UK invests £75 million in European research infrastructure to support knowledge-based economy
Support for ELIXIR research infrastructure
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 £75 million 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 maximise 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.
It’s almost a year since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic, affecting all our lives. While the virus continues its grip on the world, scientists are understanding it better and better, increasing our knowledge about it and opening up new ways to fight it.