Professor Bertil Andersson, Chief Executive of the ESF, called the two-day event that took place on 14-15 December in the capital city of Finland “an experiment” to bring together researchers and various types of funders from across Europe. High-level representatives from public/private funding foundations, research funding organisations, national innovation agencies, academies, intergovernmental agencies and the bioscience industry participated in the event which was kicked off by the Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Tuula Haatainen.
“We are now setting the ball rolling and there needs to be follow-up action,” Professor Andersson told the audience. The next EuroBioForum is scheduled to take place in Lisbon, Portugal on 15-16 November 2007.
In his remarks about life sciences in Europe to the some 160 participants, Professor Andersson recommended there should be a higher degree of coordination between national public funders and those who are working at the European level. He also mentioned joint efforts among various types of life sciences funders and the need for a coordinated/stronger strategy for research infrastructure in Europe.
He noted that Europe needs to be more competitive with the US and Asia. Currently R & D investment is fragmented among numerous funding bodies across Europe. It continues to lag behind Asia and the US in research funding, a fact that many observers warn is crippling the region's economic competitiveness. Efforts to correct this imbalance are urgently needed. EuroBioForum is expected to increase Europe's scientific presence and stimulate research and technology development in the life sciences field.
During the conference, 10 research consortia presented their pioneering research programmes on topics ranging from the production of hydrogen via artificial photosynthesis (SOLAR-H) to learning how to survive without water (DryLife).
EuroNanoPAR (European Nanomaterial Proactive Assessment of Risk) which is headed by Professor Vicki Stone from Napier University’s Centre for Health and the Environment (Edinburgh) in the UK was one of the projects that was presented. The main aim of the project is “to develop and launch a self-sustaining business, offering advisory and testing services on all aspects of occupational, consumer and environmental health, for the European nanotechnology industry,” according to Stone. The five-year project is currently seeking €145 million in funding.
Another research project that was being showcased was METABOTECH. The project is aimed at coordinating European national research efforts in the area of metabolomics - the quantitative and qualitative analysis of small molecules in cells, tissues and body fluids. Metabolic profiles are indicative of changes in metabolic pathways. Consequently, metabolomics is positioned to identifying treatment targets in diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and depression.
“EuroBioForum offers several options to researchers like me,” commented Professor Thomas Hankemeier from the Leiden Amsterdam Center for Drug Research of the Leiden University in the Netherlands who is the head of the METABOTECH project.
“It helps me to establish contacts with other parties and explore potential funding options.”
Besides match making between funders and researchers, EuroBioForum has also invited experts to discuss opportunities and challenges for the life science field. One of the topics of discussion was the promotion of Systems Biology in Europe.
Professor Rudolf Aebersold from the Institute for Molecular Systems Biology, ETH Zurich told participants that the field of System Biology is in need of new data collection technologies if it wants to deliver its promise to society. The field is expected to generate “great opportunities” for researchers, Aebersold added. On the other hand, Adriano Henney; the Director of Global Discovery Enabling Capabilities & Science at AstraZeneca, pointed out that there are still a lot of challenges ahead for the Systems Biology field such as the rising cost of R&D, the challenging of regulatory environment and the fierce competitive market for drugs development.
Wouter Spek, EuroBioFund Director commented “Crosslinking of networks and bridging the gap between research and public/private funders is our main goal and there is still room for improvement in Europe. This first EuroBioForum has been an interesting and stimulating two-days and follow-up actions to develop several of the research consortia presented have already been planned. I We are definitely going to facilitate this in 2007.”
EuroBioFund, which was launched in June 2006, is aimed "to promote and coordinate interaction among European life sciences researchers and funders." The coordinating body has three key objectives. The first of these is to provide a platform for funding organisations and life science researchers to foster joint research initiatives through networking and brokerage. The second goal is to help organise research communities and facilitate "bottom-up" Europe-wide research programs, via the newly-formed EuroBioGenerator. Finally, the EuroBioFund is charged with shaping "a new funding way in Europe by helping to develop joint investments and funding of life sciences research," through the establishment of EuroBioAccess.
The European Science Foundation (ESF) provides a platform for its Member Organisations to advance European research and explore new directions for research at the European level. Established in 1974 as an independent non-governmental organisation, the ESF currently serves 78 Member Organisations across 30 countries.
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