IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice
Research
CastellanoDanskDeutschEllinikaEnglishFrançaisItalianoNederlandsPortuguêsSuomiSvenska
 
Europa  > European Commission  > Research > Press releases 
 
    

European Research Area

    

Research Programmes

Sixth Framework Programme
(2002-2006)
  
Fifth Framework Programme
(1998-2002)
  
Frequently Asked Questions
  
Fourth Framework Programme
(1994-1998)
    

Why European  Research?

    
What's new?
    

Publications

    

Useful Links

    

 

Press announcement

Genomes: knowing more, discovering faster
- Boosting Europe's capability in bioinformatics -

 

Brussels, 16 May 2001

Key words: bioinformatics, public health, research infrastructures

EMBARGO: 16 May 2001 at 10.00 (UK time)


'Bioinformatics holds the key to unlocking the immense potential benefits for citizens and society that genome data conceals. Today, we have made a decisive step towards providing Europe with the means to bring this wealth to light, faster and better. Just another illustration of the benefits the European Research Area may bring to citizens.' With these words, Commissioner for Research Philippe Busquin has welcomed a new decisive move in genomics research: the European Commission is negotiating a EUR 19.4 million contract with the European Bioinformatics Institute (an outstation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory) and other leading European centres to quickly deliver the next generation of bioinformatics tools.

This is the first tangible result of Commissioner Busquin's initiative on 'Genomes for Human Health', less than half a year after its launching, and by far the largest grant to support bioinformatics ever issued by the Commission. The announcement was made today in London during a joint press conference where the European Commission and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) announced the start of negotiations to launch a three-year project worth EUR 19.4 million. The project will develop a new generation of bioinformatics tools enabling faster and more comprehensive access to different types of data, from genes to molecules.

'It is imperative for Europe to ensure its competitiveness in this field if we do not want to become a "customer" for technologies developed elsewhere and a "consumer" of products and services provided by our competitors,' stated Peter Kind, acting Director of Health Research at the European Commission.

Fotis Kafatos, Director-General of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, stressed that, 'The EMBL is committed to enhancing the competitiveness of the Life Sciences in Europe through its world-class research, advanced training activities and research infrastructure resources. In the framework of the European Research Area, this project will permit our European Bioinformatics Institute and collaborators to develop powerful new informatics tools that are vital in the post-genomic era.'

A press briefing will be organised in London on Wednesday 16 May 2001 at 10:00
(see programme below).

Bioinformatics: why it is so important

Bioinformatics is the essential technology necessary to discover the function of genes, the way they express and how they become active or defective.

The availability of the complete human genome sequence announced in June 2000 marked the beginning of the new era of post-genomics or new biology. The new biology implies the mobilisation of all research and technical resources, by academia and industry, to fully exploit the vast potential benefits for human health, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and biodiversity conservation that the genome information now available, opens to us.

But our ability to respond to existing and new public health challenges dramatically depends on our capacity to build knowledge from the monumental amount of data already available on genomes, namely what genes do and how do they do it.

To build this knowledge from the enormous mass of experimental data collected so far, we need powerful informatics tools and databases allowing for effective integration of diverse sources of information, from genome sequences to three-dimensional structures of molecules.

The first challenge for bioinformaticians has been to cope with the pace at which the experimental data becomes available. As an illustration of the problem, the DNA sequence database maintained by the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) today holds more 12.5 billion bases (individual 'letters' of the genome sequence) in some 12 million records. But tomorrow this will be old news, as the size of the database doubles every eight months. And is still accelerating!

The problem comes when the speed at which data becomes available is greater than the speed at which computing power grows for a constant price. Therefore, keeping the pace of the data deluge requires continuous injection of technical, financial and human resources.

And if this were not enough, new types of data are becoming available at similar astronomical speeds: protein sequences data, mutation information, three-dimensional structures of bio-molecules, immunogenetics datasets, etc.

Science matters

Whilst coping with database growth remains a constant issue needing close attention, the real challenge comes when biologists try to make some sense out of all this wealth of information. One thing is data and a quite different one is knowledge. Biology is moving rapidly towards a knowledge-based science, which means that experimental data, like those stored in the European Bionformatics Institute databases, need to be put in context, searched, compared and integrated with other data sources to test hypotheses and respond to biological questions. To understand the complexity of the problem, let us remember that basic concepts like 'gene' are elusive enough to have different interpretations varying from one database manager to another.

It is the ability to integrate and query different sets of data that enables scientists to discover the function of the genes and, eventually, the way genetic disorders are generated, for example.

The emerging challenge for bioinformaticians is therefore to provide the tools that will allow researchers to exploit the existing databases faster and better.

The stakes

Whilst, in the United States, both public and private sectors are devoting massive financial resources to support bioinformatics, Europe still needs to co-ordinate and concentrate the efforts of the Member States and the European institutions to provide a similar level of support.

As an example, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) last year spent some EUR 300 million to support bioinformatics projects. The budget of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) for 2000 was EUR 38 million, as compared with EUR 20 million the year before. This amount will be significantly increased for 2001, reaching EUR 48.3 million. In the five years since 1996, the NCBI has increased its budget fourfold. In comparison, the public investment in bioinformatics in Europe hardly reached EUR 100 million in 2000, including the EBI's budget for 2000 of EUR 10 million. The year before, the EBI's budget was only EUR 7.9 million. In the five years since 1996, the EBI has only doubled its budget.

Bioinformatics is a powerful enabling technology. No matter how large the investments needed in this technology seem to be - hundreds of millions of euros per year - they are simply a pale reflection of the overall spending in genomics research at large, which can be measured in billions per year. Yet, investments in bioinformatics have a powerful leverage effect in this competitive area of research.

The European Commission, with the Member States, have decided to take action to change the situation, and it is in this context that Commissioner Busquin launched his 'Genomes for Human Health initiative' in November 2000. The fruits of Commissioner Busquin's initiative on 'Genomes for Human Health'

On 16 November 2000, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin launched an initiative to reinforce European activities in genome research related to human health. In the framework of this initiative, the development of new genome-based technologies, as well as new bioinformatics tools, were recognised as key factors for enabling a competitive genome research and the development of new diagnostics and new therapeutic approaches.

Following the launching of the initiative, EUR 25 million were immediately earmarked to support projects dealing with post-genomics databases and suitable animal models for human health, considered as essential infrastructures in the field.

The current grant being negotiated, amounting to EUR 19.4 million, is the first result of support for research infrastructures under this initiative, coming less than six months after its launch.

A further EUR 40 million are expected to support decisive research activities in post-genomics through a limited number of Integrated projects, a new concept of research contract that combines research, co-ordination and training in one single action. The projects will be selected following a competitive call before the end of year 2001.

These EUR 65 million will be committed in 2001 on top of the regular support for Genome research activities of the Quality of Life programme. In total, the Community will allocate some EUR 100 million to support genome research in 2001.

The project

The project being negotiated with the EBI and other leading European centres will address the most pressing demands related to the need of a solid infrastructural basis enabling further research.

  • The new project that is announced today is an ambitious cluster with four components: Integr8 will combine various aspects of classification and characterisation of genes and proteins to improve the interoperability of biological databases by building an integrated layer for the exploitation of genomic and proteomic data.
  • Intact will establish a database of protein-protein interactions, lying at the heart of most biological processes in the cell. The establishment of a standard representation will help to unlock the full potential of protein-protein interaction data by greatly facilitating the combination and comparative analysis of data from multiple data sources.
  • EMSD will establish a database of 3D macro-molecular structures. The work in this project will provide a vital research infrastructure for future studies in molecular biology including large-scale functional and structural genomics programmes.
  • Finally, DESPRAD will establish a database on the emerging micro-array technology. In recent years, micro-array technology has become the most important tool in the analysis of genome-wide gene expression studies.
  • The ultimate goal of a micro-array experiment is to simultaneously examine the expression of all genes of a specific organism.

The consortium

The European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) is the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in Hinxton that will co-ordinate the new project involving a consortium of 25 laboratories from 11 countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Israel, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The EMBL itself participates with groups based in Heidelberg and the EBI outstation (see annex for detailed list of partners)

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), established in 1974, is an international organisation supported by sixteen countries including nearly all of Western Europe and Israel. EMBL consists of five facilities: the main Laboratory in Heidelberg (Germany), Outstations in Hamburg (Germany), Grenoble (France) and Hinxton (the U.K.), and an external Research Programme in Monterotondo (Italy).

For additional information:


London, 16 May 2001

EC-EMBL press briefing programme
Royal Society of Medicine
1 Wimpole Street
London W1G 0AE
"MSD" room.

The press conference will be held at 10.00 am, 16 May 2001, in the "MSD Room" of the Royal Society of Medicine in London. It will be followed by a buffet lunch in the Conservatory. All interested members of the press are invited to attend.

The Royal Society of Medicine is located at 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE. Questions related to the press conference should be addressed to: Russ Hodge or Sarah Sherwood, EMBL tel: +49 - 6221-387/125 or /452

PROGRAMME

Time Title Speaker
10:00
  • The EMBL commitment to provide top class research infrastructures for Europe
Fotis Kafatos, Director General, EMBL
10:20
  • The EC support to bioinformatics
Peter Kind, Acting Director of Health Research, European Commission
10:40
  • The EBI
Graham Cameron, co-head of EBI.
 
  • Integr8
Rolf Apweiler, EBI
 
  • EMSD
Geoffrey Barton, EBI
 
  • Intact
Alvis Brazma, Max-Planck-Institut Für Molekulare Genetik
11:40
  • Questions and answers
 
12:00
  • Buffet Lunch
 


ANNEX

Bioinformatics Project: Components and Partners

Component Acronym: Integr8

Title: BUILDING THE EUROPEAN BIOINFORMATICS RESOURCES FOR THE GENOME ERA AND BEYOND VIA AN INTEGRATED LAYER FOR THE EXPLOITATION OF GENOMIC AND PROTEOMIC DATA

Abstract:
Integr8 will combine the different strengths of European groups working on various aspects of classification and characterisation of genes and proteins to improve the interoperability of biological databases by building an integrated layer for the exploitation of genomic and proteomic data. This project will enable text- , structure- and sequence-based searches against a gene-centric view of all completed genomes. Zooming in on the sequence data linked to the gene will allow the user to see genomic, transcriptional, and protein sequences linked together. Each level will give direct access to a wealth of information about a given gene , transcript or protein. The envisaged achievements will allow users to do complex queries across databases in a much simpler way enabling them to infer knowledge about all major aspects of the structure and function of genes and proteins and to relate these to the existing corpus of scientific knowledge .

Partners:
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY/EMBL OUTSTATION - THE EBI (Internat Org.), SWISS INSTITUTE OF BIOINFORMATICS (CH), THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE NIVERSITY OFCAMBRIDGE (UK), CENTRO NACIONAL DE BIOTECNOLOGÍA (E), GESELLSCHAFT FUER BIOTECHNOLOGISCHE FORSHUNG MBH (D), BIOBASE - BIOLOGICAL DATABASES / BIOLOGISCHE ATENBANKEN GMBH (D), GENE-IT SA (F), UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON (UK), RZPD DEUTSCHES RESSOURCENZENTRUM FUER ENOMFOSCHUNG GMBH (D), UNIVERSITÉ CLAUDE BERNARD LYON 1 (F), CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE DÉLÉGATION RHÔNES-ALPES (SITE VALLÉE DU RHÔNE) (F), CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL SEQUENCE ANALYSIS, TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OFDENMARK (DK).


Component Acronym: EMSD

Title: EUROPEAN MACROMOLECULAR STRUCTURE DATABASE

Abstract:
The aim of this project is to develop new research infrastructures in Europe for the capture, storage and analysis of information about the three dimensional structure of biological macromolecules. The project will bring together 8 laboratories in 6 countries to interface new techniques and expertise with the core database systems in the European Bioinformatics Institute, Macromolecular Structure Database project. The resulting database systems and software will be the first to provide smooth access to all experimental information relating to biological structures determined by X-ray. NMR and 3D-EM techniques through advanced data curation interfaces and search algorithms. The work in this project will provide a vital research infrastructure for future studies in molecular biology including large-scale functional and structural genomics programmes.

Partners:
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY/EMBL OUTSTATION - THE EBI (Internat.Org.), UPPSALA NIVERSITET (S), COUNCIL FOR THE CENTRAL LABORATORY OF THE RESEARCH COUNCILS (UK), FRIEDRICH-ALEXANDER-UNIVERSITAET ERLANGEN-NUERNBERG (D), THE CHANCELLOR, MASTER AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE (UK), AARHUS UNIVERSITET (DK), CONSEJO SUPERIOR DE INVESTIGACIONES CIENTIFICAS (E), VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT BRUSSEL (B)


Component Acronym: INTACT

Title: ENHANCING ACCESS TO PROTEIN-PROTEIN INTERACTION DATA BY DEFINING A STANDARD DATA REPRESENTATION AND IMPLEMENTING A PUBLIC REPOSITORY

Abstract:
Protein-protein interactions lie at the heart of most biological processes, but the publicly available protein- protein interaction data is highly fragmented, no established standards or central resources for such data exist. The IntAct project will define and establish a standard for the representation and annotation of protein-protein interaction data, provide a public repository implementing this standard, test and initially populate the repository with experimental data contributed by project partners, and develop analysis tools to facilitate the exploitation of the data. The establishment of a standard representation will help to unlock the full potential of protein-protein interaction data by greatly facilitating the combination and comparative analysis of data from multiple data sources. The public repository will be implemented as a federated database which allows research groups to set up local nodes and analyse their unpublished data in the context of publicly available data and easily make the data publicly available after publication.

Partners:
MAX-PLANCK-GESELLSCHAFT (D), EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY/EMBL OUTSTATION - THE EBI (Internat Org.), SWISS INSTITUTE OF BIOINFORMATICS (CH), UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN DENMARK, ODENSE UNIVERSITY (DK), UNIVERSITÉ BORDEAUX 1 (F), CENTRO NACIONAL DE BIOTECNOLOGIA (E), THE HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM (IL), GLAXO RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT LIMITED (UK), CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE (F), UNIVERSITE VICTOR SEGALEN BORDEAUX 2 (F)


Component Acronym: DESPRAD

Title: DEVELOPMENT AND ESTABLISHING OF STANDARDS AND PROTOTYPE REPOSITORY FOR DNA-ARRAY DATA

Abstract:
The main objective of this project is to establish a public repository for DNA-microarray gene expression data (ArrayExpress) , which is fully integrated with the relevant genomics databases and supported by online data annotation, submission, retrieval, query and analysis tools. The project will also coordinate the European participation in the development of international standards for microarray data and their annotation in collaboration with the Microrray Gene Expression Group (MGED), as well as establish a user infrastructure for data submissions to the database and demonstrate the applications of the database and data analysis tools to life science research. The partners are European laboratories currently using DNA-array technologies for gene expression profiling or developing software for DNA-array data analysis. The database will be housed at the EBI and will initially be populated with data from the partners.

Partners:
EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY/EMBL OUTSTATION - THE EBI (Internat Org.), INSTITUT NATIONAL DE LA SANTÉ ET DE LA RECHERCHE MÉDICALE (F), UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER UTRECHT (NL), THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE (UK), RZPD DEUTSCHES RESSOURCENZENTRUM FÜR GENOMFORSCHUNG GMBH (D), EUROPEAN MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LABORATORY (D), UNIVERSITY OF BERGEN (NO), CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE DR12 - DÉLÉGATION PROVENCE (F)

              

Press releases I What's new on the Research pages? I TOP Top