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ISCB Accomplishments by a Senior Scientist Award Keynote

Bonnie Berger

Bonnie Berger

Simons Professor of Mathematics at MIT; Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, United States

Presentation Title: Biomedical Data Sharing and Analysis at Scale
Time: Thursday, July 25, 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Room: San Francisco


The ISCB Accomplishments by a Senior Scientist Award recognizes leaders in the fields of computational biology and bioinformatics for their significant research, education, and service contributions. Bonnie Berger is being honored as the 2019 winner of the Accomplishment by a Senior Scientist Award.


Researchers around the globe are gathering biomedical information at a massive scale. However, growing privacy concerns and computational overhead limit researchers' access to these data. In this talk, I will present novel computational approaches that help overcome these barriers to improve the scalability of essential biomedical analysis pipelines. First, I will describe how modern cryptography presents a path toward broader data sharing and collaboration in biomedicine as demonstrated by my recent work on secure genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and pharmacological machine learning. Second, I will build upon our initial introduction of compressive genomics, which capitalized on the growing redundancy and unique structure of biological data, to accelerate and enhance computational data analysis. I will demonstrate how compressive techniques can be used to build compact summaries of rapidly growing single-cell transcriptomic datasets to facilitate their sharing and analysis. These results lay a foundation for more effective and collaborative biomedical research, whereby an unprecedented scale of data can be pooled from individuals and institutes across nations to enable novel life-saving discoveries.


Many advances in modern biology revolve around automated data collection and the large resulting data sets. I am considered a pioneer in the area of bringing computer algorithms to the study of biological data, and a founder in this community that I have witnessed grow so profoundly over the last 20 years. I have made major contributions to many areas of computational biology and biomedicine, largely, though not exclusively through algorithmic insights, as demonstrated by ten thousand citations to my scientific papers and widely-used software. My research group works on diverse challenges, including and Computational Genomics, Structural Bioinformatics, High-throughput Technology Analysis and Design, Network Inference, and Data Privacy. We collaborate closely with biologists, MDs, and software engineers, implementing these new techniques in order to design experiments to maximally leverage the power of computation for biological exploration. Over the past five years I have been particularly active analyzing large and complex biological data sets; for example, my lab has played integral roles in modENCODE (non-coding RNA analysis), MPEG (biological data compression standard), and the Broad Institute’s sequence analysis efforts.

I continually and actively engage in community service, including recently as Vice President of International Society for Computational Biology, Head of the RECOMB Steering Committee, and member of the NIH NIGMS Advisory Council. I have served as both Proceedings and Conference Chairs for the two top conferences in my field— RECOMB and ISMB. I am also proud to have headed a workshop at ISMB 2016 on Gender Equality and been ISCB Fellows Chair (2015-2019), focusing on minority inclusion. I am an associate editor of Bioinformatics and IEEE/ACM TCBB journals. In addition, I serve on the Executive Editorial Board of Journal of Computational Biology and as member of the editorial boards of Annual Reviews for Biomedical Data Science, Genome Biology, Bioinformatics, IEEE/ACM TCBB, and Cell Systems.