mic.brussels interns develop an application website to boost access to genomic data
‘Fondation 101 Génomes’ (F101G) is a Brussels-based non-profit patient organisation that aims to accelerate the research on genomes by creating a first of its kind ‘Genomic in the Cloud’ database accessible to multiple research teams. This database will contain both complete genome data (Whole Genome Sequence) and cross-references to phenotypic data of patients with rare diseases, relatives and volunteers willing to contribute to research. To facilitate the access to the required genomes, three students were recruited through MIC’s Prototyping Internship program to help with the development of an application website.
The human genome, the genetic material that makes up the human DNA, is 99.99% the same in every person, and F101G’s research focuses on the 0.01% that is different and can cause rare diseases or may contain the key to cure them. To obtain the statistical depth needed to conduct research, a large collection of genomes is needed. So to gather the necessary genomic data, F101G needs to gather as many people as possible willing to contribute. According to a survey conducted by King Baudouin Foundation about 60% of the Belgian population is willing to allow access to their genome to support research.
In order to make this willingness to allow access to genomic data a reality, F101G is currently working on a tool – through an interface developed by the students from the mic.brussels –aiming to facilitate volunteers contribution to genomic research. By registering, citizens can actively support the research while the pooling and accessibility of data allows multiple research teams to work on data outside of a silo. The goal of the F101G is to launch a research infrastructure in the Cloud that will maximize the benefits of open data for research while support the growth of bio-techs. If you want to be one of the first to join the platform, you are invited to register to the newsletter on www.f101g.org.
Three students collaborated with F101G through the mic.brussels’ Prototyping Internship to boost the development the interface and several IT technical aspects that are involved in the project. “The interns all had different but complementary profiles,” say F101G founder Romain Alderweireldt. “During their internship, they worked on the future public platform, hosted on Azure and running with: Microsoft technologies, that allows volunteers to actively contribute to genomic research. From Tuesday to Thursday, the interns worked on developing the website, then investigated technical problems and questions. On Mondays and Fridays, they were coached by a team composed of various IT experts who would in turn challenge their choices, review their code and give them tips or ideas to go forward. This provided the students with a structure and F101G with peace of mind, knowing that the development of their project was constantly overviewed while still having the last word in the decision-making process.
While working on the project, the interns not only learned a lot about their profession as developers (the reality of project management, deadlines, technical challenges, etc.), but they also got to learn from various experts who are linked to F101G’s project. This way, they could contextualize their expertise and -hopefully- make a difference in the scientific and medical world.
This was also a truly enriching human experience as they were working with people who want to have a positive impact and on a project that could better the lives a large number of patients and relatives in a near future. “During the next couple of months, we are going to test for improvements on the user interface. We are still working on this project with interns and we definitely want to continue working with the mic.brussels for future projects, as they offer good quality and the outcome of our first experience was more than satisfying” Romain concludes.