Netherlands Bioinformatics Conference 2014

Bioinformatics meets systems biology

More than 300 academic and industrial researchers in bioinformatics and systems biology, programmers and students created a lively atmosphere during the NBIC2014 conference on April 8 & 9, 2014.  The conference was preceded by the RSG retreat for young bioinformaticians. During the ‘Birds of a Feather’ sessions several interesting discussions were planned, but also meetings of ELIXIR-NL and the Bioinformatics User Platform (BIUP). Also there was an Allbio Metagenomics track and a track organised by the Netherlands Society on Biomolecular Modelling (NSBM). The 2014 edition was the first NBIC conference co-organised by the BioSB Research School. The research school will from now on organise these conferences yearly. 

Marching en route towards BioSB

The BioSB research school builds on the bioinformatics community fostered by the Netherlands Bioinformatics Centre (NBIC) and the group of computational biologists from the Netherlands Centre for Systems Biology (NCSB) and SB@NL. In order to celebrate the integration of the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology communities in the new BioSB research school, a special parallel Systems Biology session was part of the programme. The BioSB research school will offer a well-balanced and high quality course portfolio at post-MSc level (PhD students and postdocs), and will provide a range of community support activities. BioSB will be moulded into an attractive membership organisation for systems biologists and bioinformaticians alike.

Jaap Heringa expects a perfect fit since both disciplines complement each other very well: “Compare it to transportation: system biology provides an extensive road system and bioinformatics supplies the suitable vehicles to optimally utilize each road.”

From the floor

“The influx of PhD students is quickly diminishing, now that funding for bioinformatics research is no longer available”, says Judith Boer (ErasmusMC). A serious risk for the future of the field, she feels. “For more applied bioinformatics like my own work within ErasmusMC, funding can still be arranged, but for basic bioinformatics research, like developing new algorithms, funding is very hard to find. That is not an immediate problem today, but it will be in a couple of years because the flow of new possibilities and solutions will be dried out.”

“It is a good thing to bring bioinformatics and systems biology together, because we all use the same tools. Compare it to cooking, whether you choose an Indonesian dish or traditional Dutch food, in both cases you need pans to get dinner on the table.” Dennis Hendriksen (UMC Groningen)

“Clearly, these two worlds are moving towards each other. When I did my master, it was already a combination of bioinformatics and systems biology. It really makes sense, because these two areas need each other.” Maarten Reijnders (Wageningen University)

“It is good to see the community back together again. Bioinformatics has become essential to so many areas, that should generate opportunities for new projects.” Colja Laane, director Netherlands Genomics Initiative.

“Integration of bioinformatics and systems biology is necessary, there is large overlap between the two fields and they require the same data infrastructure.” Irene Nooren (SURFsara)

“Sticky stuff”
Christian Ottmann

In his keynote, Christian Ottmann presented his work on the so-called 14-3-3 proteins. These proteins are ubiquitous in eukaryotes, have highly conserved primary sequences and were first described already in 1967, but are still primarily known for their incredible stickiness.
More on Ottmann’s keynote

Christian Ottmann: “Modifying protein-protein interactions through small molecules offers great potential for drug development.”

Parallel Session – Next Generation Sequencing
From metatools and prenatal testing to the Heinz genome. And rats in the Dutch genome?

This session illustrated opportunities and problems associated with extracting information on structural variants (SVs) from Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) data.
More on this session

 “SVs are hot, SNPs are not.” Judith Boer (ErasmusMC), following up on the NGS session.

“The pan-cancer view”
Keynote Ilya Shmulevich (Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle) on The Cancer Genome Atlas

For those who want to take a different view towards cancer, browsing The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) may very well generate a host of new ideas and directions that inspire further exploration.
More on Shmulevich’s keynote

Ilya Shmulevich: “No platform left behind.”

“Medicines from microbes”
Marnix Medema, winner Young Investigator Award 2014

That microbes are great manufacturers of all kinds of useful compounds is nothing new. But we probably can deploy the capabilities of these miniature factories much more targeted if we increase our understanding on their metabolism. Marnix Medema (Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology, Bremen) is certainly doing his bit in this respect.
More on Medema’s honorary presentation


Marnix Medema: “Nature is not LEGO”

Parallel session: Data, Infrastructure and Technology
“Think before you start, particularly on data management”, Michiel van Galen (LUMC)

Four presentations provided insight into the technical, but also into the organizational, challenges of large-scale data infrastructure projects.
More on this session

Birds of a Feather session: ELIXIR-nl
“It is no longer about open data, but about FAIR data: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. For computers and humans.” Barend Mons (DTL/ELIXIR-nl)

More on this session

Award winners


Roy Straver: Junior Presenter Award 2014


Sonya Medvedeva: Best Poster







“Can we have flexibility AND power?”
Jelle Goeman (UMC St Radboud, Nijmegen)


“Can we have flexibility AND power?”

Facts & Figures

  • >300 visitors
  • 5 keynote lectures
  • 45 lectures
  • 9 parallel sessions
  • 83 posters

Keynote speakers

  • Marcus Claesson, University College, Cork, Ireland
  • Vera van Noort, Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, Leuven, Belgium
  • Ilya Shmulevich, Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, USA
  • Christian Ottmann, Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands
  • Jelle Goeman, Radboud UMC Nijmegen, the Netherlands


  • The Young Investigator Award 2014: Marnix Medema, Microbial Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology Bremen, Germany
  • The Junior Presenter award 2014: Roy Straver, VU medical center
  • The Poster prize was won by: Sofya Medvedeva, Leiden University Medical Center

by: Esther Thole