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UK leads European research programme with £10M investment in bioscience data handling capacity

The UK has made its first substantial commitment to a major emerging pan-European science project with a £10M investment (25 August) by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

BBSRC has awarded funding to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), based at Hinxton near Cambridge, to permit a dramatic increase in the institute’s data storage and handling capacity. The funding is the first step in developing the existing data resources and IT infrastructure of EMBL-EBI towards its planned role as the central hub of the emerging European Life-Science Infrastructure for Biological Information (ELIXIR), placing the UK at the forefront of this multinational initiative. The estimated total cost of establishing ELIXIR is significantly more than £200M.

Modern bioscience research, including the new generation of high through-put sequencing technologies, generates huge amounts of data. In order to use the data efficiently and to accelerate bioscience advances, such as the development of new drugs and therapies or higher yielding crops, scientists require better ways to deal with this avalanche of information.

ELIXIR is an initiative involving 32 partners from 13 countries aimed at establishing a sustainably funded infrastructure for biological information in Europe. It will support life science research and its applications to medicine, agriculture and food security, the environment, the bio-industries and society.

The UK’s involvement in ELIXIR is supported by BBSRC, MRC, NERC and the Wellcome Trust.

EMBL-EBI Director and ELIXIR coordinator, Professor Janet Thornton, said: “The UK’s decision to invest in ELIXIR is an important milestone in creating the infrastructure for biological information in Europe. The EBI will form the hub of a network of ELIXIR nodes that will empower European science at the interface of biology, computing and data management – one of the most vibrant areas of contemporary research. In particular it means that we will be able to implement next-generation datahandling and storage solutions, which will be able to cope with the flood of biological data and fuel future developments in basic biology, medicine, agriculture and environmental sciences.”

Professor Doug Kell, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said: “Biology is an information science that is rich in data. UK science funders and EMBL-EBI are committed to ensuring that our researchers can use the latest computational technologies to store, access and analyse the huge amounts of data generated in contemporary bioscience, and thereby to turn them into knowledge and information. These data hold the key to tackling some of our most pressing challenges such as feeding an expanding world population, coping with climate change and providing new, high-efficacy therapeutics with minimal side effects. The UK will now be at the hub of an exciting European partnership to accelerate the application of science in these and other areas.” 

Tags: BBSRC, ELIXIR, Funding, Hinxton, Partnerships, press release, The Wellcome Trust, Thornton

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