A recharged AR-BIC 2019 a big success

The fifth annual meeting of the Arkansas Bioinformatics Consortium (AR-BIC) convened on February 25-26, bringing together the state’s bioinformatics community under the theme Bioinformatics in Food and Agriculture. Not only were Arkansas’ research campuses well represented, dignitaries from the Food and Drug Administration, the University of Florida, Johns Hopkins, the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center and more were on hand to lecture and collaborate.

“It’s our largest attendance to date,” announced ARA President & CEO Jerry Adams during his opening remarks. “We have an exceptional agenda, and it’s comprehensive and very full.”

Indeed it was. Hosted at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), AR-BIC featured about 20 lecturers, a poster contest with cash prizes, and three pre-session workshops. The  workshops – a first for the event – were led by Drs. Samantha Robinson and Giovanni Petris of the University of Arkansas, and Jason Williams of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“About fifty people attended each workshop,” said Mr. Adams. “I think this underscores how important it is to have an educational component to the Consortium.”

The annual event, which is growing in popularity every year, is chaired by Dr. Weida Tong, Director of the Division of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics at the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) and organized in part by the Arkansas Research Alliance. AR-BIC is an Arkansas-centric bioinformatics community aimed at developing, leveraging, and enhancing state-wide scientific collaboration, thus forming a stable environment available to support the Arkansas-wide research, education, training, and entrepreneurial/industrial activities in life sciences-related computing.

Poster Contest Winners

Research poster presentations have long been an AR-BIC staple. But this year, the Consortium offered cash prizes to those judged to be the very best. Dr. Shraddha Thakkarr, who helped judge the event, noted the importance of poster presentations among the research community.

“Of course, you can post the content of the posters online,” she said, “but the poster presentations are where you can really share your work one-on-one and personally foster collaborations.”

This year, seven prizes were awarded, though both Dr. Tong and Dr. Thakkar praised the overall quality of the work.

For the first time, AR-BIC featured a poster contest with cash prizes.

Student

First Place: Ujwani Nukala (AR-BIC 25), UAMS

Second Place (tied): Xiangwen Liu (AR-BIC 34), NCTR
Second Place (tied): Xiaofan Wang, (AR-BIC 32) University of Arkansas

Third Place: Nirman Nepal (AR-BIC 34), Arkansas State University

Post Doc

First Place (tied): Anuj Kumar (AR-BIC 37), University of Arkansas
First Place (tied): Kapil Khadka (AR-BIC 19), NCTR

Undergraduate 

First Place: Kate Sanders (AR-BIC 29), Hendrix College

 

AR-BIC 2018 Recap

The 4th annual meeting of the Arkansas Bioinformatics Consortium (AR-BIC) was successfully held March 23-24 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Attended by over 200 participants, AR-BIC 2018 was made possible through the generous support from a conference grant awarded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), sponsorships by the major Arkansas research universities in this field – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), University of Arkansas (UA), University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA-Little Rock), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), and Arkansas State University (A-State) – along with the Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI) and TriNetX. The Arkansas Research Alliance (ARA) acted as the lead organizer in addition to providing core sponsorship resources. This year’s overarching theme was “Data Analytics for Genomics and Beyond.”

AR-BIC was founded to foster a collaborative, Arkansas-based community in bioinformatics research and education among federal and academic institutions. Over the past few years, AR-BIC has gained tremendous momentum and popularity among the Arkansas scientific research community, which is evident by the increased number of participants each year.

The AR-BIC annual meeting has become the largest Arkansas bioinformatics gathering, which not only provides an opportunity for networking, collaborating and sharing ideas, but also a platform to highlight the excellent research conducted statewide. This year’s meeting was especially extraordinary as it announced the formation of the AR-BIC Governing Board and was heralded by a video greeting from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who highlighted the contribution and impact AR-BIC has made on the improvement of the state’s economy and research environment.

The two-day event opened with a pre-conference workshop by TriNetX, which, in addition to being a network of academic medical centers and pharma companies who collaborate on clinical trials, provide a technology application to access clinical trial cohort data. Plenary talks centered on generalized data analytics of genomics data, textual data, business data, and chemical data by eleven internationally renowned scientists located in Arkansas, and by two visiting scientists from Argonne National Lab, Illinois, and East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.

Arkansas-based plenary speakers were graciously provided by NCTR, UA-Little Rock, UA, and UAMS. AR-BIC also hosted two speakers from the corporate sector – J.B. Hunt (logistics technology) and MISO (energy grid management). Each speaker shared data-analytics trends in their areas of expertise, along with strategies and methodologies they employ using a different range of data – from genomics and textual to chemical and business. Striking similarities were discovered in the underlying data analytics methodologies across all types of sectors, a promising segue for future collaboration among data scientists from state universities and business.

In addition, more than 30 posters were presented, predominantly by students from the partner universities, providing them an important training opportunity, and sparking continued conversations throughout the consortium. AR-BIC members hailed from all corners of the state, arriving from NCTR, UA-Little Rock, UAMS, A-State, UA, UAPB, and USDA. The full conference program can be accessed at http://www.aralliance.org/ar-bic.

With this success, we are now planning AR-BIC 2019, to be hosted February 25-26, 2019, at UAMS.

 

ARA president Jerry Adams sits down with Roby Brock and Talk Business

Arkansas Research Alliance was founded in 2008, and according to president Jerry Adams, the mandate for the hardworking agency has evolved over the decade.  “Originally I thought I’d be sitting in the tech licensing office for our five research universities, watching intellectual property go across,” mused Jerry Adams, speaking with Roby Brock and Talk Business, “but it’s turned into us being much more focused on talent recruitment, recognition and retention.

While “intellectual property” is still a focal point, ARA has become a major conduit between Arkansas’ research campuses, the state’s science community and economic decision makers. During the interview, Mr. Adams highlighted some of the compelling research conducted in Arkansas, which includes advancements in bacteria-resistant artificial bone from Dr. Alex Biris (UA Little Rock) and Dr. Mark Smeltzer (UAMS), developing electric energy solutions from Dr. Alan Mantooth (University of Arkansas) and efforts to genetically strengthen rice against global warming from Dr. Argelia Lorence (Arkansas State).

“There’s a lot of collaboration, a lot of unique innovation, going on between the state universities,” said Mr. Adams, who also touches on ARA’s unique relationship with the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) and the ARA Academy.

“I think the Academy is how we’re going to be identified going forward,” said Mr. Adams. Watch the interview in its entirety here.