Opening the show
Conference moderator and Centre Manager for Digital Life Norway, Kam Sripada, welcomed all participants after a grand musical surprise opening by Strindens Promenade Orchester.
Lise Bitsch - Public engagement work in the Human Brain Project (HBP)
The conference was then kicked-off by Lise Bitsch, a Senior Project Manager at the Danish Board of Technology Foundation and work-package lead on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) for the EU flagship Human Brain Project (HBP).
The Volterra lecture series honours Vito Volterra, one of the first mathematical biologists. Volterra became professor of rational mathematics at the University of Pisa in the late 1800s, where he developed his theory of functionals, leading to contributions within integral and integro-differential equations. The Volterra lecture series has been hosted by the Centre for Digital Life Norway since 2016 and is a unique opportunity to highlight the evolving nature of digital biotechnology, including its RRI aspects.
The title of Bitsch's presentation was "Public engagement work in the Human Brain Project (HBP)". See video recording of the lecture below.
Next up was representatives from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), which is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to molecular biology research and is supported by 27 member states, two prospect states, and one associate member state.
Moderator for this session was Line Mariann Grønning-Wang, that works as a special adviser at the Research Council of Norway with responsibility for coordinating the council's investments in life sciences.
One key purpose for EMBL at the conference was to inform the digital life community about the EMBL Programme 2022–26: Molecules to Ecosystems.
Professor Ewan Birney, Deputy Director General of EMBL, Director of EMBL-EBI, presented the programme and showed how EMBL is delivering research and services for European life sciences. Se Birney's presentation below.
Following Ewan Birney's presentation, Line Mariann Grønning-Wang moderated an open discussion about EMBL and how members of Centre for Digital Life Norway and the digital life community can benefit using EMBL's resources.
Three Norwegian researchers with experience with EMBL; Carina Vibe, Øyvind Ødegård Fougner and Rein Aasland, joined Ewan Birney and Scientific Director for Centre for Digital Life Norway, Trygve Brautaset for a discussion. See the discussion below.
Community-based biotechnology in Ethiopia
Brook Esseye and Yordanos Ali, from Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin, formerly EBTi), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, presented their work on biotechnology in Ethiopia and how to collaborate to develop a robust molecular diagnostic platform suitable for low-resource countries. See their presentations below.
If you are interested in more information about this, Brooke Esseye also blogs in local languages about recent scientific and technological breakthroughs.
ProstOmics and the user representative perspective
The final part of the Digital Life 2022 plenary event was about ProstOmics and how to include the user representative perspective in research.
May-Britt Tessem, PI of ProstOmics, and Ola Kindseth, former prostate cancer patient and user representative in ProstOmics, had a insightful conversation moderated by Dr Giovanni De Grandis, AFINO Centre coordinator and leader of the AFINO pilot projects (NTNU).
See a video about the ProstOmics project here:
See the conversation here:
Day 2 - workshops
After digesting day one of Digital Life 2022, it was time for day two. The morning started with two workshops options and the participants divided themselves approximately 50-50.
Workshop option #1 - Workshop on public engagement
Public Engagement is key to the practice of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), and transdisciplinarity. In this workshop, Lise Bitsch, from the Danish Board of Technology tested out approaches to Public Engagement with the workshop participants. She introduced participants to existing resources that can assist researchers in their choice of public engagement methods, and she engaged participants in discussions about potential public engagement activities to be included in their own research projects.
Workshop option #2 - Workshop on EMBL opportunities
In this workshop, Ewan Birney and three Norwegian researchers with experience with EMBL; Carina Vibe, Øyvind Ødegård Fougner and Rein Aasland, gave advice on what to expect when seeking work at EMBL.
Are there other opportunities for exploiting resources offered by EMBL? EMBL has a number of state-of-the-art facilities and resources for molecular biological research, including advanced microscopy, structural biology, genomics, and bioinformatics. The workshop gave advice on what services are available and how to access them.
Poster session - back by popular demand!
For the 2022 Digital Life conference, young researchers again had the opportunity to share their research in a poster session, which returned by popular request. A total of 16 posters were part of the session, and all conference participants could vote for their top posters through an online voting system. Topics ranged from new models for analyzing composition, pressure, and spatial distribution in anatomy; biosensing with nanoparticles; multiomics, modeling, and AI in cancer; and more. You can read all the poster abstracts here.
Léa Rosselle PhD (Postdoc at Oslo University Hospital Translational Research Unit) presented her work with the title “CellFit: T cells fit to fight cancer.” Her research focuses on the use of T lymphocytes in adoptive cell therapy (ACT), which shows great promise for treatment of cancers otherwise incurable, yet only five T-cell products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for clinical use. Rosselle and team aim to define optimal growth conditions for improved manufacturing of adapted therapeutic T cells required for solid tumour treatment. Learn more about the CellFit project.
Anum Masood PhD (Postdoc at NTNU MR Physics Group and MR Cancer Group) presented her work entitled “Automated Lymphoma Cancer Detection and Ann-Arbor Staging Using Deep Learning with 18F-FDG PET/MR Images.” Lymphoma cancer develops in the lymphatic system and can affect organs throughout the body. Masood and team aim to develop a method for automated segmentation to improve cancer stage determination using advanced PET/MR cancer imaging.
Both winners will receive 5000 NOK to use towards their research. The Centre for Digital Life Norway wishes both winners, as well as all who presented their posters, success on their ongoing research!
Centre for Digital Life Norway would like to thank all participants and everyone that contributed to the conference!
Save the date:
Digital Life 2023 Conference will be 6-8. September 2023 at Solstrand Hotel & Bad right outside Bergen.
Speakers & moderators
Lise BITSCH, female, Ph.D., Senior Project Manager at the Danish Board of Technology Foundation. She is the work-package lead on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) the EU flagship Human Brain Project (HBP), and she was the coordinator of the EU co-creation project GoNano (Governing Nanotechnologies through societal engagement). She is also member of the Stakeholder Board for the EU project EnvironMENTAL. She specialises in citizen and expert engagement on science and technology, and she has a PhD in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Twente University, The Netherlands.
Professor Ewan Birney, Deputy Director General of EMBL, Director of EMBL-EBI
Ewan completed his PhD at the Wellcome Sanger Institute with Richard Durbin. In 2000, he became Head of Nucleotide data at EMBL-EBI and in 2012 he took on the role of Associate Director at the institute. He became Director of EMBL-EBI in 2015. Ewan led the analysis of the Human Genome gene set, mouse and chicken genomes and the ENCODE project, focusing on non-coding elements of the human genome. Ewan’s main areas of research include functional genomics, DNA algorithms, statistical methods to analyse genomic information (in particular information associated with individual differences in humans and Medaka fish) and use of images for chromatin structure.
Ewan is a non-executive Director of Genomics England, and a consultant and advisor to a number of companies, including Oxford Nanopore Technologies and Dovetail Genomics. Ewan was elected an EMBO member in 2012, a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2014 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2015.
He has received a number of awards including the 2003 Francis Crick Award from the Royal Society, the 2005 Overton Prize from the International Society for Computational Biology and the 2005 Benjamin Franklin Award for contributions in Open Source Bioinformatics. On December 29, Ewan Birney was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) as part of the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for 2019. Ewan received the honour in recognition of his services to computational genomics and leadership across the life sciences.
Carina Vibe did her masters thesis in Molecular Bioscience at the University of Oslo in the lab of Gareth Griffiths. In 2015, she started her PhD in Developmental Biology at the EMBL in Heidelberg, in the lab of Alexander Aulehla, working on the temperature robustness of the vertebrate segmentation clock. Since December 2021 she has been working as a joint postdoc between the Center for Genomic Regulation and EMBL in Barcelona, in the labs of Vivek Malhotra, Verena Ruprecht and Vikas Trivedi, where she is currently working on the role of ECM secretion in early development of the zebrafish.
Øyvind Ødegård Fougner
Øyvind Ødegård Fougner did his bachelor's and master's degree in molecular biology at the University of Bergen under the supervision of Rein Aasland and Øyvind Halskau. He did his PhD at the European molecular biology laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg where he worked with Jan Ellenberg to make a labelling strategy that can study the 3D folding of the human genome using super resolution microscopy techniques. Currently he works with Harald Stenmark and Kay Oliver Schink at the Radium Hospital to develop labelling strategies to study complex molecular processes where many proteins are involved. By labelling 20 or more proteins in the same cell these processes can be better understood compared to when 2-3 proteins are labelled with standard imaging techniques. To achieve this he uses automated microscopy, pipetting robots, image analysis and advanced labelling strategies.
Rein Aasland did his PhD at the University of Bergen and then, from 1992-1995, his post.doc. at the EMBL in Heidelberg in Francis Stewart’s group in the Gene Expression Programme. He returned to University of Bergen as associate professor in 1995, where he became professor in 2002. He has worked on proteins and protein domains involved in chromatin-mediated gene regulation and epigenetics, using both bioinformatical and molecular biological approaches. Aasland helped establish the Computational Biology Unit at the University of Bergen in 2002. He served as vice dean for education at the Science Faculty of the University of Bergen from 2005-2010 and as head of Department of Molecular Biology from 2012-2016. In 2017 he moved to University of Oslo as head of Department of Biosciences, where he is now professor.
Since 2014, Aasland has served as delegate for Norway to the ELIXIR board, - ELIXIR being the EU/ESFRI pan-European infrastructure for bioinformatics. His current research interest is on long-distance interactions in chromatin and chromosome organisation and their impact on gene regulation.
Trygve Brautaset is a Professor in synthetic biology and his research focus is within microbial molecular biology. Brautaset is project leader on three ongoing ERA projects, and is also leader for Centre for Digital Life Norway. He is a member of the Norwegian Biotechnology advisory board and he is board member for the biotech company Vectron Biosolutions.
Line Mariann Grønning-Wang
Line Mariann Grønning-Wang has a PhD in medical biochemistry from the University of Oslo (2001). Until 2016, she conducted basic research related to cell signalling and post-translational modifications of proteins. Line now works as a special adviser at the Research Council of Norway with responsibility for coordinating the council's investments in life sciences. Grønning-Wang is also Norwegian delegate to the EMBL Council.
Yordanos Ali received her MSc degree in Biotechnology from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. She currently works as Associate Researcher II at the Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin, formerly EBTi) in Addis Ababa, and is a team leader for enzyme technology focusing on industrial enzyme production. Her current research interests include production of enzymes from extremophile microorganisms for industrial applications, mainly for production of indigenous yeast strains for production of ethanol from sugar industry byproduct molasses for energy consumption. Her research also includes production of enzyme cocktails for enhancing poultry and animal feed to enhance quality and minimize cost for society. Her expertise is in enzyme processing and production. Yordi leads hands-on training on molecular biotechnology techniques.
With background in nanomaterials and health science, Brook Esseye is a researcher at the Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (BETin, formerly EBTi) in Addis Ababa. His research interest is in interdisciplinary projects comprising biotech, nanotech and computation.
Esseye has been researching the development of silicate-based platform chemicals for industrial applications using silica derived from sugarcane bagasse ash. In partnership with a private company, Esseye developed a sodium silicate manufacturing pilot plant for detergent industries. Using this sodium silicate as a precursor, Esseye has also investigated synthesis of mesoporous nanosilica and its electro-spin coated films for biotech/biomedical applications.
Previously in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and University of Texas Austin, Esseye developed a standalone isothermal nucleic acid amplification hardware using beeswax-CuO nanoparticles composite for thermal buffering.
Esseye also blogs in local languages about recent scientific and technological breakthroughs.
May-Britt Tessem is an Associate Professor/Research Scientist at the Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at NTNU.
Tessem's research activity make use of integrated multi-omics technology (metabolomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, genomics) to study tissue samples and biofluids (urine, blood) from large-scale biobanks from prostate cancer patients. Important methodologies are MR spectroscopy (HR MAS MRS), MS MALDI-imaging, RNA sequencing and immunohistochemistry. The main research aim is to discover and validate biomarkers and molecular signatures for separating aggressive from indolent prostate cancer.
May-Britt Tessem is the PI of the ERC funded starting grant “ProstOmics”.
Ola Kindseth, sociologist cand.polit. and researcher (retired). Kindseth is a former prostate cancer patient and has worked together with May-Britt Tessem and the ProstOmics project research group as a patient research partner. Kindseth has an extensive background in sociology and research. This includes the position as senior research at SINTEF, senior adviser at Norwegian Directorate of Health, and work for the The Norwegian Cancer Society.
Giovanni De Grandis
Giovanni is the coordinator of the AFINO research network and the leader of AFINO pilots project, which are experiments in new ways of generating and sharing knowledge and foresight through transdisciplinary collaborations. A philosopher by training, Giovanni has worked in applied, inter- and trans-disciplinary research for more than a decade. His research has spanned across diverse topics like digital publishing and digital repositories, to public health, personalised medicine and pharmaceutical regulations.
Kam Sripada PhD is a neuroscientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Centre Manager at the Centre for Digital Life Norway. In this role, she coordinates the centre’s operations to support and collaborate with over 40 digital biotechnology projects and national and international partners. Kam has studied how social and environmental factors influence child brain development and contribute to global health inequalities. She has collaborated closely with UNICEF, including co-leading the creation of the evidence-based UNICEF program Healthy Environments for Healthy Children launched in 2021, and on reports on children's health and rights.