Brussels, 13 Sep 2005
The European Commission has selected the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) to coordinate a project that will stimulate and explore synergies between bioinformatics and medical informatics. The project will culminate in a report summarising the project's findings and will provide input to future European scientific and funding policy.
Bioinformatics can be described as the science of storing, retrieving and analysing large amounts of biological information. Building on decades of advances in deciphering the molecular components of living things, molecular and computational biologists are now synthesising the information that they've gathered, and are building a detailed understanding of cells, tissues, organs, organisms and populations. At the same time, clinical research has led to a better appreciation of the molecular basis of disease. Clinical scientists are amassing information that is helping them to decipher how variations in people's genetic make-up can affect their likelihood of developing certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, or of developing an adverse response to particular drugs, such as the anti-coagulants used to treat some types of heart disease.
'It's critical that the two fields of bioinformatics and medical informatics work together cooperatively to solve many common and complex problems,' says Gérard Comyn, Acting Director of the Commission's Information Society and Media DG. 'We predict that in the very near future these two previously separate disciplines will share vast amounts of information that will result in a massive improvement of the quality of life for European citizens.'
SYMBiomatics will be financed under the European Commission's Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6), within the ERA-Net actions. Working together over the next fifteen months, nine groups, universities and companies of prestige in both disciplines from six different European Member States (UK, France, Italy, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands) will document the state of the art in biomedical informatics. The group will identify areas of maximum opportunity, by systematically collecting insights from experts in the field and by analysing the scientific literature. Areas of opportunity will then be documented and prioritised. The group's findings will be presented at a meeting in early summer 2006, enabling further discussion by the wider community of bioinformaticians, medical informaticians, the growing number of clinical professionals whose work spans these domains, as well as European policy makers.
The SYMBiomatics project will culminate in a White Paper that will inform the Commission's funding policy on the synergy between these two rapidly growing areas. The aim is to facilitate and accelerate biomedical research and innovation, with the ultimate goal of improving Europe's efficiency at developing better tools and systems for disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
'Because there are many potential synergies between bioinformatics and medical informatics, it's important to document and prioritise them so that we can identify the fastest route towards a healthier Europe,' explains Ilias Iakovidis, Deputy Head of the European Commission's ICT for Health Unit.
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