A European bioinformatics infrastructure for the genomic era and beyond

August 7, 2003

Brussels, 06 Aug 2003

Given recent achievements in genomic sequencing, and the potential benefits to society that such information offers, scientists and politicians alike are becoming more aware than ever of the value of quality biological databases, freely available to all and organised in a way that promotes scientific progress.

With this in mind, the Commission decided in 2002 to allocate some 20 million euro in funding, under the Quality of Life section of the Fifth Framework Programme, to a project aimed at boosting Europe's bioinformatics infrastructure.

TEMBLOR is a multi faceted project involving 25 collaborators from 11 countries, and is managed by the European Bioinformatics Institute (EIB), a department of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), whose mission is to promote free access to important biological research data.

Many bioinformatics centres in Europe already have databases containing valuable research information. The TEMBLOR project aims to introduce important new information resources to this existing data, and to create a platform that connects all existing and new data, allowing scientists to search seamlessly across different databases.

Graham Cameron, Associate Director of the EBI, explained the importance of the project's pan European approach: 'With an electronic resource centre such as TEMBLOR, it would be mindlessly wasteful to duplicate it at various national levels. The argument for a pan European resource is obvious, because its real value lies in its completeness, allowing researchers to quickly access all relevant information sources.'

As Dr Frederick Marcus, principle scientific officer at the European Commission's Research DG explained to CORDIS News: 'The amount of money spent on bioinformatics in the EU is much less than in the US. We need such investments in order to remain competitive and to maintain expertise and a scientific knowledge base in Europe.'

The project has four main components. DESPRAD focuses on the provision of micro array data, which allows researchers to understand which genes are active in specific cells under different conditions. DESPREAD will seek to overcome the considerable informatics challenges currently faced when collecting, organising and disseminating this valuable data.

Disruptions to the protein-protein interactions that determine the functions of all cells are a major cause of disease, and a catalogue of all such interactions would greatly benefit both pure and applied biomedical research.

Whilst large sets of protein-protein interaction data are already available, they are currently scattered across various databases. The IntAct component of TEMBLOR aims to define common standards for the collection of protein-protein interaction, and to develop a database that's compliant with them.

EMSD aims to meet a growing demand for efficient access to three dimensional structures for large molecules, which give an important mechanistic insight into how such macromolecules work, and how their functions can be disrupted by interaction with small molecules. EMSD will outline standardised ways of viewing and describing 3-D structures so that data can be shared effectively.

The final element in the TEMBLOR project is a tool that will allow scientists to seamlessly search across all of the different databases of information currently available. Using Integr8, researchers will be able to perform text, structure and sequence based searches, with the results linking down to the genomic sequence from which it is transcribed, and linking up to the protein sequence into which it is translated.

All searches will also link to relevant scientific literature and patent information, and will provide information on available biological resources such as gene libraries and DNA pools.

Mr Cameron highlighted the importance of the Commission's support for the project, saying: 'The Commission is the only organisation with the mandate and resources to create such a project at this level. The success of TEMBLOR relies on scientists making their research results freely available, and they are far more likely to do so for the benefit of a publicly funded initiative than for a commercial concern.'

For further information on TEMBLOR, please consult the following web address:
http://www.ebi.ac.uk/Information/funding /temblor.html

To read the June 2003 Commission bioinformatics workshop report, please visit

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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