he added.

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