BioCompute Object Specification Project Receives Highly Anticipated IEEE Standardization Acceptance

IEEE acceptance of the George Washington University-led project will promote standardized methods for high-throughput sequencing and –omics computational workflows

WASHINGTON (May 14, 2020) – The BioCompute Object Specification Project led by a team at the George Washington University has been officially approved for publication as an internationally recognized standard by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standards Association. Standardization will open the door to government agencies and large institutions formalizing the process of communicating bioinformatic analyses.

BioCompute, a community-driven project with roots dating back to 2012, is led by a team at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The researchers developed a framework for the standardized communication of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) computations and data analysis, captured in the form of BioCompute Objects (BCOs). The BioCompute community is an informal group of bioinformatics researchers from academia, the regulatory world, and private industry with interests in harmonizing their communication efforts.

Since initial funding in 2015, the BioCompute community has continued to grow. Within the past year, BioCompute held a workshop at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), coordinated an “App-a-thon” Challenge on the PrecisionFDA platform to engage the bioinformatics community, and earned funding from the National Science Foundation to expand usage of the popular genomics workbench Galaxy Project. Prior to standardization, BCO compatibility had already been integrated by various bioinformatic platforms including Galaxy Project, Seven Bridges, Cancer Genomics Cloud, and the High-throughput Integrated Virtual Environment at the FDA.

Bioinformatics analyses can be remarkably detailed and complex, and the wide variety of ways in which groups can communicate them has led to confusion and inefficiencies in regulatory science, research, and education. In the spring of 2018, the BioCompute community began the standardization process through the Open Source Pilot program as part of the IEEE as a way to alleviate confusion and inefficiencies. The open repository nature of the project allows private users to develop their own version of the standard for internal purposes while maintaining compatibility with the standard. BioCompute is the first genomics-related standard and among the first standards overall to go through the Open Source program through IEEE.

“BioCompute has grown substantially in the last few years, and I am excited that we’ve achieved IEEE standardization,” said Raja Mazumder, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “This will open the door to more federal agencies and bioinformatics platforms adopting it.”

In addition to receiving IEEE standardization, the project recently received a $2.2 million grant from the FDA in December 2019.

The current grant contract includes extensive training for FDA personnel to understand and work with BCOs and to gather feedback from the regulatory community that will inform a “best practices” document.

The BioCompute community plans to also undergo International Standards Organization (ISO) standardization through a joint IEEE-ISO agreement, which will help extend the reach of the standard. The project has already been reviewed at an official meeting of the Healthcare Informatics Working Group, and will be reviewed on May 28.

Explore information about the BioCompute Project and its GitLab.

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