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Working groups


Grouping together for success

Over the past 15 years, the EC-US Task Force has sponsored a number of working groups on topics of mutual transatlantic interest. Currently, there are two active working groups: one on environmental biotechnology and the other on applications of molecular biology to biobased products and biofuels. A third working group on emerging and re-emerging diseases of man and animals is being formed.

Current working groups:

Environmental biotechnology working group

The Environmental biotechnology working group seeks to bring together senior and early career researchers from both sides of the Atlantics to exchange ideas on using emerging biotech capabilities to undertake environmental clean-up operations, or ‘green cleaning’ as it has become known. This emerging field works on encouraging helpful soil microbes to break down pollutants in the earth.

A number of workshops have been organised under the Environmental biotechnology working group umbrella:

  • Genomics and environmental biotechnology, Rockville, USA, March 2004
  • Molecular and biochemical bases of biodegradation, Granada, Spain, November 1996
  • Environmental biotechnology, Brussels, Belgium, October 1994

The group has also held a very successful series of summer short courses and currently operates a short-term exchange programme.

Bio-based products working group

Plants have the potential to become an expanded resource for sustainable industries, provide new industrial products from renewable resources, reduce dependence on petrochemicals, and create exciting new markets for farmers. There is a need for improved fundamental tools/knowledge. The joint working group was established in 2004 to facilitate and coordinate collaborative (EU-US) research in molecular biology to create or improve biobased products and biofuels. The committee is working on establishing an integrated programme of US-EC collaboration combining research, training and dissemination through the following actions:

  • Identifying research needs and select priority research areas
  • Identifying and facilitating the development of flagship projects of mutual interest and benefit
  • Identifying and promoting interdisciplinary, multinational teams to conduct research and transfer technologies
  • Facilitating joint activities of mutual interest, including scientific exchanges, training, and other opportunities for students, postdoctoral and early career scientists
  • Organising symposia, position papers and information delivery targeting scientific communities, stakeholders and the public
  • Stimulating interest in the application of biotechnology for the development or improvement of biobased products and biofuels.

In addition, the working group has developed three initial flagship projects on addressing constraints to biobased products presented by the plant cell wall, and oilseed crops, and biopolymers. These flagships projects address complex technological challenges and are to contribute to solving a major socio-economic problem, demonstrate strong benefits, in particular, for consumers and the environment and should also be in line with other important policy priorities of both the EU and USA. The flagships build on the respective strengths and complementarities of the European and US scientific and technological knowledge base and industries. The 2007 call for proposals under the Theme Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology of EU Framework Programme 7 for Research contains many aspects of the three Flagship projects.

The activities of the working group provided the foundations for the EPOBIO initiative, a " science-to-support-policy" project entitled Realising the Economic Potential of Sustainable Resources-Bioproducts from Non-food Crops and funded by the Framework Programme 6(2002-2006). Within EPOBIO, partners from the EU and US, from academic research institutions and from industry, work together with policy makers to assist EU and US decision –making to design new generations of eco-efficient bio-based products derived from plant raw materials such as second generation biofuels, bioplastic and green chemicals. Website:

Report [ - 155 KB]

Marine Genomics Working Group

To foster the collaboration of research and training in the EU and the US in the field of marine genomics; to hold a series of annual workshops to address key coordination bottle-necks and new developments in the science
A series of focused US/EC workshops (five over the next five years) in the wider context of "Marine Genomics" is planned selecting specific topics and participants each year. The workshops will have the clear objectives of supporting and moving forward as well as co-ordinating trans-Atlantic research in this important area of emerging science that will underpin many different aspects of marine ecology and biotechnology. The working group will submit proposed topics for each workshop to the Task Force prior to their funding being approved by the respective funding agencies. The proceedings of the workshops and any developments arising from them are reported back to the Task Force each year.

Working Group Members
Rudolf Amann, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen - (EU Co-chair)
Catherine Boyen , Centre d'Etudes d'Océanologie et de Biologie Marine Roscoff
Ian Head ,Newcastle University
Giorgio Valle, Padua University
Mary Ann Moran, Athens, GA - (US Co-chair)
Karin Remington, NEON, Inc., VA
Paul Gilna, San Diego, CA
Debashish Bhattacharya, Iowa

Plant biotechnology working group

The EC-US Working Group on Plant Biotechnology Research was set up in July 2006 to provide an overall vision to guide the EC-US Taskforce in developing future activities on plant genomics/biotechnology research. The Working Group is composed of 4 members each from the US and EU side including a chair, two additional scientists and a representative of the research funding administration. Since its creation it has met twice, explored areas of mutual benefit and prepared recommendations on specific topics and mechanisms for increased scientific collaboration.

Earlier working groups included the:

Bioinformatics working group

The Bioinformatics working group was set up out of a recognition – in the early years of the information revolution – that biology has become a ‘mega science’. In the early 1990s, this working group helped to facilitate multi-investigator, multi-disciplinary research in biology by documenting the many challenges and opportunities in the field of bioinformatics.

Informatics systems for brain structures and functions working group

In the mid1990s, there was an increasing awareness among neuroscience researchers that, in order to understand the brain properly, it would be necessary to take advantage of the huge advances in information science to integrate multiple layers of information about the brain. This working group catalysed the emerging field of neuroinformatics, focusing on information exchange on the Informatics systems for brain structures and functions. The working group sponsored an important workshop on Neuroinformatics in Arlington, VA (USA) in September 1995.

Farm animal genomes working group

The organisation of genes in animals and birds is much the same regardless of species. Humans share all but one of their pairs of chromosomes with apes. Over greater evolutionary distances, more shuffling occurs, causing duplications, inversions and rearrangements of chromosome segments. But the order of the genes on each segment remains largely the same. This means that lessons can be drawn for other animals from work done to decode the human and mouse genome. The Farm animal genomes working group was set up to encourage co-operation in the mapping of the genomes of farm animals. The working group came into being as a result of the Farm animals genome workshop that took place in Brussels in September 1998.