GHGA Annual Meeting and Public Symposium held in Heidelberg

Early October, GHGA team members and PIs came together in Heidelberg for some valuable facetime, with two days filled with interesting talks and discussions. As part of this year's meeting, we have shown our results and progress to the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the consortium.

The Annual Meeting kicked off with a public symposium on ‘Data Infrastructures for Genomic Research in Europe’. Speakers included GHGA members, as well as members from our SAB. The symposium shed light on ongoing efforts to set up other international initiatives - being followed by an engaging audience both in person in Heidelberg and via Zoom. 

The event opened with a warm welcome by GHGA Board of Director members Oliver Kohlbacher (University of Tübingen) and Oliver Stegle (DKFZ Heidelberg). The first session, featuring Søren Brunak (University of Copenhagen) and Augusto Rendon (Genomics England), showcased existing national genomic infrastructure solutions, focusing on individual-level, longitudinal data linkage to genome sequencing in the Danish precision medicine infrastructure and UK's clinical and research infrastructure for genomic medicine. Oliver Kohlbacher detailed GHGA’s journey so far, highlighting challenges and achievements. The second session with Ruth Horn (University of Oxford/ University of Augsburg), Bartha Maria Knoppers (McGill University) and Eric Apondo (University Hospital Heidelberg) centered on trust building and patient engagement in genomic research. Topics covered data governance, management and sharing in Germany, the UK, and France, public responses to genomics database projects - especially involving commercial partners, responsible genomic data sharing and challenges and opportunities brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic. Insights from GHGA’s PaGODA study were also shared, emphasizing adaptive governance and patient involvement

The internal part of the meeting focused on an in-depth discussion of GHGA’s progress and achievements with the SAB, seeking their valuable external insights. Through talks, posters and strategic planning sessions we engaged in discussions on various aspects of the project, such as the GHGA Metadata Catalog and metadata model, consent tools, legal contracts, patient engagement, workflows, training and outreach activities, as well as the status of data hubs and progress regarding the GHGA Archive. There was also time for the workstreams to plan for the next months and align their efforts. During and after the meeting, the SAB provided valuable feedback. The SAB was not only impressed by our team's strong collaborative efforts within the last three years but also acknowledged the achievements and the upcoming roadmap for the development of the first genome infrastructure in Germany, covering technical infrastructure, ethical-legal considerations, and outreach. They further stressed GHGA’s role in the wider genomic health care and precision medicine ecosystem.

It was great to see so many members in-person and we are looking forward to implementing the suggestions we received from the SAB.