Welcome to the Biomedical Informatics Lab of Prof. Dr. Gunnar Rätsch

The research in our group lies at the interface between methods research in Machine Learning, Genomics and Medical Informatics and relevant applications in biology and medicine.

We develop new analysis techniques that are capable of dealing with large amounts of medical and genomic data. These techniques aim to provide accurate predictions on the phenomenon at hand and to comprehensibly provide reasons for their prognoses, and thereby assist in gaining new biomedical insights.

Current research includes a) Machine Learning related to time-series analysis and iterative optimization algorithms, b) methods for transcriptome analyses to study transcriptome alterations in cancer, c) developing clinical decision support systems, in particular, for time series data from intensive care units, d) new graph genome algorithms to store and analyze very large sets of genomic sequences, and e) developing methods and resources for international sharing of genomic and clinical data, for instance, about variants in BRCA1/2.

Abstract The BRCA Challenge is a long-term data-sharing project initiated within the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) to aggregate BRCA1 and BRCA2 data to support highly collaborative research activities. Its goal is to generate an informed and current understanding of the impact of genetic variation on cancer risk across the iconic cancer predisposition genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2. Initially, reported variants in BRCA1 and BRCA2 available from public databases were integrated into a single, newly created site, www.brcaexchange.org. The purpose of the BRCA Exchange is to provide the community with a reliable and easily accessible record of variants interpreted for a high-penetrance phenotype. More than 20,000 variants have been aggregated, three times the number found in the next-largest public database at the project’s outset, of which approximately 7,250 have expert classifications. The data set is based on shared information from existing clinical databases—Breast Cancer Information Core (BIC), ClinVar, and the Leiden Open Variation Database (LOVD)—as well as population databases, all linked to a single point of access. The BRCA Challenge has brought together the existing international Evidence-based Network for the Interpretation of Germline Mutant Alleles (ENIGMA) consortium expert panel, along with expert clinicians, diagnosticians, researchers, and database providers, all with a common goal of advancing our understanding of BRCA1 and BRCA2 variation. Ongoing work includes direct contact with national centers with access to BRCA1 and BRCA2 diagnostic data to encourage data sharing, development of methods suitable for extraction of genetic variation at the level of individual laboratory reports, and engagement with participant communities to enable a more comprehensive understanding of the clinical significance of genetic variation in BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Authors Melissa S. Cline , Rachel G. Liao , Michael T. Parsons , Benedict Paten , Faisal Alquaddoomi, Antonis Antoniou, Samantha Baxter, Larry Brody, Robert Cook-Deegan, Amy Coffin, Fergus J. Couch, Brian Craft, Robert Currie, Chloe C. Dlott, Lena Dolman, Johan T. den Dunnen, Stephanie O. M. Dyke, Susan M. Domchek, Douglas Easton, Zachary Fischmann, William D. Foulkes, Judy Garber, David Goldgar, Mary J. Goldman, Peter Goodhand, Steven Harrison, David Haussler, Kazuto Kato, Bartha Knoppers, Charles Markello, Robert Nussbaum, Kenneth Offit, Sharon E. Plon, Jem Rashbass, Heidi L. Rehm, Mark Robson, Wendy S. Rubinstein, Dominique Stoppa-Lyonnet, Sean Tavtigian, Adrian Thorogood, Can Zhang, Marc Zimmermann, BRCA Challenge Authors , John Burn , Stephen Chanock , Gunnar Rätsch , Amanda B. Spurdle

Submitted PLOS Genetics

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Abstract Our comprehensive analysis of alternative splicing across 32 The Cancer Genome Atlas cancer types from 8,705 patients detects alternative splicing events and tumor variants by reanalyzing RNA and whole-exome sequencing data. Tumors have up to 30% more alternative splicing events than normal samples. Association analysis of somatic variants with alternative splicing events confirmed known trans associations with variants in SF3B1 and U2AF1 and identified additional trans-acting variants (e.g., TADA1, PPP2R1A). Many tumors have thousands of alternative splicing events not detectable in normal samples; on average, we identified ≈930 exon-exon junctions (“neojunctions”) in tumors not typically found in GTEx normals. From Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium data available for breast and ovarian tumor samples, we confirmed ≈1.7 neojunction- and ≈0.6 single nucleotide variant-derived peptides per tumor sample that are also predicted major histocompatibility complex-I binders (“putative neoantigens”).

Authors Andre Kahles, Kjong-Van Lehmann, Nora C. Toussaint, Matthias Hüser, Stefan Stark, Timo Sachsenberg, Oliver Stegle, Oliver Kohlbacher, Chris Sander, Gunnar Rätsch, The Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network

Submitted Cancer Cell

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Abstract The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) proposes a data access policy model—“registered access”—to increase and improve access to data requiring an agreement to basic terms and conditions, such as the use of DNA sequence and health data in research. A registered access policy would enable a range of categories of users to gain access, starting with researchers and clinical care professionals. It would also facilitate general use and reuse of data but within the bounds of consent restrictions and other ethical obligations. In piloting registered access with the Scientific Demonstration data sharing projects of GA4GH, we provide additional ethics, policy and technical guidance to facilitate the implementation of this access model in an international setting.

Authors Stephanie O. M. Dyke, Mikael Linden, […], Gunnar Rätsch, […], Paul Flicek

Submitted European Journal of Human Genetics

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Abstract Motivation: Technological advancements in high-throughput DNA sequencing have led to an exponential growth of sequencing data being produced and stored as a byproduct of biomedical research. Despite its public availability, a majority of this data remains hard to query for the research community due to a lack of efficient data representation and indexing solutions. One of the available techniques to represent read data is a condensed form as an assembly graph. Such a representation contains all sequence information but does not store contextual information and metadata. Results: We present two new approaches for a compressed representation of a graph coloring: a lossless compression scheme based on a novel application of wavelet tries as well as a highly accurate lossy compression based on a set of Bloom filters. Both strategies retain a coloring even when adding to the underlying graph topology. We present construction and merge procedures for both methods and evaluate their performance on a wide range of different datasets. By dropping the requirement of a fully lossless compression and using the topological information of the underlying graph, we can reduce memory requirements by up to three orders of magnitude. Representing individual colors as independently stored modules, our approaches can be efficiently parallelized and provide strategies for dynamic use. These properties allow for an easy upscaling to the problem sizes common to the biomedical domain. Availability: We provide prototype implementations in C ++, summaries of our experiments as well as links to all datasets publicly at https://github.com/ratschlab/graph_annotation.

Authors Harun Mustafa, ingo Schilken, Mikhail Karasikov, Carsten Eickhoff, Gunnar Rätsch, Andre Kahles

Submitted Bioinformatics

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Abstract Two popular examples of first-order optimization methods over linear spaces are coordinate descent and matching pursuit algorithms, with their randomized variants. While the former targets the optimization by moving along coordinates, the latter considers a generalized notion of directions. Exploiting the connection between the two algorithms, we present a unified analysis of both, providing affine invariant sublinear $O(1/t)$ rates on smooth objectives and linear convergence on strongly convex objectives. As a byproduct of our affine invariant analysis of matching pursuit, our rates for steepest coordinate descent are the tightest known. Furthermore, we show the first accelerated convergence rate $O(1/t^2)$ for matching pursuit and steepest coordinate descent on convex objectives.

Authors Francesco Locatello, Anant Raj, Sai Praneeth Reddy, Gunnar Rätsch, Bernhard Schölkopf, Sebastian U Stich, Martin Jaggi

Submitted ICML 2018

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