Monday, January 14, 2013

The Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing 2013

For 18 years now, computational biologists have convened on the beautiful islands of Hawaii to present and discuss research emerging from new areas of biomedicine. PSB Conference Chairs Teri Klein (@teriklein), Keith Dunker, Russ Altman (@Rbaltman) and Larry Hunter (@ProfLHunter) organize innovative sessions and tutorials that are always interactive and thought-provoking. This year, sessions included Computational Drug Repositioning, Epigenomics, Aberrant Pathway and Network Activity, Personalized Medicine, Phylogenomics and Population Genomics, Post-Next Generation Sequencing, and Text and Data Mining. The Proceedings are available online here, and a few of the highlights are:

Cheng et al. examine various analytical methods for processing data from the Connectivity Map, a dataset of gene expression changes due to small molecule treatment. They compare methods for identifying drug-induced gene expression profiles to a benchmark based on the Anatomical Theraputic Chemical (ATC) system with the hope of discovering additional mechanisms of action.

Huang et al. developed a recursive K-means spectral clustering algorithm and applied this method to gene expression data from the Cancer Genome Atlas. It provides better cluster separation than traditional hierarchical clustering, and better execution time than similar K-means approaches.

Schrider et al. used pooled paired-end sequence data from multiple Drosophila melanogaster species along the eastern US coast to identify copy number variants under selective pressure. Many of the CNVs identified contain CYP enzymes likely influencing insecticide resistance. Schrider also pointed out in his talk that human salivary amylase (AMY1) has copy numbers that are differentiated across human populations due to differences in dietary starch content. Cool!

Verspoor et al. presented an awesome application of text mining to identify catalytic protein residues from the biomedical literature. Text mining tasks are always wrought with difficulties such as identifier ambiguity and resolution, or simply identifying the corpus of text needed for the task. Using Literature-Enhanced Automated Prediction of Functional Sites (LEAP-FS) and the Protein Data Bank (with Pubmed references), they compare their text mining approach to the Catalytic Site Atlas as a ‘silver standard’. Despite the difficulty, a simple classifier gives an accuracy around 70% (measured by F-statistic).

Also, my colleague Ting Hu presented her excellent work on statistical epistasis networks which use entropy-based measures to identify high-order interactions in genetic data. And in case you are interested, I’ll end by shamelessly listing our own publications in complex data analysis and rare-variant population structure (with Marylyn Ritchie), and performance of the Illumina Metabochip in Hispanic samples and high-throughput epidemiology (with Dana Crawford).

PSB is always a fantastic meeting – hope to see you in 2014!

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Getting Genetics Done by Stephen Turner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.