Preclinical imaging facility supports renewal of Charleroi in Belgium’s Hainaut region
The Center for Microscopy and Molecular Imaging (CMMI) is an integrated preclinical imaging facility providing services for researchers and companies to help grow Wallonia’s life-sciences sector. Based at Biopark Charleroi in Belgium’s Walloon Region, the research centre and technology platform is partnering with industry to boost the region’s economic growth. It is also improving the region’s image as an attractive place to live, do research and grow a business.
" Our ambition was to create an imaging centre to support the growth of the life sciences sector in Wallonia and the reindustrialisation of Charleroi, a coal basin that suffered some of the highest unemployment rates during the 1980s and 90s. With the Center for Microscopy and Molecular Imaging acting as a research centre, a technology platform partnering with industry and academia, and a training provider, we have reached our objectives and have contributed to improving both the economic growth and the image of the region. "
Created in 2011 from eight laboratories of the faculties of science, medicine and engineering of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the University of Mons, CMMI comprises four departments: microscopy, digital image analysis in pathology, in vivo imaging and multimodal image processing.
The CMMI provides access to more than 15 high-end imaging instruments and its researchers have contributed to over 200 scientific publications, supported 70 theses and established partnerships with some 25 Walloon, Belgian and international companies, 20 hospital departments, 30 academic laboratories in Belgium and 20 abroad.
Reversing industrial decline
Staying competitive in the field of life sciences requires major investment in equipment – with an efficient imaging platform a necessity – and interdisciplinary expertise able to address the complexity of living organisms and facilitate development of new types of therapy. Based at Biopark Charleroi in Belgium’s Walloon Region, the CMMI is part of a strategy launched in 1999 by the ULB to strengthen Wallonia’s life science know-how and help renew the city of Charleroi by developing a modern biotechnology park.
Situated at the centre of an important coal field and with iron, steel, glass and chemicals also playing key roles in the local economy, Charleroi suffered from high rates of unemployment and poverty in the 1980s and 1990s due to industrial decline. At the same time, the life sciences sector has long been recognised as a driver of the Walloon economy and has received support from the regional government. The creation of the CMMI was thus fully in line with both the development of the Biopark and Wallonia’s wider strategic objectives.
Some 20 years on from its establishment, Biopark Charleroi houses three major biomedical research institutes, a business incubation hub, a training centre and 47 companies, including SMEs from Canada, Israel and the Netherlands. More than 1 300 people from 20 countries work there, all of them in the biomedical and biotechnology fields. Bringing life science companies and facilities like CMMI together at a single site fosters mutually beneficial relationships and professional networks.
A Biopark flagship
Functioning as a research centre, a technology platform for partnerships with industry and academia and a training provider, CMMI is a flagship of the Biopark, having made a big contribution to its development and the reindustrialisation of Charleroi. It combines the expertise of ~15 permanent staff and around 70 researchers from its two parent universities, who provide professional imaging services, design experiments, run machines and analyse results.
Services range from electron microscopy to imaging of live animals and cover the entire workflow, including advice on experimental design, sample preparation, image acquisition and image analysis and interpretation. CMMI also regularly offers highly specialised trainings in a number of imaging-related fields.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “The Center for Microscopy and Molecular Imaging” is EUR 15 077 554, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 6 031 021 through the “Wallonia (Hainaut)” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Development of human capital, knowledge, know-how and research”.