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ISCB-Africa ASBCB 2019 | November 11-15, 2019 | Kumasi, Ghana | Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers



Melissa A. Haendel, PhD
Associate Professor of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology School of Medicine

Oregon Health & Science University
 Lukas Mueller, PhD
Boyce Thompson Institute
Solomon Ofori-Acquah, PhD
Dean, School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences
University of Ghana
EMBO Keynote: Christine Orengo, PhD
Professor, Division of Biosciences
University College London
Ciara Staunton, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Law
Middlesex Univserity London
   


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Melissa A. Haendel, PhD
Associate Professor of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology School of Medicine

Oregon Health & Science University

Melissa Haendel is the Director of the Center for Data to Health (CD2H) at Oregon Health & Science University, and the Director of Translational Data Science at Oregon State University. Her background is in both wet and dry lab translational science, with a focus over the past decade on the development of ontologies, semantic engineering technologies, and open science infrastructure programs. Dr. Haendel's vision is to weave together healthcare systems, basic science research, and patient generated data through development of data integration technologies and innovative data capture strategies. Dr. Haendel co-leads the Monarch Initiative, an international consortium dedicated to utilizing model organism genotype-phenotype data, deep phenotyping, and graph-based integration techniques to improve rare disease diagnosis. She also coleads the NCATS Data Translator, which aims to integrate hundreds of data resources for mechanism and drug discovery. The CD2H is tasked with coordinating informatics across 59 Clinical and Translational Science Award Institutes, and is focused on implementation of cloud and information architecture, clinical data model interoperability, and precision-medicine focused terminology development. Dr. Haendel is the co-lead for the GA4GH Clinical and Phenotypic workstream, where she supports cross-disciplinary international teams, development of standards for clinical genetics, and improving access to data across the world.

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 Lukas Mueller, PhD
Boyce Thompson Institute

In recent years, technological advances in fields such as sequencing have transformed certain aspects of biology into an information-based discipline.

To make this abundance of data—often called Big Data—useful to researchers and breeders, it needs to be organized and made accessible. Towards this goal, the Mueller lab designs and implements databases that assist scientists in their research and plant breeders in more efficient crop improvement.

Our databases and software make transcriptomic, genotypic and phenotypic data from thousands of experiments accessible to the public, often focusing on under-researched staple crops from food-insecure regions. A method called Genomic Selection that uses high-throughput genotyping technologies, such as genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS), and large phenotyping data sets allows for rapid prediction of desirable traits in new plant crosses.

Based on these tools, the Mueller laboratory collaborates on a variety of different projects. With the Nextgen Cassava project, we have created Cassavabase, a database specifically designed for cassava breeders in Africa. We coordinate the Solanaceae Genomics Network—a compilation of all the genetic information known about solanaceous plants, such as tomato, petunia and Nicotiana. We are also developing breeding databases for yam, sweet potato and the cooking banana and we work with the Genomic and Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII) to streamline crop breeding for five staple crops—wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and chickpea. Finally, the Mueller group is involved in multiple genome sequencing projects, including tomato, coffee, petunia and Nicotania benthamiana.

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Solomon Ofori-Acquah, PhD
Dean, School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences
University of Ghana

Professor Ofori-Acquah was appointed Dean of the School of Biomedical and Allied HealthSciences, University of Ghana in January 2017, and Associate Professor of Medicine andHuman Genetics, University of Pittsburgh, USA in 2013. He is Director of the West AfricanGenetic Medicine Centre (WAGMC), and Director of the Sickle Cell Disease Genomics Networkof Africa (SickleGenAfrica). Professor Ofori-Acquah was born in Cape Coast. He attendedAdisadel College from 1977-1984 where he was the Cadet Corps Sargent Major. He migrated toEngland in 1985 to pursue higher education; he obtained a Higher National Certificate inHematology and Blood Transfusion in 1989 and Part 1 Fellowship of the Institute of BiomedicalSciences in 1990, MSc in Bio-molecular Organization from Birkbeck College, University ofLondon in 1992, and PhD in Molecular Genetics, King’s College London, University of London in2000. He conducted postdoctoral studies on missense RNA therapy for sickle cell disease(SCD) at the University of South Alabama; he was Scholar of the Comprehensive Sickle CellCenter and Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at the University of SouthAlabama. He joined Emory University as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in 2007 and theUniversity of Pittsburgh in 2013 as Tenured Associate Professor of Medicine.

Professor Ofori-Acquah’s research is focused on pathogenesis, genomics and innovativetherapy in SCD. His seminal publication in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2013 definedheme as a danger molecule involved in sterile inflammation in SCD and established the firstmouse model of the Acute Chest Syndrome. His research has continuously been funded by theNIH and other funding agencies since 2004. He has authored over 60 research papers, reviewsand book chapters, and mentored over 30 Junior Scientists, Physicians and Students. He is anExpert NIH Reviewer with service on multiple committees focused on Respiratory Biology,Hematology and Genomics. He was Chair of the Laboratory Sub-Committee of the GhanaNational Technical Advisory Committee for Newborn Screening in 2011-2013, and a FoundingExecutive Member and Inaugural Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Ghana BiomedicalConvention. He was Vice-President and President of the Ghana Biomedical Convention in 2012and 2013 respectively, and in 2016 received an Appreciation Award as Founder of the GhanaBiomedical Convention. As Director of WAGMC, he is spearheading efforts to train the firstcohort of postgraduate genetic counsellors and medical genetics scientists in West Africareflecting his continued efforts to promote all aspects of biomedical science in the region.

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EMBO Keynote: Christine Orengo, PhD
Professor, Division of Biosciences
University College London

Christine Orengo is a computational biologist, whose core research has been the development of robust algorithms to capture relationships between protein structures, sequences and functions. She has built one of the most comprehensive protein classifications, CATH, used worldwide by tens of thousands of biologists, and central to many pioneering structural and evolutionary studies.

CATH structural and functional data for hundreds of millions of proteins has enabled studies that revealed essential universal proteins and their biological roles, and extended characterisation of biological systems implicated in disease e.g. in cell division, cancer and ageing. CATH functional sites have revealed protein residues implicated in enzyme efficiency and bacterial antibiotic resistance. This data also identified genetic variations likely to be driving human diseases and the drugs that can be repurposed to offset the pathogenic effects.

Christine is a Vice President of the International Society of Computational Biology (ISCB). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Elected member of EMBO since 2014, and a Fellow of ISCB since 2016. She is a founder of ELIXIR 3DBioInfo.

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Ciara Staunton, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Law
Middlesex University London

Ciara Staunton is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Middlesex University and Acting LLB Program Leader. She is also a researcher at the Centre for Biomedicine, EURAC, Italy. Previously she has been a Visiting Scholar at the Hasting’s Centre (New York), a Visiting Fellow at the Genetics Department at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), and a Visiting Research at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust (Kenya).

Ciara's research interests are in the governance of new and emerging technologies, and she has a particular interest in the governance of stem cell research, genomic research and biobanking. She has been involved in policy development in Ireland, Africa and Bahrain in these domains. Her most recent research is looking at the governance of genomic data sharing in Africa, for which she is in receipt of a Wellcome Trust small research grant. 

Prior to her appointment at Middlesex University, she was a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Stellenbosch University (South Africa). She was co-investigator on the NIH funded Community Engagement for H3Africa Biobanking Research: The Tygerberg Model grant and appointed to the H3Africa Ethics and Regulatory Issues Working Group and the H3Africa Community Engagement Working Group. During this time she also coordinated the Advancing Research Ethics in Southern Africa (ARESA) program. Her PhD was funded by the Irish Research Council and awarded by the National University of Ireland, Galway for the topic 'The Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Ireland'.

Prior to beginning her academic career, Ciara was a legal researcher at the Law Reform Commission of Ireland.


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