BHBD Symposium Held in Pakistan

Xin Zhang, BIG, CAS  Aug 6, 2019

The International Symposium on Global Biodiversity and Health Big Data was held at COMSTECH Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan on July 18, 2019, as one of the cooperation achievements of the Global Biodiversity and Health Big Data Alliance (BHBD).

The symposium was organized by Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad, Pakistan, in collaboration with OIC Ministerial Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and Beijing Institute of Genomics (BIG), Chinese Academy of Sciences. Mr. Shafqat Mehmood, Pakistan Federal Minister for Education, and Prof. Mohammad Qasim Jan, President of Pakistan Academy of Sciences were present as chief guests. Over 115 researchers from various organizations of Pakistan and international speakers from China, Russia, Thailand, Iran and Malaysia attended the symposium.

At the opening session of the symposium, the Minister emphasized the importance of conserving biodiversity in the face of global climate change, and lauded the development of a big health data repository under the BHBD Alliance initiated by BIG, China. The Minister expressed Pakistan’s appreciation of this scientific alliance formed in 2018 that has institutions from China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand as founding members.

Dr. S. Khurshid Hasanain, Advisor of COMSTECH, identified the role of COMSTECH as advancing S&T in OIC member states through cooperation, collaborations and support for scientific initiatives. Considering the crucial importance of the BHBD Alliance in providing its members access to a vast data base of biodiversity and its genomic sequencing, COMSTECH was very keen to see other OIC member states becoming a part of this alliance. He offered COMSTECH collaboration with BHBD Alliance, under the Ten Year Science and Technology Agenda of the OIC.

While addressing the inaugural session Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ali, Vice Chancellor of QAU, lauded the efforts of the organizers and Chinese support for Pakistan in a variety of fields. He urged Pakistani scientists to derive maximum benefits from this initiative by forming research collaborations and usage of the scientific facilities offered by the alliance. Earlier Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi, Chairperson of the National Center for Bioinformatics, QAU, briefed the audience regarding objectives and expected outcomes of the project.

International experts reported their work as keynote speakers in the symposium. Prof. Yiming Bao and colleagues from China introduced the National Genomics Data Center, BIG Data Center, BHBD Alliance and the CAS President’s International Fellowship Initiative, respectively. Prof. Suchinda Malaivijitnond from Thailand reported their study on the stone tool-use behavior in long-tailed macaques. Prof. Vsevolod Makeev from Russia gave a lecture on measuring expanse of binding specificities of transcription factors. Prof. Mohammadreza Mohammadabadi from Iran introduced the biodiversity resources and researches in Iran. Dr. Yun Shin Sew from Malaysia reported their initiative in rice biodiversity research focusing on nutrient traits among local rice varieties.

In the afternoon session, the BHBD Alliance held its 2nd annual meeting chaired by Prof. Yiming Bao. The attendants reported recent progresses and discussed future plans of BHBD, including membership expansion, scientific research collaboration, data sharing, meeting, talent program, and training. All attendants agreed to strengthen the mutual cooperation within the frame of BHBD hereafter. In the following council meeting, five new member applications from Pakistan, Malaysia and Iran were approved, and Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ali from QAU was accepted as a member of the scientific advisory board of BHBD.

The symposium has explored issues, shared experiences and knowledge between the field experts and academics from various countries. One of the outcome of this event would be to strategize for the enhanced use of genomics and bioinformatics by developing collaboration between the attending experts and institutions in these fields.