HotTopics: Virus discovery and beyond


January 13, 2014, Hogeschool Domstad Utrecht

Historically, our perception and definition of viruses has evolved with the development of novel technologies. Presently, the genomic era defines the viral universe by characterizing genotypes at an ever accelerating pace, but often with no associated phenotype and/or physical entity. State of the art taxonomic classification recognizes only several thousand viral species, a large fraction of which infect humans. These numbers stand in sharp contrast with the diversity of the cellular organisms on which these viruses depend for their replication.

During this NBIC HotTopics meeting on Virus Discovery, we will discuss how to use bioinformatic approaches to discover, classify and characterize novel viruses. We will talk about metagenomics, including the promises and pitfalls of different experimental setups and analysis pipelines. Questions we will address (but not necessarily answer!) include: When can we be satisfied that we have identified a novel viral genome? How should we ensure that NGS sequencing reads from different genomes do not end up into one “chimeric” contig, particularly in the light of the relatively high recombination rates in viral genomes? How can we annotate or understand the functions of viral genes, which are notoriously divergent and frequently lack reliable hits in reference database searches? How do we determine the role of a newly discovered virus in higher order processes? For example, does it cause disease, or does it play a role in the ecosystem?

Programme January 13th

12:30 – 12:35 Welcome – Bas Dutilh, Radboud UMC/CMBI
12:35 – 13:00 Lunch
13:00 – 13:50 How many viruses we know and do not know
Sasha Gorbalenya, LUMC
13:50 – 14:40 De novo virus discovery using metagenomics
Anita Schürch, Erasmus MC
14:40 – 14:50 Tea break
14:50 – 15:40 Annotate/characterize viral sequence: is it real
or are we assembling chimeras?
Bas E Dutilh, Radboud University Nijmegen (CMBI)
15:40 – 16:30 Can we prove virus involvement in processes?
from sequence to phenotype/ecology
Corina Brussaard, NIOZ
16:30 – 17:00 General discussion & Closing


Hogeschool Domstad, Koningsbergerstraat 9, Utrecht, (max. 25 participants) – Website/route

About HotTopics

NBIC HotTopics are a new series of NBIC meetings committed to bringing scientists together to discuss the concepts and methods on a hot topic in their research field. It should provide a platform to keep in touch with peers in the field and foster sharing of new insights, applications and collaborations. Therefore, the aim of the meeting is not to present the latest results of your own work, but rather to identify new trends and breakthroughs in the field in general.

Four scientists will give a 20 minute lecture followed by 40 minutes of discussion on the important computational concepts:

  • What does a method try to accomplish?
  • What assumptions were made?
  • How does this method compare to similar ones?
  • What are the strengths, weaknesses and pitfalls?
  • Can we apply it in other areas?
  • What are the limitations and challenges for new applications and developments?

Flip over, beamer and laptop are available.


Please register for the meeting via the registration form.

Organising committee