Dublin hosts ELIXIR community for All Hands 2023

Dublin, with its seminal early contributions to bioinformatics, served as an ideal host for the ninth ELIXIR All Hands meeting. The event brought 382 in-person guests and 114 remote attendees to the Dublin Convention Centre between 5-8 June. An important annual fixture in the ELIXIR calendar, the meeting provides a platform for colleagues from across Europe and beyond to advance their collective vision of making life science data and resources accessible to everyone.

This year’s event represented a turning point in the infrastructure’s lifecycle, with the current five-year Scientific Programme ending in 2023 and a new Programme starting in 2024. Plenary sessions looked back at the achievements of the last Programme and forward to plans for 2024-28. With over 90 speakers, there were 25 parallel workshops, 9 mini symposia, 3 plenaries, 2 lunchtime poster sessions and an evening of food and entertainment at EPIC, the Irish immigration museum. 

The conference was the platform for sharing the first demonstration of the starter kit from the €40-million Genomic Data Infrastructure (GDI) project. The project is providing the infrastructure to enable secure access to Europe’s genome data to improve healthcare across Europe and globally, and includes ELIXIR Ireland as an important project partner.

Another highlight was the marking of the renewal of the collaboration strategy between ELIXIR and Australian Biocommons, with a delegation of guests from Australia attending the meeting. The closing plenary featured Jeff Christiansen, Australian BioCommons Deputy Director, who presented achievements of the previous three years and plans for the future.

The meeting also hosted the kick-off of the joint ELIXIR and Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) Implementation Forum and there was an early demonstration of the Federated European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA) starter kit for sensitive data submission, discovery, and access.

A standout moment was the keynote presentation from Des Higgins, Professor Emeritus of Bioinformatics at University College Dublin, on the history of his work on CLUSTAL, starting in Dublin in the 1980s.  CLUSTAL is a multiple sequence alignment programme that revolutionised bioinformatics by being easily accessible on personal computers. A paper describing the work is amongst the top ten most highly cited scientific papers of all time. Des commented, “I was delighted to be allowed to tell the CLUSTAL story, spanning almost four decades with its beginnings in an era before widespread access to the internet.  The welcome I received from the ELIXIR meeting took my breath away, a memory I will cherish and remember forever.”

The end of the meeting was marked by a standing ovation for the outgoing ELIXIR Director Niklas Blomberg, who, as founding Director, has been pivotal in transforming the ELIXIR vision into reality. 

We look forward to meeting again at All Hands 2024, which will be held in Uppsala, Sweden.

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Thu 15 June 2023