BSC brings the elite of international research in computational biology to Sitges

19 September 2022

The 21st edition of the European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB2022) will be held from September 18 to 21 under the slogan 'Planetary Health and Biodiversity'.

The event organized by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) and the Instituto Nacional de Bioinformática (INB / ELIXIR-ES) brings together more than 800 scientists from areas such as computational biology, bioinformatics, systems biology, artificial intelligence, biology, medicine, and environmental sciences.

Thanks to new technologies related to Artificial Intelligence, computational biology allows us to move towards personalized medicine focused on prevention and tailored to each patient.


International experts in computational biology meet in Sitges (Barcelona) between September 18 and 21 to participate in the 21st edition of the European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB2022). The event, under the motto 'Planetary Health and Biodiversity', is organized by the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) and the National Institute of Bioinformatics (INB / ELIXIR-ES).

ECCB2022 is an essential event to promote scientific debate and collaborations that contribute to advance the field of computational biology, a discipline that aspires to solve some of the great problems of humanity and that has been a key instrument to help our societies find solutions to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 1,000 people have registered for the event, of which more than 800 have registered to participate in person. Before the main conference, during the previous week, a series of workshops and tutorials have also been held, both in Sitges and virtually, grouped under the concept 'New Trends in Bioinformatics by ECCB'.

Computational biology is the science that resorts to the use of computer tools such as algorithms and supercomputers to help us better understand complex biological systems and the relationships that exist between them. Using analytical methods, mathematical models and computational simulation, this discipline analyzes large volumes of biological data, such as sequences of the genetic code, cell populations or proteins, with the aim of making predictions that enable new biomedical advances towards a more personalized medicine that allows us to adapt treatments and prevention strategies to each patient.

"Today, without bioinformatics and computational biology it is practically impossible to make progress in any of the areas of biology and biomedicine, from ecology, neuroscience and pharmacology to genetics or oncology," says Alfonso Valencia, director of the BSC Life Sciences Department, which is organizing this edition of the event.

Featured topics and speakers

The European Conference on Computational Biology is a biennial event promoted by the organization of the same name, an entity in which bioinformaticians from most European countries are represented, and the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB). ELIXIR, the infrastructure that integrates the bioinformatics resources of the member states of the European Union (EU), is also the main sponsor.

The main program of ECCB2022 offers a selection of lectures and talks where you can learn about cutting-edge research in this field, as well as scientific poster sessions and an exhibition for institutions and companies. Participants include scientists from diverse disciplines who will address topics related to computational biology, bioinformatics, systems biology, artificial intelligence, biology, medicine and environmental sciences.

This is a selection of the most outstanding keynote speakers:

Personalized Medicine in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

Ana Teresa Freitas: Researcher at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) of the University of Lisbon. Co-founder and CEO of HeartGenetics, Genetics and Biotechnology, SA.

In her talk she will explain how the large volumes of data associated with new artificial intelligence technologies promise to lay the foundations for a new paradigm of medicine focused on the individuality of each person. He will also show different approaches being tested in EU hospitals with the aim of transforming medical care from disease-reactive care to patient-centered care focused on disease prevention.

Interpretive deep learning for personalized cancer medicine

Maria Rodriguez Martinez: Technical Leader of Computational Systems Biology at IBM Research Europe (Switzerland) and Associate Member of the Department of Biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.

She will explain how interpretable deep learning models can achieve high accuracy in predicting drug response based on the genetic and chemical patterns of individual patients, as well as how reinforcement learning approaches can facilitate the early stages of drug discovery and support the personalized design of new compounds. It will also show how the integration of AI and machine models is necessary to address current computational challenges and enable the personalized design of new therapeutic interventions.

How humans judge machines

César Hidalgo: Director of the Center for Collective Learning at the Artificial and Natural Intelligence Institute (ANITI) of the University of Toulouse (France). He has previously led the Collective Learning group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He will give a presentation based on his book 'How humans judge machines', which compares the reaction of people to actions performed by humans and machines. The book reveals the biases that pervade human-machine interactions using data collected from dozens of experiments to understand how people judge artificial intelligence and move a step closer to understanding the ethical consequences of this technology.


Mining for digital epidemiology: overcoming real-world data challenges.

Graciela Gonzalez-Hernandez: Vice chair of Research and Education, Department of Computational Biomedicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (USA).

She will discuss the challenges of using real-world data such as social networks or electronic health record data for large-scale epidemiological studies. The use of real-world data can be very valuable for identifying the right cohort, narrowing down or finding key patterns but is sometimes used incorrectly, so systematic methods and validated approaches are needed to convert these data into evidence.


The emerging small proteome

Mar Albá: ICREA researcher at the Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques (IMIM), leader of the Evolutionary Genomics group and director of the Biomedical Informatics research program.

She will explain how recent research has uncovered the existence of a large proteome consisting mainly of proteins of less than 100 amino acids, using ribosome profiling and proteomic techniques, which are important for evolutionary adaptations on a short time scale.


Some mysteries about microbes and cancer

Raúl Rabadán: director of the Mathematical Genomics program and professor in the Department of Systems Biology, Informatics and Biomedical Surgery at Columbia University (USA).

He will focus his talk on understanding why at least 20% of all tumors worldwide are linked to viruses that have unique characteristics in terms of geographic distribution, age and gender. As new genomic studies illuminate the distinctive mutational spectrum of these tumors, some common patterns emerge.


In addition to the traditional topics of this conference, focused on the use of algorithms and computation to improve the understanding of biological problems, the 2022 edition, which has the motto 'Planetary Health and Biodiversity', has a new area dedicated to the relationship between climate crisis and health, which will also feature international experts in this field and which has been coordinated by ICREA professor and leader of the BSC's Global Health Resilience team, Rachel Lowe.

Once ECCB2022 has concluded, next Tuesday, September 22, also in Sitges but with the possibility of attending virtually, a forum with companies will be held organized by ELIXIR. The event aims to bring together representatives from large, medium, and small companies, as well as researchers working on services for data management and exchange and people involved in national healthcare initiatives.

Among the topics to be discussed at the forum are recent scientific achievements in structural genetics, multigenetics and diagnostics of rare and infectious diseases; the management of standards and ethics in new technologies; and the challenges of driving Open Innovation in the healthcare sector.

“This year we expect to see significant advances in two fundamental areas: the interoperability of data and systems that will make it easier to share and analyze biomedical data, and the enormous impact of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and language models in this area, from the design of proteins to the analysis of genomic data or the prediction of the causes of diseases. We also wanted to contribute to bring the field of computational biology closer to the problems related to climate change and the health and biodiversity of the planet that concern us all so much", says Alfonso Valencia.