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Dresden scientists are helping to set new standards for cutting-edge genetic research

Genomics, transcription, proteomics, metabolism, and more… “omics” technologies are continuing to revolutionize medicine and biomedical sciences. They generate a lot of valuable data but pose roughly the same number of challenges. How can individual research institutions store massive amounts of data? How can they safely share these with other national and international centers? Can they ensure patients’ privacy is always respected? Can different research centers use the collective data analysis experiment? Is it possible to create a platform that provides all the necessary infrastructure and resources? GHGA is one of nine consortia funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within the National Research Data Infrastructure Initiative (NFDI) and one specifically designed to answer these questions.

The DRESDEN Genome Center is one of four DFG-funded Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Centers of Competence now operating within the GHGA consortium. Over the next five years, scientists from Dresden and their colleagues at GHGA will contribute to shaping international standards for human omics data exchange. The primary focus is on developing, harmonizing and improving data collection processes. Metadata, i.e. additional information about the sequence data, is a keyword here. “We need to lay good foundations but a critical one. On the other hand, we want to obtain as much information as possible to make sure that the data sets are comprehensive and can be analyzed for as many purposes as possible. But at the same time, we have to make sure that patient privacy remains. It’s the number one priority, “explains Matthias Lisch, a researcher at the DRESDEN-Concept Genome Center. To address legal and ethical questions, researchers work closely with attorneys who specialize in national and international privacy regulations.

TU Dresden’s Information and High Performance Computing (ZIH) Service Center, along with four other German HPC centers, have taken over the development of the technical infrastructure. “We will use the latest HPC, cloud, and storage technologies to build a distributed infrastructure that is accessible to all researchers and clinicians interested. The platform will integrate the ability to access, analyze, manage and archive human omics data,” says Dr. Ralph Muller Veverkorn, head of ZIH’s Distributed Computing and Data Intensive Division. The goal is to follow so-called FAIR guidelines and create a framework where data can be found, accessed, interoperable, and reused (FAIR). “We want to provide a comprehensive set of tools to manage and manipulate data and allow researchers to reuse each other’s data. We also want to be a call center that will foster new initiatives and allow researchers and clinicians to establish new collaborations,” adds Dr. Muller-Feverkorn.

“We are very pleased to have TU Dresden on board as part of the GHGA. Our consortium consists of leading genomics research centers and HPCs in Germany. Together we want to maximize our potential by combining genome datasets in a unified manner,” says Professor Oliver Stijl of the German Research Center Cancer (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, who serves as a spokesperson for the GHGA board. As part of the NFDI initiative, GHGA will collaborate with other consortia focusing on chemistry, biology and other disciplines to create a German-wide interdisciplinary data infrastructure for research. In Dresden, the operational phase of the project will start on March 1, 2021.

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About the DRESDEN-Concept Genome Center (DcGC)

DcGC is a joint sequencing facility for the core facility for deep sequencing at the Center for Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering (CMCB) at TU Dresden and the sequencing facility of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG). It is one of four DFG-funded German competency centers for next-generation sequencing. DcGC is an amalgamation of the staff working for CMCB, MPI-CBG, as well as Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD). DcGC consists of three platforms focusing on the techniques of long read sequencing, single cell sequencing and short read sequencing, covering experimental workflow and bioinformatics analysis.

About ZIH Information Services Center

ZIH is one of the German National HPCs and provides superior computing systems specifically designed for data-intensive computing. Research on computer science methods and tools is an important part of ZIH’s identity, for example, ScaDS.AI Dresden / Leipzig (Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence), one of the six National Centers for Artificial Intelligence, is led by.

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