£75M investment in European research infrastructure to support knowledge-based economy
5 December 2011
The European Molecular Biology Laboratory's European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) warmly welcome today's announcement from the UK Government of a £75M commitment from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF) for the ELIXIR research infrastructure.
ELIXIR is a pan-European effort to safeguard and foster data generated in life-science experiments. Its core objective is to ensure that Europe can continue to handle a rapidly growing volume and variety of data from high-throughput experiments such as DNA sequencing. Proper management of this information promotes knowledge-based economic growth, and facilitates the translation of research into innovations that meet global challenges in food security, energy and health.
EMBL-EBI and BBSRC have jointly welcomed the funding announcement on behalf of the life science community. The project is also supported by the Medical Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and The Wellcome Trust. EMBL-EBI will host the future central hub of ELIXIR and BBSRC is the leading funding body for its construction.
The new funding will allow the construction of ELIXIR's central hub at EMBL-EBI on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridge. The hub will be the nerve centre for bioinformatics in Europe, coordinating the delivery of services and user training from several centres of excellence Europe-wide. The hub will also establish a robust computing infrastructure that can handle the rising tide of life science data.
"This commitment from the UK Government to ELIXIR emphasises the growing importance of biological information to every citizen," said Professor Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL-EBI and coordinator of the preparatory phase of ELIXIR, which is funded under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme. "This funding puts Europe in a uniquely strong position to solve some of society's most pressing problems, with the UK right in the middle of the action. In the future we expect similar commitments from ELIXIR's members around Europe to build their nodes."
Professor Søren Brunak of the Technical University of Denmark and Chair of the Interim ELIXIR Board said: "In the organisation of the ELIXIR bioinformatics infrastructure the hub is essential. In order for the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts we need strong coordination of activities across the different nodes in Europe. The decision to fund the construction of ELIXIR's central hub is therefore a very important milestone in the development of the distributed infrastructure and we hope that ELIXIR members will in future contribute to its operation."
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said: "Modern life science research has the potential to touch every one of our lives. But in order to support economic growth, new jobs and to improve our standards of living we need better ways to handle the unimaginable amount of data modern approaches generate. The collaborative and centrally accessible approach represented by ELIXIR is the most effective and efficient way for life scientists to store, manage, share and interpret information. Through ELIXIR, we are ensuring our researchers have access to the best infrastructure and services now and in the future. ELIXIR will help us maximize the outputs and impact of the UK's world-leading life science research base."
Louise Leong, Head of Research and Development at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, commented: "The rapid advent of new science and technologies means that pharmaceutical research and development is increasingly complex, multi-disciplinary and interdependent. R&D therefore relies on effective coordination and curation of life science data. Without good access to such data, time and resources are wasted duplicating effort, which could be spent creating innovative new medicines. ELIXIR will ensure that public data resources are sufficiently diverse and forward-looking enough to remain relevant to business needs."
ELIXIR has the potential to enhance the development of Europe-based R&D business in fields ranging from pharmaceuticals to agriculture. Significant financial contributions towards the construction of ELIXIR nodes throughout Europe have already been made by Denmark, Finland, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. The operational costs of the hub will be met by shared contributions from participating countries.
For more information about ELIXIR, please visit www.elixir-europe.org
Notes to editors
BBSRC has already funded the ELIXIR programme with a £10M investment. As of November 2011, 10 countries and EMBL have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) stating their commitment to making ELIXIR a reality: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK have all formally lent their support to the project. Several other countries are expected to join in the near future; all European countries are invited to engage with ELIXIR.
The Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF) is administered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and used for providing additional capital to Research Councils for priority projects.
The European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and is located on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton near Cambridge (UK). The EBI grew out of EMBL's pioneering work in providing public biological databases to the research community. It hosts some of the world's most important collections of biological data, including DNA sequences (EMBL-Bank), protein sequences (UniProt), animal genomes (Ensembl), three-dimensional structures (the Protein Databank in Europe), data from gene expression experiments (ArrayExpress), protein-protein interactions (IntAct) and pathway information (Reactome). The EBI hosts several research groups and its scientists continually develop new tools for the biocomputing community.
The purpose of ELIXIR is to develop the plan for a sustainable infrastructure for biological information in Europe. This plan focuses on generating stable funding for Europe's most important publicly accessible databases of molecular biological information, and the development of a compute infrastructure that can cope with the biological data deluge. ELIXIR is one of 44 research infrastructures recommended by the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI, http://cordis.europa.eu/esfri/) as being of key strategic importance to Europe's future. ELIXIR holds a special place among these because it will provide infrastructure for the other biological, medical and environmental research infrastructures being developed. ELIXIR will provide: data resources; bio-compute centres; an infrastructure for integration of biological data, software tools and services throughout and beyond Europe; support for other European infrastructures in biomedical and environmental research; and services for the research community, including training and standards development. This will enable ELIXIR's users to meet the European Grand Challenges, which are almost all biological, namely: healthcare for an aging population, a sustainable food supply, competitive pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries and protection of the environment. To date, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and the UK have committed funds to ELIXIR and the project is actively seeking the support of other nations. www.elixir-europe.org
The European Molecular Biology Laboratory is a basic research institute funded by public research monies from 20 member states (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) and associate member state Australia. Research at EMBL is conducted by approximately 85 independent groups covering the spectrum of molecular biology. The Laboratory has five units: the main Laboratory in Heidelberg, and Outstations in Hinxton (the European Bioinformatics Institute), Grenoble, Hamburg, and Monterotondo near Rome. The cornerstones of EMBL's mission are: to perform basic research in molecular biology; to train scientists, students and visitors at all levels; to offer vital services to scientists in the member states; to develop new instruments and methods in the life sciences and to actively engage in technology transfer activities. Around 190 students are enrolled in EMBL's International PhD programme. Additionally, the Laboratory offers a platform for dialogue with the general public through various science communication activities such as lecture series, visitor programmes and the dissemination of scientific achievements.
About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust's breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. www.wellcome.ac.uk
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
Mary Todd-Bergman, Outreach Programme Project Leader, EBI, Hinxton, UK
tel: 01223 494665
Katrina Pavelin, EMBL-EBI Scientific Outreach Officer, EBI, Hinxton, UK
tel: 01223 494452
Sonia Furtado, EMBL Press Officer, Heidelberg, Germany
tel: +49 6221 387 8263
EMI Press Office