Keynote speakers

Prof. Alfonso Valencia, ICREA Research Professor and Director of the Life Sciences Department, Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, SP

Large networks of disease-disease interactions at the medical and molecular level.

ABSTRACT: Biomedicine is confronting significant challenges for the handling and analysis of large data sets, among them a particularly relevant one is the interaction between diseases, i.e. disease comorbidities. Comorbidities are an important medical and social problem that demands an interpretation of the underlying physiological causes, as a necessary step to progress in its management and control. As a first step in this direction, we have analysed two complementary data sets, one composed by a large collection of expression data (RNAseq data 72 human diseases analysed by 107 studies, including a total number of 4.267 samples, from the GREIN platform) the other one base on medical records from three different medical systems (Blumenau, Brazil; Catalonia, Spain; and Indianapolis, United States) or from previous publications (Hidalgo et al. 2009 and Jensen  et al. 2014). With this information, we have constructed two disease-disease interaction networks, one reflecting real-world medical associations and the other the similarities of the molecular profiles of patients of different diseases. Interestingly, the two networks have striking similarities in terms of their organization and characteristics. More importantly, we can show for the first time that most disease interactions have a counterpart at the molecular level. This molecular relationship can be translated into detailed molecular basis of specific disease interactions. I will discuss the implications of these results for the interpretation of diseases interactions at the level of specific genes and pathways, as well as the potential consequences for the management of disease comorbidities.

Based on the work of: Beatriz Urda-García, Jon Sanchez, Rosalba Lepore at BSC.

Alfonso Valencia is a Biologist by training with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. He is ICREA Research Professor and Director of the Life Sciences Department at the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC), Director of the Spanish National Bioinformatics Institute (INB) and head of the Spanish Node of the European Bioinformatics Infrastructure ELIXIR. He is a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO), and former President of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB). He was honoured as ISCB-Fellow in 2010. He has served in numerous Scientific Advisory Boards, including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), of which he is currently Vice Chair, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, the Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics, the EBI INTERPRO and chemical database, Curie Bioinformatics Unit among others. He has also been part of a number of evaluation committees, including the Spanish Grant Evaluation Agency (ANEP) and the European Research Council ERC. He is Co-Executive Editor of Bioinformatics, the main journal in the field of bioinformatics, and member of the editorial boards of eLIFE, PeerJ and FEBS letters and F1000 Prime. The main interest of his group is the study of the molecular bases of cancer and other diseases, by bringing an evolutionary perspective to the study of the interplay between genomics and epigenomics. Our research is largely carried out in the context of large-scale genome projects, where we develop new computational methods for the study of genome/phenotype relationships from ML/AI to NLP/text mining. He has published more than 400 articles with an h-index of 89 (Scopus profile).
Prof. Alison Noble, Professor in Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford, UK

Simplifying interpretation and acquisition of ultrasound scans

ABSTRACT: With the increased availability of low-cost and handheld ultrasound probes, there is interest in simplifying interpretation and acquisition of ultrasound scans through deep-learning based analysis so that ultrasound can be used more widely in healthcare. However, this is not just “all about the algorithm”, and successful innovation requires inter-disciplinary thinking and collaborations.

In this talk I will overview progress in this area drawing on examples of my laboratory’s  experiences of working with partners on multi-modal ultrasound imaging, and building assistive algorithms and devices for pregnancy health assessment in  high-income and low-and-middle-income country settings. Emerging topics in this area will also be discussed.

Professor Alison Noble FRS  is currently the Technikos Professor in Biomedical Engineering, at the University of Oxford, UK and former Director of the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering (2012-16) and a former Associate Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division (2016-19.)

Alison’s research focuses on ultrasound imaging, and computational analysis of images, motivated by unmet clinical needs in global healthcare settings. She received the Royal Society Gabor Medal for her inter-disciplinary research contributions in 2019, and the same year received the MICCAI Society Enduring Impact award. She is a current European Research Council Advanced Grant holder, and has held or currently holds grants from the UKRI, NIHR, Wellcome Trust, NIH, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has supervised 69 graduated PhD students (19 women), and has a sustained track record of mentoring early career researchers at Oxford and on national schemes.

Alison serves on numerous national and international advisory boards. She served on the MICCAI Society board for a decade and is a former President of the MICCAI Society (2013-5). She is an active Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Society, and received an OBE for services to science and engineering in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2013.

Prof. Lynn Rochester, Newcastle University, UK.

Digital Health Technology – leveraging real-world insights in mobility

ABSTRACT: Mobility is important – the last year has brought this into sharp focus.  Mobility is not only a target for intervention, subtle features of mobility (such as how fast someone walks and how variable their steps are) provide us with a window into the brain and body and an indicator of health.  As a clinician, mobility has been my focus. In particular, how do we keep people with neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s – mobile and safe?  This propelled me towards the scientific study of gait – a key feature of mobility.  The last 10 years have seen a revolution in digital technology (such as wearables and mobile devices) advancing the study of mobility. Implementing technology in the real-world allows further insights into health previously unobtainable and a ‘living-lab’ approach to study and treat mobility loss.  Continuous monitoring captures the challenges of mobility that play out in real-time at the intersection between personal, contextual and environmental demands and bring a personalized focus to healthcare.  However, large scale implementation of real-world mobility assessment and treatment, although promising, remains tantalizingly out of reach. This talk will focus on experiences and insights using digital technology to quantify mobility in Parkinson’s disease, explore challenges to extract meaningful insights from continuous real-world mobility data, and highlight future possibilities. Throughout I will draw on my own experience using digital technology and leverage insights from the work of the Mobilise-D consortium (, a large international effort to translate real-world mobility assessment to research and healthcare.

Lynn Rochester is Professor of Human Movement Science at Newcastle University. She is the Specialty Cluster Lead for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network providing strategic oversight of research delivery in ageing, neurodegenerative disease, dementia, genetics and neurological disorders and, oversees the flagship NIHR-INCLUDE Project ( Lynn’s research interests focus on understanding and mitigating mobility loss in ageing and neurodegenerative disease and, conversely, what mobility can tell us about brain health. To deliver these interests she leads the Brain and Movement Research Group (BAM) ( – comprised of a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, clinical and data scientists and clinical engineers. In recognition of her research leadership she holds an NIHR Senior Investigators award. Lynn has a keen interest in digital healthcare and the role of digital technology in management of neurodegenerative disease. She is Co-ordinator of the IMI consortium Mobilise-D (, aiming to develop and validate digital mobility biomarkers, and,  co-investigator in the IMI consortium IDEA-Fast ( which is developing real-world digital measures for fatigue and sleep disturbance. She led the collaboration between these two consortia to form the Digital Health Catalyst ( – aiming to foster the next generation of digital health researchers and professionals. She has published >260 papers, many in the field of Digital Health.
Prof. Marylyn D. Ritchie, Professor in the Department of Genetics, Director of the Center for Translational Bioinformatics, Associate Director for Bioinformatics in the Institute for Biomedical Informatics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, US.

Leveraging Electronic Health Records for Precision Health

ABSTRACT: Biomedical data science has experienced an explosion of new data over the past decade. Abundant genetic and genomic data are increasingly available in large, diverse data sets due to the maturation of modern molecular technologies. Along with these molecular data, dense, rich phenotypic data are also available on comprehensive clinical data sets from health care provider organizations, clinical trials, population health registries, and epidemiologic studies. The methods and approaches for interrogating these large genetic/genomic and clinical data sets continue to evolve rapidly, as our understanding of the questions and challenges continues to develop. Through applying bioinformatics, statistics, and machine learning approaches to the rich phenotypic data of the EHR, these data can be mined to identify new and interesting patterns of disease expression and relationships.  We have been exploring various translational bioinformatics technologies for evaluating the phenomic landscape to improve our understanding of complex traits.  These techniques show great promise for the future of precision medicine and precision health.

Marylyn D. Ritchie, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Genetics, Director of the Center for Translational Bioinformatics, Associate Director for Bioinformatics in the Institute for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Ritchie is also Associate Director for the Penn Center for Precision Medicine. Dr. Ritchie is a translational bioinformatics scientist, biomedical informatician, and computational human geneticist with a focus on developing novel approaches for understanding the relationship between our genome and human phenotypes. Dr. Ritchie has over 20 years of experience in the analysis of complex data and has authored over 350 publications.  Dr. Ritchie has received several awards and honors including selection as a Genome Technology Rising Young Investigator in 2006, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in 2010, a KAVLI Frontiers of Science fellow by the National Academy of Science from 2011-2014, and she was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics in 2020.  Dr Ritchie is also the host of two podcasts: she co-hosts The Biomedical Informatics Roundtable podcast with Dr. Jason Moore and she is the solo host of The CALM Podcast: Combining Academia and Life with Marylyn.
Prof. Roozbeh Ghaffari, Northwestern University, USA

Soft, Wearable Systems with Integrated Microfluidics and Biosensors for Remote Health Monitoring

ABSTRACT: Soft bio-electronics and microfluidics, enabled by recent advances in materials science and mechanics, can be designed with physical properties that approach the mechanical properties of human skin. These systems are referred to as epidermal electronics and epifluidics by virtue of their stretchable form factors and soft mechanics compared to conventional packaged electronics and sensors. Here, we present an overview of recent advances in novel materials, mechanics, and designs for emerging classes of fully-integrated epidermal electronics and soft microfluidic systems. These devices incorporate arrays of sensors, microfluidic channels and biochemical assays, configured in ultrathin, stretchable formats for continuous monitoring of electro-chemical signals and biophysical metrics. Quantitative analyses of strain distribution and circuit performances under mechanical stress highlight the utility of these wearable systems in clinical and home environments. We will conclude with representative examples of these wearable systems, which have entered the commercialization phase of deployment.

Dr. Ghaffari is co-founder and CEO of Epicore Biosystems, Inc., a company developing a proprietary wearable microfluidic sensing platform. He also serves as an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University, and is Director of Translational Research at the Querrey-Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics. Dr. Roozbeh Ghaffari holds BS and MEng degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his PhD in biomedical engineering from the Harvard Medical School-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology. Upon completion of his PhD, Dr. Ghaffari co-founded MC10 Inc (acquired by Medidata Inc), and served as Chief Technology Officer. In this role, Dr. Ghaffari led the development and commercial launch of the BioStamp health monitoring platform. Dr. Ghaffari’s contributions in soft bioelectronics, micro/nano-scale systems, and auditory neuroscience research have been recognized with the Helen Carr Peake PhD Research Prize, MIT 100K Grand Prize, and MIT Technology Review Magazine’s Top 35 Innovators Under 35. He has published over 100 academic papers and is inventor on over 50 issued patents.
Prof. Vimla L Patel, Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies in Medicine and Public Health at the New York Academy of Medicine, US

Improving Consideration of Social and Cognitive Behaviors in Advancing Informatics Technologies for Health Care

ABSTRACT: The modern landscape is being shaped by complex converging forces that will cause shifts in how we deliver and use health care. As we embrace inevitable technological advances, social and cognitive factors will need to be a major part of the discussion, with a focus on the users of the technical innovations. Current efforts to advance this goal have already started. However, there is still a disparity between the users’ knowledge and expectations of the technical systems being introduced and their lay beliefs, limited mental models of the technology, and their cognitive representations of illness and disease. Social cognition is predicated upon the belief that both patients and clinicians are predisposed to see the world in individualized ways that shape their behavior and decision-making. These factors are too often misunderstood or ignored in the design and evaluation of engineering systems. A major challenge for health informatics in the future will be to generate evidence-based information about how people process medical and health-related information, with and without supporting technologies. There will be a much greater need for collaborative efforts among scientists (biomedical, cognitive, and social), practitioners, and engineers, as they design and implement systems, if we are to offer technologies that are embraced and thereby reshape the future of our healthcare for a better quality of life. I will address some of these issues with examples from cognitive informatics studies, which influence users’ behavior as they interact with health care technology.

Vimla L Patel is a Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies in Medicine and Public Health at the New York Academy of Medicine. She is also an adjunct Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University and the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University (ASU). A graduate of McGill University in Montreal, Dr. Patel was a Professor of Medicine and Psychology and Director of McGill Cognitive Science Center. From 2007-2009, she served as the Professor and Chair of Biomedical Informatics in the Ira Fulton School of Engineering at ASU. Her early research related to cognitive mechanisms underlying expertise and medical decision-making. Her studies over the past two decades are on decision support technology and errors in complex clinical environments, addressing the role of cognition in biomedical informatics (human-computer interaction, cognitive design, distributed cognition, and team decision making) for a safer clinical workplace.
Prof. Patel is an elected fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (Canada), the American College of Medical Informatics, and the International Academy of Health Information Sciences. She is the editor of the Springer Book Series on Cognitive Informatics in Healthcare and Biomedicine. She is on the Journal of Intelligence-based Medicine editorial board and a past associate editor of the Journal of Biomedical Informatics, and assistant editor of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. She has over 300 scholarly publications spanning books and journals in biomedical informatics, education, clinical medicine, and cognitive science.
Prof. Yuan-Ting Zhang, Hong Kong Center for Cerebro-cardiovascular Health Engineering (COCHE)

Wearable “SUPER-MINDS” for the Precision Control of CVDs and COVIDs

ABSTRACT: The cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and coronavirus diseases (COVIDs) are the most current pressing health challenges globally today. This talk will attempt to address the grand challenges through the paradigm shift to Health Informatics and discuss the convergence approach to integrate technologies across multiple scales in the biological hierarchy from molecular, cell, organ to system for diseases prevention. The presentation will focus on the development of wearable ‘SUPER-MINDS’ technologies and their integrations with unobtrusive sensing, biomarker detection, biomedical imaging and machine learning for the early prediction of acute CVDs. Potential applications in the fast response and precise control of COVID-19 will also be discussed. Using the atherosclerotic plaque assessment as an example, this talk will illustrate that the health convergence approach should allow the practice of 8- P’s proactive medicine that is predictive, preventive, precise, pervasive, personalized, participatory, preemptive, and patient-centralized.

Dr. Yuan-Ting Zhang is currently the Chairman and Director/CEO of Hong Kong Center for Cerebro-cardiovascular Health Engineering (COCHE) at the HKSTP and the Chair Professor of Biomedical Engineering at City University of Hong Kong. He is a LRG member of Karolinska Institutet MWLC. He was the Sensing System Architect in Health Technology and Sensing Hardware Division at Apple Inc., California, USA, and the founding Director of the Key Lab for Health Informatics of Chinese Academy of Sciences. Professor Zhang dedicated his service to the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 1994 to 2015 in the Department of Electronic Engineering, where he served as the first Head of the Division of Biomedical Engineering and the founding Director of the Joint Research Center for Biomedical Engineering and developed the Bachelor, Master and PhD degree Programmes all in Biomedical Engineering.

Prof. Zhang serves as the Editor-in-Chief for IEEE Reviews in Biomedical Engineering, Chair of the Working Group for the development of IEEE 1708 Standard on Wearable Cuffless Blood Pressure Measuring Devices, and Organizer of IEEE-MDBS series. He is a member of IEEE Medal panel for Healthcare Technology Award. He was the Editor-in-Chief for IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine and the first Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics. He served as Vice Preside of IEEE EMBS, Technical Program Chair of EMBC’98 in Hong Kong, Conference Chair of EMBC’05 in Shanghai, and Chair of 2016-2018 IEEE Award Committee in Biomedical Engineering. Prof. Zhang’s research interests include cardiovascular health engineering, unobtrusive sensing and wearable devices, neural muscular modeling and pHealth technologies. He was selected on the lists of China’s Most Cited Researchers by Elsevier for 6 consecutive years when he involved in founding a research institute under the Chinese Academy of Science. He won a number of international awards including IEEE-EMBS best journal paper awards, IEEE-EMBS Outstanding Service Award, IEEE-SA 2014 Emerging Technology Award. Prof. Zhang is elected to be IAMBE Fellow, IEEE Fellow and AIMBE Fellow for his contributions to the development of wearable and m-Health technologies.

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