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EUCANCan Annual Meeting May 20-21

The EUCANCan consortium got together virtually for a two-day annual meeting on May 20-21. The goal of the meeting was to take stock of the project’s progress to date and discuss upcoming milestones. Representatives of all EUCANCan’s 18 partners from Canada and Europe participated in the meeting, which was led by the Coordinator Dr David Torrents of Barcelona Supercomputing Center.

The first meeting day began with a review of the last project year and an outlook on the remaining project runtime. This introduction was followed by presentations by each Work Package Leader, who provided an overview of past achievements and upcoming activities in their respective work packages.

Meeting Day 1: External collaboration projects and the launch of the EUCANCan platform

Two themes stood in focus during the first meeting day, the forthcoming launch of the data portal, scheduled for the end of 2021, and EUCANCan’s collaboration with other research projects, both within and outside of the EUCAN cluster.

Technical progress

EUCANCan is well on track to reach the ambitious goal of building the first functioning pilot platform for genome data sharing between Canada and Europe before the end of the project in 2023. The cloud infrastructure needed to connect EUCANCan’s local nodes is currently in the final stage of development. When both the central and local technical infrastructure is in place, the next step will be to connect the local data centres. How to populate the network with data will discussed in more detail in a follow-up meeting with the consortium in early June.

Another topic discussed during the meeting is Onco Trials Track, a newly launched platform created in the context of EUCANCan. The platform aims to make it easier for healthcare workers to find suitable clinical trials to refer their patients to. Onco Trials Track has been developed by the team in WP5 standardized clinical reporting across sites, led by VHIO.  

Further, the consortium discussed a pipeline benchmarking process suggested by WP2 genome analysis pipelines to support the therapeutic decision, led by Institut Curie. The WP2 team has developed guidelines for how pipelines in the workflow manager Nextflow can be implemented efficiently, using a “one container per tool” strategy. The EUCANCan GitHub repository includes information about bioinformatics pipelines capable of analyzing whole genome and whole exome sequencing data for tumors as well as golden datasets that can be used to benchmark pipelines.

External collaborations 

The EUCAN cluster consists of EUCANCan and the five other projects funded under the same Horizon 2020 call, SC1-BHC-05-2018. There are two main cluster-wide working groups:

  • the EUCAN ELSI Collaboratory, where EUCANCan’s WP6 ethico-legal framework for clinical oncology data, led by McGill University, plays an active role, and
  • the EUCAN Dissemination and Communication (D&C) Group, chaired by EUCANCan’s WP7 dissemination and exploitation, led by LINQ.  

The EUCAN D&C group and the EUCAN ELSI Collaboratory are currently working together to plan a webinar focused on how diverse stakeholders can be involved in international health data sharing, scheduled for this fall.

Another example of a project that is driven jointly by the members of the EUCAN cluster is the EUCAN D&C six-monthly newsletter. The first edition of the newsletter was sent out in September last year, including a series of interviews with key EUCAN consortia members and a list of recent publications. The second EUCAN D&C newsletter was sent out in March 2021 and the third edition of the newsletter is scheduled to go live in September.

During the past year, EUCANCan has also worked closely with research projects outside of the EUCAN cluster. In January, EUCANCan teamed up with ESPACE to host a webinar titled “New IT approaches in genome analysis” and a one-day training focused on how to use cloud computing efficiently in biomedical research.

Meeting Day 2: Guest speakers and a look into the future

During the second meeting day on May 21, the EUCANCan consortium welcomed a number of guest speakers from the European Commission, the Terry Fox Research Institute, ELIXIR, and BBMRI-ERIC.

The first speaker of the day was Jerome De Barros, who works as a Policy Officer focused on health innovation with the European Commission. He presented the European Health Data Space, a pilot project which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of cross-border analysis for healthcare improvement, regulation, and innovation.

Shari Dworkin, Chief Data Officer at The Terry Fox Research Institute, was the second speaker of the day. His presentation focused on innovation ecosystems at the intersection of healthcare and artificial intelligence.

Next out was Eivind Hovig, co-lead of the ELIXIR Cancer Data Focus Group. Eivind Hovig’s introduced the ELIXIR data management toolkit and provided a brief overview of how ELIXIR works together with GA4GH to develop standards for international data sharing.

The last speaker of the day was Petr Holub, IT and data protection manager at BBMRI-ERIC. Peter Holub’s presentation covered how BBMRI-ERIC works to ensure the findability of biobanking and biomolecular resources and improve access to biobanks through their efforts going into their Access Pipeline.

Appreciating that collaboration is an important component in research, the two-day annual meeting ended with an open discussion about different collaboration possibilities between the EUCANCan consortium and the guest speakers’ respective organizations.