Cutting-edge insights at SBS’s Single-cell genomics symposium

More than 100 participants tuned in to the online event to hear from global, national and local leaders in this challenging and emerging field.

Single-cell genomics has exploded as a technique over the past five years. At first a niche discovery enabling researchers to isolate and explore the genetic material of single cells, single-cell genomics has become a necessity in contemporary biology.

But the journey from discovery to increased biological understanding is not smooth, nor is it complete. There is now a growing demand to convert the promise of single-cell genomics into tangible human health outcomes.

On Tuesday 8 September, the School of Biomedical Sciences’ Single-cell genomics symposium brought together a mix of global, national and local leaders in the field to discuss its recent discoveries and upcoming challenges.

The symposium highlighted some high-quality research published in Cell, Nature, Nature Methods and Nature Immunology, as well as dealt with the crucial areas of bioinformatics, computational biology and data analysis.

Dr Roser Vento-Tormo from the UK’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, informed attendees on how the maternal-fetal interface could be explored with single-cell transcriptomics. Of particular interest was her employment of novel spatial transcriptomics, where the location of a cell within tissue is analysed in parallel with its transcriptome.

Dr Vento-Tormo also reported on her development of the CellPhoneDB database, which facilitates the examination of cell-cell interaction via hetero-multimeric receptors and specific ligands.

Dr Jay Shin, from the Riken Institute Japan, gave a broad talk on a global initiative called the Human Cell Atlas, led by Aviv Regev (Broad Institute, and Genentech) and Sarah Teichmann (Sanger Institute). This was an inspirational talk on the achievements and goals of this consortium.

Dr Valentine Svensson, of Seqert Labs, MA, USA, spoke on his work with Lior Pachter (Caltech) on novel computational methods for analysing spatial transcriptomics datasets. His goal was to build methods that could be run without a requirement for high performance computing.

In addition to these global leaders, the symposium featured local speakers Dr Davis McCarthy and Professor Alicia Oshlack, both of whom lead computational biology departments in Melbourne (at St Vincents and Peter Mac), as well as Dr Shalin Naik, from WEHI, who spoke about the discovery of a gene that controls the development of lymphocyte immune cells from hematopoietic stem cells.

Two early career researchers from the Garvan Institute, Dr Mandeep Singh and Dr Kylie R James, also joined the line-up to discuss recently published immunological studies.

Finally, the event was lucky to attract sponsorship and participation from a leading single-cell genomics company, 10x Genomics. Their representative, Dr Paul Gooding, spoke with Doherty Institute researcher Carolin Tumpach about how to start running your first single-cell genomics experiment.

Read more about the featured speakers here.