Brussels, 28 Jan 2004
The European Commission has established a new 12 million euro Network of Excellence (NoE) called BioSapiens, which comprises a virtual institute for genome annotation and a European school for training in bioinformatics.
As the process of genome sequencing continues in Europe, biologists are having to cope with ever increasing amounts of data. Bioinformatics helps by providing the technological tools to store, retrieve and analyse large amounts of biological data.
Bioinformatics can also be used to generate predictions about the biochemical functions of genes. In order for these predictions to lead to important discoveries, however, these predictions must be tested in the laboratory, and improved infrastructures are needed to ease the flow of data from computational biologists to experimentalists.
'Europe has excellent bioinformatics environments in many countries, but in order to maximise the overall impact it needs to strengthen and reinforce that excellence by restructuring and coordinating existing research capacities,' explains Professor Janet Thornton, director if the European Bioinformatics Institute, and coordinator of the network.
BioSapiens aims to achieve this by dividing the 24 participating bioinformatics institutes into nodes, each focusing on one particular aspect of genome annotation. The data they generate will be integrated and made freely accessible to all through a single web portal, and will also help guide future experimental work.
Network meetings and workshops will further encourage cooperation and reduce duplication of effort, and many of the events will be tailored towards industry, whose participation the organisers are keen to encourage. '[A]lthough there are 24 formal partners, BioSapiens is not a closed shop: once the infrastructure is established, a primary goal is to make this an open network to promote bioinformatics throughout Europe,' said Professor Thornton.
The other major element of the network is the establishment of a permanent school of bioinformatics. Professor Tramontano, who will coordinate the school's activities, explains: 'There is a clear need to train and recruit creative and innovative young scientists in bioinformatics, and at the same time to help users located in experimental labs to keep up with the developments in the field.'
'The network will provide extensive training at all levels, from basic courses for experimentalists to more advanced training for bioinformatics experts,' added Professor Tramontano.
Professor Thornton claims that: 'The BioSapiens Network of Excellence captures the most important objectives of an NoE.' And beyond that, she hopes that their work will also have an impact on European competitiveness: 'The network will stimulate Europe's economic growth by creating new business themes and employment, promoting mobility and knowledge sharing,' she concluded.