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Address from the Director
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The year 2016 is the beginning of the National 13th Five-year Plan (13·5). Following the latest guideline of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) known as “Three Orientations” and “Four Leads”, Beijing Institute of Genomics (BIG), CAS initiated its own the strategic planning for “13·5” and made sound progress in undertaking national and CAS’ own major projects, recruiting more talents for team buildup, and promoting culture renovation.

 

Initiation of BIG’s “13·5” Development Plan

 

In 2016, BIG formulated its “13?5” Development Plan by integrating ideas from all its members over the past two and a half years and refined its institutional positioning, three major research breakthroughs and five specific research priority for competency.

 

The establishment of the lead scientists and research groups, clear objectives and ways of implementation laid solid foundations for smooth task performance.

 

Implementation of national and CAS’ major projects

 

In 2016, continuous efforts were made toward the "CAS Precision Medicine Initiative". We set up a Chinese cohort consisting of 600 Chinese individuals and played a leading role in establishing paradigms for cohort studies and standardized electronic health records. Furthermore, BIG also led the national key research and development program on big data and key technology for the “China Precision Medicine Initiative”, aimed to provide data, criteria, new epigenetics technologies, and paradigm for cohort studies.


BIG launched BIG Data Center (BIGD) in January 2016 to establish the platform for data archiving, integration, and mining, aiming to facilitate the collection, sharing, and application of big omics data, with the focus on precision medicine projects and strategic bioresources. The support by the “Special Program for International Big Sciences” approved in June 2016 further boosted the development of the center, with its goals of establishing the “International Union for Health Data Sharing” involving Asian countries with China playing a pivotal role. In December 2016, BIGD released Genome Sequence Archive (GSA), a multi-layer database for archiving and international sharing of genomic data.

 

In addition to the aforementioned projects, BIG also undertook 13 newly-added projects supported by the national key research and development programs, National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, etc.

 

Major scientific outputs

 

Following the strategic layout of “One-Three-Five” plan, significant scientific achievements were made in BIG during 2016 with great potential in clinical translation. (1) Tumor precision medicine studies in clinical diagnosis and treatment identified novel epigenetic markers for targeted therapy and prognosis of kidney cancer as well as a new therapeutic target, SPOP, for kidney cancer. These studies also established RECQL4 as a critical mediator of cisplatin resistance in gastric cancer. Mechanistically, natural selection is not determinant force during tumor evolution, while modulation of histone modifications by Asxl1 alters self-renewal and cell fate of bone marrow stromal cells and pathogenesis. It is of special note that “Application of Y-chromosome specific methylation loci as markers on the cancer diagnosis” was patented and translated successfully translated subsequently. (2) Major breakthrough in novel mechanisms underlying epigenetic regulation of complex characters included the discovery of the role of RNA methylation in exon retention during mRNA splicing, discovery of the role of energy efficiency trade-offs in nucleotide usage within transcribed regions and precision methylome profiling of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.(3) The BIGD Center reported the systemic overview of the construction of omics data resources in China for the first time and established an integrated database for reference transcriptomes of four important mammals, including humans, rats, mice, and pigs. Lastly, studies on the genomic structure and its plasticity reported a high-quality genome assembly of the Para rubber tree, which was highlighted by Nature.

 

Talent recruitment and nuturing

 

With the strong faith of “use the ones present, introduce the talents, cultivate the future”, BIG introduced many young talents in 2016. We also carried out the first international expert assessment for the current PIs to stimulate competition. These measures help streamline the introduction, and cultivation of talents to build the best team. In terms of graduate education, supervisors were expected to serve as a role model and provide guidance to students in scientific training and core values.


Up to the end of 2016, a dynamic scientific research team formed with 151 permanent employees, 67 contract employees, 14 postdocs, and 250 graduate students. This BIG team includes one recipient each of the “National Thousand Talents Program”, the “Thousand Talents Program for Young Outstanding Scientists”, 2 of the “National 10-Thousand Talents Program”, and 6 of the “National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars Awards as well as one ”the “National Outstanding Youth Fund”.

 

The year 2017 is crucial for the development during “13·5”. In the coming 2017, BIG will seize the chances of development and work hard under the guidance of the “Pioneer Initiative”. To achieve our goals in “13·5”, we would strive to build the best research team with more innovations aiming to establish the center of excellence in genomic sciences.


As the director of the BIG, CAS, I would like to give my appreciation and best wishes to all the BIG members and all the friends that supported us.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Director: