On 11-12 March 2021, the 4th edition of Revolutionizing Next-Generation Sequencing took place. Due to the global pandemic, this edition was for the first time completely virtual. Despite many challenges faced with this virtual setup for organizers as well as for speakers, attendees and sponsors it is safe to say that altogether each participant made RNGS21 once again into a great, immersive conference.
A packed RNGS program
RNGS21 featured 2 days full of novel technological advances and exciting scientific discoveries with a program that offered a great balance of lectures by world-renowned scientists, key opinion leaders and industry pioneers who presented their latest work and recent developments in the next-generation sequencing field.
The first day featured talks on the latest in long-read sequencing and single cell sequencing. Clearly long read sequencing technologies have found their way into many laboratories looking at mammalian genomes but also in microbiome and plant research and even in space. Sara Goodwin (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, US) closed the first plenary session, explaining the application of targeted long-read sequencing for unraveling genetic variation.
The single-cell plenary session was kicked off by Manolis Kellis (Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard, US) talking about the application of these novel technologies in therapeutics. While single cell sequencing has gone mainstream, it was clear that also in that area novel technologies are coming out that will further enable the next wave of big single cell biological discoveries. The developments from single cell transcriptomics towards single cell multi-omics including transcriptome, genome, epigenome, lineage tracing, CRISPRscreens, metabolomics and proteomics and preferably all together is fueling the next wave of technology providers and protocol developers.
Improvements in analyzing the rising amount of research data
We see almost every week a new ‘seq’ publication and the acronyms that are used seem endless. Inevitably, this enormous increase in new ways of characterizing omics from single cell comes with vastly increased amount of data and more importantly new data types. Therefore, this single cell revolution also poses serious data analysis barriers and new challenges for bioinformaticians in this space. What greatly stood out at RNGS21 is the immense progress made in the single cell data analysis field and the many tools that currently exist to make sense of your single cell data. The biggest challenge for future will be to benchmark and unify bioinformatics tools and pipelines to enable standardized data analysis.
Spatial Omics: a glimpse into the future
The second day brought together industry experts and scientific leaders in the booming spatial omics field. 2021 will be the year of the exponential increase in spatial omics technologies and RNGS21 had the honor to host the biggest players in the field at the moment, not only for mind-blowing lectures but also for a very fun and engaging panel discussion where big questions such as where the field is heading to in the future, were addressed. The speakers joining the discussion were from the following companies/institutions: Nanostring Technologies, Vizgen, Yale University, Resolve BioSciences GmbH, Cartana, part of 10x Genomics.
Rong Fan (Yale University, US) unveiled a new platform called DBiT-seq – microfluidic Deterministic Barcoding in Tissue for spatial omics sequencing – and showed impressive, large-scale spatial datasets covering the transcriptome, proteome and epigenome.
The clinical sequencing session showed how sequencing technologies having serious impact in real life applications already at an enormous scale and the technology trends session clearly showed that the next-generation sequencing revolution is far from over with lots of new, exciting things about to come out in the months and years to come.
More than just presentations
RNGS21 not only welcomed great speakers, but also the poster presenters deserve a word of appreciation. Great posters, featuring the next innovative ideas on how to combine, adjust and develop current and new technologies for different applications in plants, microbes, etc. were enthusiastically presented.
The meet-the-speaker sessions together with the virtual coffee breaks and networking session presented plenty of opportunities to connect with each other.
With the challenge of having attendees across the globe spread over different time zones, the conference offered the opportunity to connect over breakfast, while have dinner, after putting the kids to bed or even while having a beer and watching presentation from the sofa.
We will all remember this strange, but nevertheless fun edition filled with tons of exciting science and fascinating technologies for the years to come. However, let us hope we can meet in person again for the next edition of RNGS. In the meantime, it will be very exciting to watch all the technologies being applied to different research questions and see the next big breakthrough discoveries come out. Stay tuned!