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Finding the Way Forward
New IDAWG Survey Results Confirm Need for Standardized Management of Immunogenomic and Histocompatibility Data

March, 2013 – A recent publication in the International Journal of Immunogenetics by CHORI scientists Jill Hollenbach, PhD, Steven Mack, PhD, and Janelle Noble PhD, and their colleagues in the immunogenomic data analysis working group (IDAWG), demonstrates for the first time that the high degree of inconsistent methodology in the field of immunogenomics and histocompatibility impacts study results.

“Immunogenomic and histocompatibility data are extremely variable, and require special handling, tools and methods,” says Dr. Hollenbach. “What we found through our IDAWG survey was that everyone deals with the data ambiguity differently, and that these different approaches actually create different results with the very same data.”

“What we found was that everyone deals with the data ambiguity differently, and that these different approaches actually create different results with the very same data.”



Formed in 2008, the IDAWG is comprised of experts and leaders in the field of immunogenomics and histocompatibility and has one main goal: to introduce standard practices in data management through community involvement and consensus.

"One of the biggest issues with the kind of data we deal with is the ambiguity in the results from genotyping. The genes are so variable that even using next generation sequencing methods, we wind up with data that is very ambiguous," explains Dr. Hollenbach.

Immunogenomics and histocompatibility researchers have historically addressed that ambiguity on an ad hoc basis. Consequently, results have been very difficult to duplicate, and thus confirm, across different research groups.

"Our field produces hundreds of publications a year," says Dr. Hollenbach. "These studies are on the same genes that are genotyped for tissue compatibility anytime someone needs a transplantation, these studies are on the same genes that are primarily involved in most, if not all, autoimmune diseases and potentially many infectious diseases as well. There is a huge need to standardize our methods so that our results can be duplicated and confirmed."

To address this need, the IDAWG group developed a survey to identify what researchers are already doing, what kind of methods they currently use, how they deal with core issues, and what software they use.

"We got nearly 200 responses from all over the world that represents a significant portion of our community, which is a fairly small niche field," says Dr. Hollenbach.

The survey clearly showed that research groups that analyzed the same data using different methods to resolve the ambiguity in the data generated different results.

“The major result from the survey, beyond identifying the resources and methods researchers are using, was that we demonstrated that everyone is resolving data ambiguity differently, and that how one does resolves it makes a clear difference to the results.”

In the wake of the results, Drs. Hollenbach and Mack are working to develop software that will provide a standardized means of resolving the ambiguity.

"By standardizing the way data is managed and analyzed," says Dr. Hollenbach, "We will at last be able to standardize the results from these studies."

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Monday, May 20, 2013 3:18 PM

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