Life Science Alliance starts new chapter
Dieter Schwarz Foundation renews 3-year funding to EMBL for the alliance between EMBL and Stanford Medicine
The ongoing inter-institutional alliance between EMBL and Stanford Medicine has received a fresh boost with the renewal of its 3-year funding by the Dieter Schwarz Foundation. The unique international collaboration brings together researchers from the two institutions with exchanges, fellowships, seed funding, and events to develop transformative technologies and accelerate biomedical research.
“The support provided by the Dieter Schwarz Stiftung has had a profound impact on the science and researchers within the Life Science Alliance during the past three years. Science has become increasingly global. The past few years have illustrated the power of a worldwide approach to tackling challenges that affect all of us,” said Lars Steinmetz, Director of the Life Science Alliance who leads research groups at EMBL as well as Stanford Medicine. “The renewed funding enables us to continue bringing together the best researchers, from clinicians to engineers, chemists, and biologists, to collaboratively address universal challenges in biomedical research, as well as train the next generation of global researchers. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity.”
Having launched its activities in 2019, the EMBL | Stanford Life Science Alliance centres its activities around training the next generation of international scientists, enabling the exchange of researchers to facilitate transatlantic collaboration, and encouraging global participation among the life science community.
The Bridging Excellence Fellowships underpin this programme. In the last three years, the alliance has awarded five fellowships to young researchers based at EMBL, which they could use to spend up to one year visiting a collaborator’s lab at the Stanford School of Medicine. This enabled these postdoctoral fellows to pursue independent projects in collaboration between EMBL and Stanford Medicine. In addition to benefitting from the technologies and expertise of both institutions for their research, the fellows gained first-hand experience of European and US-based approaches to science. This exposure, says Steinmetz, is particularly valuable to see how different communities approach the same scientific problem, thereby helping to develop a broader scientific mindset. The fellows were also able to use the opportunity to build a broad international network at a critical stage of their career.
Jana Helsen, a postdoctoral fellow in the Dey Group, is pursuing her research project on cell cycle adaptation under the umbrella of the Bridging Excellence Fellowship, supervised by Gautam Dey, Group Leader at EMBL, and Gavin Sherlock, Professor of Genetics at Stanford Medicine. “I feel like I’m getting the best of two worlds. I get to work on a project I love, while being able to connect with researchers across different continents, using exciting new technologies at two world-leading institutions,” she said.
Through exchange grants, the Life Science Alliance additionally enables researchers to undertake short research visits at the partner institution for up to three months. The alliance awarded six exchange grants during the past three years and also awarded four projects with seed funding via its data creation fund. The fund supports short-term projects focussed on employing EMBL’s first-class core facilities and scientific services to generate data for new collaborations. The inaugural round of projects is generating data for research into structural variants in cancer, the gut microbiome, proteomic stress in organs during ageing, and novel technologies for enhancing x-ray crystallography.
To strengthen collaborative scientific exchange, the alliance also organises a range of joint scientific events. In the past, these included the ‘EMBL | Stanford workshop on Structural Biology’ at EMBL Hamburg, the ‘EMBL in the USA Symposium’ at Stanford Medicine, and several virtual events like the ‘AI in Healthcare Symposium’ in cooperation with the MOLIT institute in Heilbronn. The Life Science Alliance network has doubled since 2019, and now includes 70 labs working across diverse areas of life sciences and 27 collaborative projects.
With the help of the new funding, a joint event will be organised each year until 2025, to further extend collaboration and networks.
Between 2022 and 2025, the alliance aims to address global challenges such as: how do individual differences in our DNA lead to serious disease in some patients and not others? How do tiny variations in early molecular processes affect our physiological development? And how can we ensure society is prepared for an ongoing war against new pathogens?
To tackle these questions, the alliance will extend interactions within the network and ensure a balanced two-way exchange of people, knowledge, and technologies, e.g. through an expansion of the Bridging Excellence Fellowships programme to support postdoctoral researchers at both EMBL and Stanford Medicine.
“We are very proud to see how well this network has developed. We are looking forward to making the most of all that we learned from previous activities in order to develop the Alliance even further and allow our researchers to join forces in new, exciting collaborations,” said EMBL General Director Edith Heard.
“The first funding phase showed us how important an international exchange of researchers is and what benefits it brings to society over the long-term. That is why we are very pleased that the alliance will be continued,” commented Reinhold Geilsdoerfer, managing director of the Dieter Schwarz Foundation. “Life science research, especially in connection with AI, will immensely change our future lives and leave a lasting impact.”