McGill-led EpiShare project named a 2019 GA4GH Driver Project

Published: 4 February 2019

EpiShare will join the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) as a 2019 Driver Project. GA4GH, an international group of 22 leading genomic data initiatives, works collaboratively to develop and pilot standards for sharing genomic and health-related data.

“EpiShare represents a unique opportunity to contribute to the field of epigenomics by extending global standards and tools, which have so far been developed only for genetic and genomic information.” --Guillaume Bourque, Project Champion and Associate Professor of Human Genetics at McGill University.

The epigenome refers to the instructive layer of molecular annotations on top of the genome. The comprehensive analysis of the epigenomes of healthy and abnormal cells will facilitate new ways to diagnose and treat various diseases, and ultimately lead to improved health outcomes.

EpiShare will enhance the accessibility of epigenomic datasets by leveraging existing GA4GH tools and application programming interfaces, and proposing innovative new bioinformatics and policy tools for sharing epigenomic data.

“The public policy and ethical tools that will be implemented for EpiShare will promote responsible data-sharing practices and be of great interest for the GA4GH community,’’ says Yann Joly, Project Co-Champion and Research Director of McGill’s Centre of Genomics and Policy.


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The other newly added projects are: Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa), GEnome Medical alliance Japan (GEM Japan), European Joint Programme on Rare Diseases (EJP RD), Swiss Personalised Health Network (SPHN), EUCANCancer and the Autism Sharing Initiative.

The projects were reviewed by an External Review Committee (Chair: David Altshuler, Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Co-Chairs: Niklas Blomberg, ELIXIR, and Kym Boycott, CHEO) and unanimously approved by the GA4GH Executive Committee. The projects were selected according to three criteria: global representation, scientific merit, and capacity to contribute in-kind resources to GA4GH development efforts.

“When we launched GA4GH Connect two years ago, I could only have hoped to reach the state we are in now, with global buy-in from some of the world’s most important genomics projects and a true mandate for GA4GH to help get data sharing off the ground in the near term,” said Ewan Birney, Director of EMBL-EBI and Chair of GA4GH.

“Together, the new projects significantly expand GA4GH’s global representation, strengthening our collaborations across Africa and Europe, as well as in Japan, and adding connections in 33 countries for a total of 99 across all Driver Projects,” said GA4GH CEO Peter Goodhand. “With these new projects, GA4GH now has strong direct engagement in 15 countries.”

EpiShare is an innovative open science project that, in collaboration with the International Human Epigenome Consortium (IHEC) and the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE), will enhance the accessibility of epigenomic datasets. EpiShare will offer methods and tools to easily and securely store, access, navigate and discover available datasets, and to launch multi-omics analyses on restricted (including controlled) access datasets. The project will also ensure that these tools are compliant with privacy legislation and meet high international ethical standards. EpiShare is partially funded by Genome Canada and Génome Québec, the Canadian Institute for Health Research and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) is an international, nonprofit alliance formed in 2013 to accelerate the potential of research and medicine to advance human health. Bringing together 500+ leading organizations working in healthcare, research, patient advocacy, life science, and information technology, the GA4GH community is working together to create frameworks and standards to enable the responsible, voluntary, and secure sharing of genomic and health-related data. All of our work builds upon the Framework for Responsible Sharing of Genomic and Health-Related Data.


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