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Brussels, October 12, 2000

Steering future breakthroughs in biotechnology

Keywords: biotechnology; international cooperation; USA

For the past ten years US agencies and the European Commission have been collaborating in the EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research. Its aim has been to anticipate the needs of the science of tomorrow and exchange ideas among programme managers and administrators on the future directions of biotechnology research. The tenth anniversary meeting is held today and tomorrow in Brussels. Philippe Busquin, European Research Commissioner, and Dr. Mary Clutter, Assistant Director of the US National Science Foundation, have highlighted the value of this co-operation. An account of this fruitful collaboration illustrated with examples various areas such as neuroscience and biodiversity research, has been published on that occasion.

“There is an increasing realization of the need to collaborate globally”, said Dr. Mary Clutter, Assistant Director of the US National Science Foundation and US co-chair of the EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology. Since 1990 it has played a key role in identifying new potentials and breakthroughs in biotechnology research.

“The Task Force has brought together leading scientists from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss future directions for research, giving Europe the possibility to contribute as an equal partner in determing how front line scientific research will happen”, stated Dr. Bruno Hansen, Director of the Life Sciences Coordination Directorate and co-chairman of the EC-US Task Force. It has contributed to strengthening collaboration significantly in many emerging fields such as bioinformatics, genomics, nanobiotechnology, neonatal immunity, biosafety and biodiversity through the mechanisms of joint workshops.

Many outstanding objects have been initiated, and, in many cases, new directions have been charted. For example, the Neuroscience Working Group will announce at this meeting the first EC-US database meeting which has the goal of setting guidelines and standards for interoperative databases. This should facilitate many international collaborative research projects in neuroinformatics. The exchange of raw data will allow key questions to be tackled. The Farm Animal Genomes Working Group exchanged results from projects funded by the US Department of Agriculture and by the European Commission Framework Programmes. This is considered to be an important collaboration because it is expected that farm animal genomic studies may point the way to increased understanding of human diseases as well as improving live-stock breeding programmes. The Nanobiotechnology Workshop presented new biological sensing devices and miniaturised method for rapid sequencing of DNA. The results of biosafety research have also been exchanged in a series of International Symposia that are particularly relevant to current European concerns about the safety of genetically modified crops and foods. Building on the work of the EC-US Task Force an EC-US Biotechnology Consultative Forum has recently been set up consisting of 20 eminent non-government individuals who will produce a report on biotechnology for the EC-US summit in December. Finally, one of the first workshops sponsored by the Task Force on the topic of “Biotechnology and Genetic Resources”, suggested the idea that many years later, after gestation in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has led to the imminent formation of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). GBIF will be an international network of interoperable databases containing information about the world’s living species.

A report describing the work of the Task Force – Mutual Understanding: the EC-US Task Force on Biotechnology Research -– is available for distribution.


For further information, please contact:

Stephan Hogan, Quality of Life programme, Research DG
Fax: +32-2-295.99.71,

MichelClaessens, Press and Information Officer, Research DG,
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PRESS RELEASES | 31.10.2000