Conference in Oxford, UK, on the future of virus taxonomy

From April 6th-8th, 2022, I was invited participant of the ICTV Workshop – Virus Classification in a Metagenomic Age. My expertise in this field is closely linked to the bioinformatic method VICTOR for genome-based virus classification which I have published some years ago.

About 40 experts from the field of (genome-based) virus taxonomy and general virology were invited to discuss various topics either via Zoom or on-site in Oxford, UK. The list of participants included renowned experts such as Christian Drosten, Peter Walker, Eugene Koonin etc.

The workshop was split into two parts and roughly followed this outline:

  • Workshop 1 – Genomics. What is the essence of a virus – the virion or the replication complex
    • Session 1 – Review of approaches to genomics-based taxonomy
    • Session 2 – Can we create a consistent genomics-based classification of viruses?
  • Workshop 2 – Genomics and phenotype: an unholy union? Is the purpose of virus taxonomy to divide up viruses pragmatically (i.e. based on their perceived properties such as host range, disease or epidemiology) or genomically (i.e., based on their evolutionary histories to the extent that these can be reconstructed)?
    • Session 1 – Can we and do we want to combine genomics and phenotype for taxonomic assignments?
    • Session 2 – Scaling up and standardising taxonomy across the virosphere