Myanmar Bioinformatics Program 2018

By: Khang Tsung Fei, University Malaya, Malaysia

Straddling the crossroad between India, Indochina and China, Myanmar is a nation of tremendous potential – its natural resources are abundant, its trade has greatly opened up in recent times, and its rich biodiversity is one of the least explored in the world. Moreover, its diverse human populations holds valuable links to the puzzle of human migration history into Asia. In the decades of isolationism following military stewardship in the sixties, two generations of Myanmar’s biologists grew up without the benefit of access to knowledge in important advances in molecular biology, which their more fortunate regional counterparts have. As a result, steps to lift local biology research and instructional standards to gradually be on par with regional standards would be a welcome development that benefits the worldwide scientific community, as this would open up opportunities for international research collaboration and demands for scientific services.

As an effort to plant the seeds of growth of bioinformatics in Myanmar, APBionet reached out to the community of biology researchers in Myanmar by funding a five day workshop from 24 to 28 December, 2018, at the Yangon Research Center. A total of thirty faculty members from the Department of Zoology and another ten postgraduate students attended the five-day workshop, which was conducted by Dr Khang Tsung Fei (University of Malaya, Malaysia) and Dr Maurice Ling Han Tong (Management Development Institute of Singapore / Perdana University, Malaysia). The local organising committee was led by Prof. Dr Kay Lwin Tun who is the head of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Laboratory. On the first two days, the attendees learned about the fundamentals of molecular biology of the gene. This was followed by information search in GenBank, and using BLAST to retrieve DNA or protein sequences that are related to a query sequence of interest.  Day three and four were spent on learning about sequence alignment, its principles and application in phylogenetic inference. On the fifth day, the students worked in small groups on three capstone project topics where they attempted to apply skills and concepts learned during the workshop to develop insights into real research problems. At the end, students gave short presentation of their findings with feedback from the instructors.

This workshop is a timely development in the modernisation of biological education research and teaching at Yangon University, as their faculty embrace upskilling to bring about gradual incorporation of modern elements into its curriculum, where reforms are needed both in contents, delivery and mode of learning. Importantly, through this activity Myanmar biologists have also gained access to the wider network of bioformaticitians in the world through their contact with the two instructors. APBionet congratulates the hosts for this exciting development and will continue to be a force for bringing positive changes to the bioinformatics landscape of developing countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Launch of Data Science eXchange 2017

By: Nurul Salwanie, Perdana University, Malaysia

After 6 months of planning, the Secretariat, together with its partner, Perdana University School of Data Sciences (PU-SDS), decided that 2017 would be a perfect year to launch its first initiative – Data Science eXchange Initiative (DSXi: ) which would combine several engaging activities that would bring people from  research, academics and  industry under the same roof.

Bearing the younger generation in mind, the activities included in this initiative were: Public Lecture Series, a Bioinformatics  Roadshows and a Data Science Carnival. This initiative was officially launched with the first public lecture by Dr. Olivo Miotto, who delivered a talk entitled “Big Data in Malaria
Elimination” on 23 May 2017.

This was followed by four  other lectures (scheduled throughout 2017. The public lecture series was planned to include inspiring speakers from a plethora of fields in the data science domain – Dr. Farouk Abdullah in particular was invited to give a talk on “Towards a Data Driven
Organisation (DDO)”, and more topics and speakers are currently being considered to be apart of this series in the future.

In addition to the Public Lecture Series, this initiative also included a parallel activity. The Bioinformatics Roadshows were directed and attended by Dr. Mohammad Asif Khan. The first roadshow was held in North-West University, South Africa (5 to 10 September 2017), and was followed by Universitas Yarsi from 6 to 14 March 2017. This roadshow finally concluded at Universiti Sains Malaysia (10 to 18 July 2017). The roadshow was very well-received among the participants and has particularly sparked discussion on bringing it to Brazil in 2018.

The highlight of this initiative was the Data Science Carnival that was organized from 2 to 4 October 2017. This 3-day event included engaging activities such as free-admission Data Science Short Courses, Poster Showcase Presentation Competition, lucky draw, quizzes and games. The carnival brought in over 120 participants from various universities and local research institute. The Data Science Carnival was also included as a satellite event of the Big Data Week 2017 ( Winners from the Poster Presentation Competition were invited to present their work to the public on the closing ceremony of this event.


Establishment of the Indonesian Society for Bioinformatics and Biodiversity (ISBB)

By: Nurul Salwanie, Perdana University, Malaysia

On 10th of May 2016, APBioNet witnessed the establishment of the Indonesian Society for Bioinformatics and Biodiversity (ISBB). This was in conjunction with the 3rd Workshop on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BioCompBio), held at Universitas Padjadjaran, Bandung, Indonesia from the 9th to the 12 May, 2016.

The event was attended by local representatives from the Universitas Padjadjaran (UNPAD), Swiss German  University (SGU), University of Indonesia (UI), Indonesia Institute for Statistics (IIS), PT. Smart Tbk (industry representative), and workshop participants, who hailed from different parts of the country.

Kholis Abdurachim Audah has been elected as the founding President of the society, to help lead and establish long-term strategies and plans for a strong footing. Mohammad Asif Khan, the Vice President (Corporate) of APBioNet and the Director of Perdana University Centre for Bioinformatics (PU-CBi), who has been invited as a speaker for the workshop since its inception in 2014, was instrumental in realising the establishment of the society, by working closely with the organizers of the workshop, who are active in promoting bioinformatics in the country, namely Kholis Abdurachim Audah of SGU, Bimo Tejo (an APBioNet ExCo Observer), then of Surya University, now with UCSI, Malaysia, Setia Pramana of IIS, and
Dwi Agustian of UNPAD.

Their collective efforts paved the way for this landmark milestone, the establishment of a national society for bioinformatics. The mission of the society is two-fold, to promote bioinformatics in the country and advance scientific understanding of the local biodiversity through various platorms and activities, such as research collaborations and networking through workshops and conferences, among others. The society is particularly interested in bidding for the next International Conference on Bioinformatics (InCoB), APBioNet’s flagship conference.

APBioNet wishes Kholis Audah all the best in spearheading ISBB’s mission and looks forward to working closely with him to support the society.

New South West University Introductory Bioinformatics Workshop 2016

By: Nurul Salwanie, Perdana University, Malaysia

The 5th of September marked a milestone for Perdana University and APBioNet Secretariat in their efforts to reach out to the international community.
APBioNet VP Corporate, Mohammad Asif Khan was invited to organise a 6-day workshop on Introductory Bioinformatics Workshop in
North West University, South Africa. The workshop received participation and positive  feedback from 22 students of various academic backgrounds.

The workshop covered various essential topics such as  biological databases and bioinformatics tools, sequence
comparison including  biological pattern / profile search, molecular phylogeny and 3D stucture visualisation and homology modelling, with hands-on practicals on the heories and concepts covered. This workshop has recently been completed in Universitas Yarsi, Indonesia in March 2017 and will soon be organised in Universiti Sains Malaysia (Malaysia), July 2017.