The Genetic Link

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Article by: Scott Rabuka

Highlights from ASHG 2019: beyond DNA


DNA Genotek has long been an active participant at the American Society for Human Genomics (ASHG) annual meeting. Each year, we witness new industry trends and the evolution of human genetic research. Thousands of people attend each year, sharing their latest research. This year, the human genomics community seemed to have focused on one overall theme: going beyond DNA.

In case you missed the conference, our team gathered some highlights about the major trends discussed in Houston this October. Here’s what we learned, the highlights and what we think are some of the major trends going forward for human genomics.

1. Multiomic approaches to research

Multiomics, where the data sets of different omic groups are combined during analysis, has been gaining momentum recently. At ASHG, this was no exception; the focus wasn’t merely on human genomics, but how our genome links and interacts to other “–omes”, such as the proteome, transcriptome, epigenome, and microbiome. The incorporation of the microbiome into human genomic studies is a major trend we see across our customer base every day due to the advancement of sequencing technology, informatics and microbial reference databases. We surveyed a number of ASHG attendees, asking if they were interested in taking a multiomics approach to their research and 63% said “yes”. Are you among these researchers? How do you plan to incorporate multiomics in your own projects? Let us know on Twitter, LinkedIn, or our Facebook page. 

2. The incoming wave of bioinformatics

Big data was another hot topic at ASHG 2019, with the focus on addressing the best approach. This year, data analytics is less of a mystery at ASHG and was frequently discussed in the hallways and in the sessions. It was also evident by the number of bioinformatians attending ASHG year over year. Their mission is to continue to derive meaningful insights from the masses of data generated each year.

3. Big data sharing to accelerate discovery

Many research groups, consumer genetic companies and pharmaceutical companies are working together and sharing big genomic data collected to enable more research and more discoveries. This collaborative approach to genomics is exciting among the research community as it can drastically improve the speed of discovery and ultimately clinical outcomes for human health. Does this mean that there is sufficient human genomic DNA samples collected and no need to continue recruiting additional donors?  The answer is no, which brings us to another major theme…

4. Obtaining DNA samples from diverse populations

Genetic inheritance and genetic mutations vary among human populations, including physical environments, race, ethnicity, and more. We’ve learned that there is a strong need to collect samples from diverse populations, outside of North American Caucasian groups, as they are currently not well represented in the genomic databases. Projects such as All of Us and 54gene, have made collecting from diverse populations a high priority to ensure research reflects our differences. 

5. Translational genomics – bringing discovery to the clinic

Out of all the trends and highlights we saw at ASHG, this one is by far the most significant. A major goal for human genetic research is to have or lead towards clinical significance in human health. Pharmacogenomics and precision medicine was a theme that was featured everyday in talks, workshops, and more. For example, an entire evening event on Oct 17th was dedicated to pharmacogenomics sponsored by the Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN).

In the end, one thing is clear. Research is moving beyond DNA and producing more data than ever to gain stronger insights for clinical practice. What types of trends do you see coming in the future for human genomics? Let us know in the comments below.

If you are interested in trying saliva for human DNA or RNA analysis or adding a microbiome component to your research, you can sign up to receive free Oragene or OMNIgene DNA or RNA collection kits for evaluation.

Related Blogs: 3 trends within high-impact genomics you may not know about

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