The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) welcome news that funding has been earmarked from the UK’s Large Facilities Capital Fund for ELIXIR - the European Life-science Infrastructure for Biological Information - as announced.
ELIXIR is a pan-European initiative that aims to operate a sustainable infrastructure for biological information in Europe. It will provide public access to the information on the building blocks of life, including genes, proteins and complex networks. This will support life science research and its translation to medicine and the environment, the bio-industries and society to deliver economic growth to the UK, Europe and beyond. Consistent with the movement towards open access to data and publications, ELIXIR will make important information freely available to researchers across academia and industry.
This project, if approved, will allow the construction of ELIXIR’s central hub at EMBL-EBI in Hinxton near Cambridge, ensuring the maintenance and expansion of essential biological data resources to support bioscience researchers working in many disciplines. ELIXIR works through a network of nodes distributed throughout Europe and coordinated at EMBL-EBI.
BBSRC leads the funding strategy element of the project and has already contributed £10M funding towards the establishment of ELIXIR. The Medical Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Wellcome Trust also support ELIXIR. Denmark, Finland, Spain and Sweden have already committed funds towards developing the ELIXIR network.
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC, said: “This is really excellent news for the European bioscience community. In this post-genomic world, the life sciences are generating vast amounts of data. Storing and curating them in central locations is the best way and most efficient way to make them available in digestible forms. To benefit from the information they contain we have to be able to mine such data for answers to many of the current problems in chemical, molecular and sub-cellular biology, and also to apply them in the context of systems and predictive models. To this end, ELIXIR offers essential services to the modern life sciences community, and these need both to be expanded and to be maintained. Only in this way can we make the most of previous and future investments in research in biology and biotechnology.”
Professor Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL-EBI and coordinator of ELIXIR, said: “This support from the UK Government lays the foundation for ELIXIR. This is the first step towards building a distributed infrastructure for biological information throughout Europe. By providing public access to the wealth of knowledge generated by the global research community, we will empower researchers in academia and industry to solve some of society’s most pressing problems”.
ELIXIR has the potential to transform biosciences research leading to major advances in:
• Healthy ageing - Linking biomedical and biological data resources to facilitate understanding of diseases of old age; drive earlier diagnosis; and improve disease prevention and management.
• Food security - Easy access to genomes of animals, plants, insects and pathogens for crop improvement and improved health, welfare, and productivity of livestock.
• Biotech and pharma industry - Facilitation of pre-commercial research collaborations with the potential to attract more companies to Europe.
• Environmental change - Support for researchers who are monitoring ocean life; understanding effects of climate change on species diversity; and developing new methods to tackle pollution and waste. Also, the development of new plant-based sources for sustainable bioenergy.
• Bioenergy and industrial biotechnology - Access to the very diverse genomes and metagenomes of plants and microbes, as well as biochemical data derived therefrom, to support research into sustainable bioenergy and industrial biotechnology applications.
There is great potential for ELIXIR to support the maintenance and development of the knowledge-based bioeconomy in the UK and Europe and promote the development of Europe-based R&D business in a range of fields, including pharmaceuticals and agriculture.