Mobile Menu

The Festival of Genomics and Biodata 2022: Our decision to move to a digital only event

[London, 17th December 2021] Following recent consultation with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees and speakers, the Festival of Genomics & Biodata in January 2022 will now be a fully digital event. The event will now take place over 4 days from Tuesday 25th to Friday 28th January 2022.

WHY ARE WE MAKING THE DECISION TO GO FULLY DIGITAL?

As recently as a few days ago we were still confident that the Festival would take place as a hybrid event, with both in-person and digital options available for attendees.

However, the situation has now changed. So, why are we making this decision now?

  • Rising COVID cases in general. The number of confirmed cases of COVID in the UK have risen to unprecedented levels in the last two days. We cannot predict the future with any certainty.
  • Emergence of Omicron. The number of Omicron cases is rising rapidly, as much as doubling every two days. While there are early reports that this variant causes less severe symptoms for most people, the consensus is that it is too soon to be fully confident that Omicron will not impact healthcare resources as much as previous variants.
  • The risk that the Festival could contribute to the problem. The NHS make up a significant component of our audience and speaker line-up. Already stretched, most commentators predict that the NHS will become increasingly pressured over the next few weeks. Because Omicron is clearly more transmissible than previous dominant variants, until more is understood about transmission, we can no longer be confident that the Festival – a large event taking place in central London – will not contribute to the problem. The idea that the Festival – designed to help and support the NHS, among others – might contribute to the problem, is unthinkable.
  • We surveyed our speakers and attendees. We surveyed our speakers and a sample of in-person attendees within the last 48 hours. The majority of both speakers and attendees do not anticipate being able to attend physically.
  • We also surveyed our sponsors and exhibitors. While lots of exhibitors and sponsors are understandably keen for the event to remain in-person, others are deeply concerned about the situation. Based on the feedback we’ve received from attendees and speakers, we’re no longer confident of delivering a sufficient in-person audience.
  • The response of other life-science related events. Earlier this week we started to hear reports of other smaller life science events in January being cancelled. Yesterday, the large Annual J P Morgan Healthcare Conference in mid-January in California became a digital event. The main reason cited was a concern from stakeholders that the event would contribute to the wider problem we are facing. This action from the organiser or a major event like the Festival sets a precedent that is impossible to ignore.

WHY NOT DELAY THE DECISION? The situation could improve as we move through January.

The Festival has grown to become a LARGE in-person event. Exhibitors need to transport their booth and demo equipment early. Suppliers need to plan resources for the Festival well in advance. Speakers and attendees need to book accommodation and make arrangements for transport. Although the situation might improve in January, it might not. This situation puts us, as organisers, in an impossible situation. We cannot, in good conscience, delay the decision and have our attendees, speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and suppliers incur further costs. Therefore, we have made this difficult decision now. 

WHY NOT SIMPLY POSTPONE THE FESTIVAL?

If this was a small conference, we would seek to do this. However, this is simply not an option. The Business Design Centre, our usual venue, do not have any availability later in the year (other than times when no-one wants to run an event [e.g., Easter week or in August], they are booked out until 2024). In addition, many of our sponsors and exhibitors have busy event calendars. It would not be easy to find alternative dates that work for the majority.

WHAT NEXT?

While we’re disappointed to make this decision, we’re extremely confident of delivering a brilliant digital Festival. Here’s why:

  • We delivered an exceptional digital Festival last year. See here for a large list of testimonials, every one of which was gathered from the last digital Festival. We were overwhelmed with the feedback from everyone involved.
  • The Festival was already taking place digitally (for remote participants both in the UK and globally) as part of a hybrid event. So, we have already been preparing to deliver a brilliant digital experience for attendees. By focusing our attention on the digital experience, we are already coming up with new ways to make the Festival more effective as a digital experience for everyone.
  • The ongoing support of our sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and attendees. Everyone we have spoken to or surveyed has been brilliant and extremely supportive of whatever decision we needed to make. With support like this, we simply can’t fail.

We are now working on making the necessary changes to ensure the 2022 Festival is the best yet. These include:

  • A review of the agenda, to ensure that it is optimised for a digital audience. We anticipate some changes to when people are speaking. Because of the digital format, we will also be expanding the Festival to take place across 4 days (from Tuesday 25th to Friday 28th January), not 3, to accommodate some extra content and more variety of formats. We will announce a new agenda first thing in the new year. It’s important to note that every speaker we have spoken to is still willing to participate digitally.
  • A review of our features to create the best possible experience for attendees. In particular, we are exploring new ways of helping attendees to network with likeminded other attendees, one of the frequent criticisms of digital events.

We will need a few days to make these changes, so please bear with us. We will also start to make formal announcements in the new year.

The Festival will still be available on-demand for two weeks following the event.

A FINAL NOTE (AND A REQUEST)

My proudest moments as the founder of Front Line Genomics have been when walking around and speaking to people at the Festival. I am disappointed that I won’t get to do that in January. I know that many of you will be disappointed too. So are my team. Please continue to support us. These are unprecedented times, and it makes a huge difference to know that you ‘have our backs’ as we make difficult decisions like these.

Ultimately, the Festival is all about our social mission: To deliver the benefits of genomics to patients, faster. While we’re disappointed that we won’t see you in person, we’re also excited about delivering the Festival digitally, and innovating new ways to make the January 2022 edition even better than last year. And also exploring how the Festival can have more impact for patients than ever before.

Stay safe,

Front Line Genomics


More on these topics

Festival of Genomics

Share this article