Brussels, 01 Jun 2004
The European Commission is providing 8.8 million euro under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for a new Network of Excellence, called Nano2Life, which will develop the first ever roadmap for nanobiotechnologies.
The Network of Excellence, which will run for over four years, comprises 23 significant European players in the nanobiotechnology field, as well as 31 associate members from EU candidate countries, South Korea, Japan, Australia and North America. A total of 870 scientists will be working on the project, sharing research activities and foresight analysis.
'Most partners are SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises],' explained Patrick Boisseau, the project coordinator from the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). 'However, some large companies, such as IBM, BASF and Apibio, are also participating, as well as three hospitals to convey the need of the end-users, the patients.'
Nanobiotechnlogy is extremely important, explained Dr Boisseau. This technology is essential in that it brings not only miniaturisation, but also lower costs through massive production, integrated functions on the same device and parallelisation - the process of increasing the number of experiments that can take place at the same time.
The four objectives of the network are: to improve European scientific excellence in nanobiotech through joint scientific and technical projects; tackle the fragmentation of European players in nanobiotech to obtain synergies and prevent duplication of work; translate biotech science into economic benefits, making use of better technology transfer to industry; and to educate and train the general public, politicians and scientists.
'We need the public's acceptance to prevent a GMO [Genetically Modified Organism] scenario,' said Dr Boisseau. 'We need to keep the public informed about the risks and benefits of this technology to prevent unrealistic fears. For this reason we have created a European Ethics Board, which is the only board on this subject in the world, to look at unknown applications.'
The three core activities of Nano2Life will be the incubation of joint research projects, such as brainstorming meetings and financial support to mini-projects; the networking of intellectual and technical resources including the mapping of existing technical facilities and know-how within Nano2Life, and education and training. The last activity is something that is very close to Dr Boisseau's heart. 'This is a new area,' explained the project coordinator. 'At present the EU is the world leader but already competitors are appearing. We need to promote this field to students and scientists, especially women, to make sure we keep our competitive edge.'
Nano2Life aims to map the existing teaching programmes in Europe as well as to prepare a nanobiotech curriculum and technical training programme and an e-learning programme.
'If Nano2Life is successful after the four years, it will set the basis for a durable integration of all the partners into the European Institute of Nanobiotech (EIN), which will act as a recognised scientific excellence centre in nanobiotech as well as a reference centre for the industry and the public. EIN will have a central management but several local facilities,' said Dr Boisseau.
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