Finland invests 1,85 million euro in pan-European infrastructure for biomedical research

Helsinki 03 February 2010Finland has made its first specific commitment to the development of European biomedical research infrastructures (BMS ESFRIs) by supporting a joint pilot infrastructure project in bioinformatics (ELIXIR), biobanking (BBMRI) and translational research (EATRIS). The initial commitment of 1,85 million euro is to support preparation and pilot studies in 2010. This funding is meant to ensure Finland's commitment to the building of these European infrastructures. The level of funding in the future years was left open as this depends on the outcome and structures that will be developed in the pilot phase.


The approach that Finland has selected is based on the realization that significant potential synergies may arise from infrastructures developed for biobanking, bioinformatics and translational medical research. Funding of 1 million euro is provided by the Ministry of Education through the Academy of Finland, with 0,85 million euro co-financing from the consortium consisting of the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), CSC - IT Center for Science Ltd. and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

This project is meant to ensure that Finnish scientists and institutions will continue to be active in the planning and implementation of the first wave of European BMS ESFRI infrastructures. There is particular interest to form links and synergies between the infrastructures, such as by linking sustainable infrastructure for biological information (ELIXIR) with biomedical samples and clinical, life-style and environmental data (BBMRI) as well as an opportunity to translate results to diagnostic and biomarker purposes (EATRIS).

Professor Olli Kallioniemi, the director of FIMM and co-ordinator of the collaboration between the three infrastructure efforts, stated: "A small country should concentrate its investments in the European dimension to those areas that are of critical importance and where synergies may arise. Finland has a long tradition of collecting biobank samples and associated clinical as well as molecular profile information."

Professor Rudi Balling, director of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine and the co-ordinator of EATRIS, stated: "We are delighted with Finland taking the lead for a significant national commitment towards a European translational research infrastructure. This reflects the excellence of biomedical research in Finland and the recognition that infrastructure is key for Europe to stay competitive."

EMBL-EBI Director and ELIXIR co-ordinator Professor Janet Thornton added: "Finland's active participation in developing ELIXIR is excellent news. The close interaction between the biomedical research infrastructures in Finland will help Europe to develop a fully integrated approach to handling heterogeneous data and exploiting it for translational research."

Professor Kurt Zatloukal from Medical University of Graz and co-ordinator of BBMRI who has actively worked towards co-ordination of BMS ESFRIs at European Union level, further commented: "We are delighted to see that co-ordination of BMS infrastructures also takes place at the national level."

Ms. Eeva Ikonen, senior science advisor at the Academy of Finland, commented: "Finland has made substantial contributions towards construction and upgrading of national infrastructures through Biocenter Finland. This current funding decision aims at establishing a firm Finnish role in the development and implementation of BBMRI, EATRIS and ELIXIR. Our approach could hopefully also serve as a model for tighter integration between other European research infrastructures."

Consortium members have also signed a memorandum of understanding.

Source: University of Helsinki

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