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Biological Sciences Reinforced to Tackle Big Issues

by 5m Editor
4 May 2011, at 9:15am

EU - Three new EU research infrastructures on biological sciences will help tackle climate change, disease and threats to the food supply.

Research Ministers and the European Commission have given the green light to three new pan-European biological science research infrastructures. These extensive new facilities will help boost research and innovation on key societal challenges such as climate change, health and maintaining sufficient supplies of high quality food. The three projects will draw on resources pooled between various Member States and on EU funding.

Once complete, they will be open for use by researchers from across the EU and in some cases beyond. France will coordinate an infrastructure for studying how ecosystems respond to environment and land-use changes. The United Kingdom will lead in setting up an infrastructure on systems biology with applications expected in the pharmaceutical, health-care and agricultural sectors. The third new infrastructure, to be developed in France and Germany, will significantly enhance pan-European access to viruses, bacteria and fungi needed for research on infections affecting humans and crops, as well as for research on biosecurity. These infrastructures are part of the updated Roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) issued yesterday, 3 May. The overall investment for their construction is about €700 million.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: "Pooling national and EU resources to build pan-European research infrastructures – rather than each Member State simply going it alone – is common sense and a key part of the EU's Innovation Union plan. These collaborative efforts create economies of scale, boost EU competitiveness and deliver better value for money for taxpayers. The biological science infrastructures we are announcing today can make a major contribution to tackling some of the toughest problems we face, including climate change and threats to human health and to our food supplies."

The latest additions to the ESFRI Roadmap also include three energy infrastructure projects already announced in November 2010.

Three new research infrastructures in biological sciences

Biogeochemical cycles together with biodiversity are vital to climate change and food security issues. The Infrastructure for Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems (ANAEE), coordinated by France, will overcome the current fragmentation of ecosystem research in Europe and develop a coordinated set of experimental platforms to analyse, detect and forecast the responses of ecosystems to environmental changes, and to develop appropriate management techniques. For the first time, the project will bring together the major experimental analytical and modelling facilities in ecosystems science in Europe. This will help in understanding terrestrial ecosystems, and the potential impact of climate change. The infrastructure will be in operation from 2015 onwards.

The estimated costs for preparation and construction are €210 million. Institutions from 20 Member States and Associated Countries are supporting this project.

Contact for ANAEE: Lise Poulet, Chef du service Presse-Opinion, Tel + 33 1 42 75 91 68, Mobile + 33 6 89 33 80 11, [email protected] .

The Infrastructure for Systems Biology-Europe (ISBE), coordinated by the United Kingdom, aims to support the convergence of life sciences with information technology and system science. In particular it will focus on systems biology connecting the best European research skills, repositories for storing and archiving data and models. This will enable researchers to address how the interaction of biological components leads to the functioning of living organisms and to create models representing these interactions. System biology will have applications in medicine, such as in the design of pharmaceuticals but also an impact on agriculture, health care and environment. ISBE will be in operation from 2017 on. The estimated total construction cost is about €300 million. Organisations from 13 Member States and Associated Countries have demonstrated interest in this infrastructure.

Contact for ISBE: Richard Kitney, Imperial College London, Tel +44 0 2075945184, [email protected].

The EU Microbial Resource Research Infrastructure (MIRRI), coordinated by France and to be developed in France and Germany, will improve access to the best microbial resources, i.e. strains of viruses, bacteria and fungi which are the essential raw material for biotechnology. This will have a strong impact on research in the agricultural, food, health care and biotechnological sectors. Applications range from research on crop pathogens for sanitary and animal health reasons to research on human pathogens and biosecurity. MIRRI will build the European platform within the future Global Biological Resource Centre Network (GBRCN) for microorganisms. Operation of the infrastructure should start in 2014. The total construction cost is budgeted at approximately €190 million. Institutions from 24 Member States and Associated Countries are supporting this project.

Contact for MIRRI: David Smith, Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI), Tel +49 0 531 5962298, [email protected].