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Ewan Birney to lead Global Alliance

Ewan Birney, Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute, is selected to lead the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health.

Global Alliance for Genomics and Health logo
The GA4GH brings together over 430 data-science, healthcare, advocacy and life-science organisations – both commercial and not-for-profit – to unlock the potential of genomic data for improving human health.

The Global Alliance for Genomics in Health (GA4GH) has selected Ewan Birney, Director of EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), to steward its member organisations in producing solutions for sharing genomic and clinical data.

Under Birney’s leadership, which begins 1 November 2016, the GA4GH will place a stronger emphasis on implementation, making its tools and solutions useful in real-world data-sharing settings.

“DNA sequencing is starting to make a big impact in healthcare, and we need to make sure research and healthcare are good partners,” said Birney, who emphasises in a personal blog post that before society can benefit from genomic science, a number of technical, structural, security, regulatory and ethical problems need to be resolved.

Working in concert

“At present, my overall impression of GA4GH is of a professional orchestra warming up: intense, but disjointed, activity and passion,” writes Birney. “The different sections are poised to work together, producing an ecosystem of harmonised technical and ethical standards… We may not be able to solve every challenge, but I am confident that we will make substantial progress and achieve a far better world for both healthcare and research.”

Birney, who is joint Director of EMBL-EBI with Rolf Apweiler, has a leadership role in a number of organisations and is a consultant to two companies. In his blog post he writes about the importance of partnerships, both in work and personal life, to achieving goals.

“The problems we are grappling with cannot be resolved single-handed; rather, we will be able to deliver practical solutions by aligning individuals and groups, and ensuring they have the right balance of skills, enthusiasm, resources and motivation,” he writes.

Birney plans to Chair the GA4GH in close partnership with its Executive Director, Peter Goodhand. The GA4GH has been in operation for three years, initiated by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the US, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Canada.

It was led first by David Altschuler and then by Tom Hudson, who grew the initiative from 90 to 433 research and healthcare organisations‎, patient groups, startups and global companies.

About the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health

The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) was formed to help accelerate the potential of genomic medicine to advance human health. It brings together over 400 leading institutions and over 800 individuals across over 70 countries, working in healthcare, research, disease advocacy, life science, and information technology. The partners in the Global Alliance are working together to create a common framework of harmonised approaches to enable the responsible, voluntary, and secure sharing of genomic and clinical data.

This post was originally published on EMBL-EBI News.

Tags: Birney, Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, work-life balance

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