Sylvester Director Delivers Keynote Address at First Annual Systems Biology Data Science Symposium
Doctors and scientists from Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center recently participated in the first annual Systems Biology Data Science Symposium. Co-organized by the Center for Computational Science (CCS) and the Big Data to Knowledge – Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures Program Data Coordination and Integration Center (BD2K-LINCS DCIC) – a collaboration between the University of Miami, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the University of Cincinnati – the symposium took place on January 19 and 20 in Miami.
More than 130 local researchers and outside experts who apply or develop computational systems biology resources gathered at the Lois Pope LIFE Center on the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine campus and the Toppel Career Center in Coral Gables for two days of presentations. The activities included a poster reception and several working sessions to show the tools, resources and scientific projects at the DCIC, connect developers with users, initiate new collaborations, and obtain feedback from expert and casual users of computational systems biology resources. Another important goal of the symposium was outreach and education, so undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers were invited to participate.
The LINCS project is generating large datasets and new software tools that will help understand and model complex diseases, and identify potential starting points for the development of novel therapeutics. LINCS’ massive datasets characterize and quantify cellular responses to small molecule, genetic and environmental perturbations across many cell types in a number of profiling assays, including transcriptional, proteomics and cell phenotypic profiles. Having already profiled many cancer cell lines and many kinase inhibitors and epigenetic drugs, a particular focus of the LINCS project has been cancer. Appropriately, Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, gave the keynote address, in which he presented the latest research on epigenetic cancer therapies.
“Thanks to the help of many people at the CCS and the LemBix (I would make this Lemmon-Bixby – assuming that’s what he means – and then we need a reference to Bixby somewhere) lab, we were able to put together a great symposium with more than 10 lectures from researchers at UM, our Center, and invited guests from industry and the LINCS Consortium,” said PI of the BD2K-LINCS DCIC Stephan Schürer, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Interim Director of Drug Discovery at the CCS. “I was particularly thankful that Dr. Nimer could give the keynote address. Our Center has made huge progress in the last year; we have released many tools and made all the LINCS data accessible.
“With the resources from our Center and the CCS, we can now begin to leverage LINCS data for translational research, and there are many collaborative opportunities – in particular with Sylvester. For example, LINCS data can be used to strategize new small molecules for specific cancer types by correlating transcriptional response profiles of cell-based chemical perturbations with patient data and then identifying or predicting molecular targets of the best compounds.”
“The BD2K DCIC group is building tools to allow lab scientists like us to easily interrogate giant data sets from different high-throughput data providers,” said Vance Lemmon, Ph.D., a member of Sylvester, the Walter G. Ross Distinguished Chair in Developmental Neuroscience and Program Director of Computational Biology at the University of Miami Center for Computational Science. “It was fun to see how the different tools work. As of today, I have an app called ‘Harmonizome’ on my smart phone that allows me to easily filter 72,000,000 relationships between genes, FDA-approved drugs, cancer cell lines and much, much more.”
“It is great to see a Big Data conference being held at the Miller School of Medicine,” said Stephan L. Züchner, M.D., Ph.D., a member of Sylvester’s Cancer Epigenetics Program, Professor and Chair of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics and Co-Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the Miller School of Medicine. “Extracting meaningful and practically relevant knowledge from the growing amounts of data in a number of fields, chief among them probably genomics, is a key scientific task if we want to realize precision medicine.”
The symposium was a great success and the organizers are planning to host it again in Miami at the beginning of next year. More information about the symposium is available here.
The Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) consortium is an NIH Common Fund program to create a systems biology reference resource, including a “library” of molecular signatures – such as changes in gene expression and other cellular phenotypes that occur when cells are exposed to a variety of perturbing agents – and computational tools for data integration, access and analysis. The LINCS program consists of six LINCS Data and Signature Generation Centers and the BD2K-LINCS Data Coordination and Integration Center (DCIC), which operates in synergy with the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) consortium.
The symposium was supported by the University of Miami School of Medicine Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, the University of Miami Center for Computational Science, and by grant U54HL127624 awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute through funds provided by the trans-NIH Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures Program and the trans-NIH Big Data to Knowledge initiative.