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Boost for plan to set up pan-European infrastructure for life science data

Five countries have joined the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in pledge to create the ELIXIR system for storing public life science information

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There was an important step forward for ELIXIR, Europe's proposed research infrastructure for life-science information, as five countries plus the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) signed an agreement to work for the implementation and construction of the system. The memorandum has been signed by Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK, with more countries are planning to join in the near future, it was announced on Tuesday (13 September).

ELIXIR is a pan-European proposal to create an infrastructure for managing and safeguarding biological information in Europe. It will secure public access to data on gene sequences, protein structures and biological pathways, making it freely available to researchers across academia and industry.

This is a first formal – yet non-binding – step towards the implementation and construction of ELIXIR. The five countries that have signed up, and EMBL, will be represented on the interim board, which will be the main body for negotiating the final legal and governance structure of ELIXIR.

“We are very excited that five countries have signed ELIXIR's Memorandum of Understanding so quickly, and that several others are already going through the process. This underlines the broad consensus on the need to establish a sustainable infrastructure for managing the data underlying life science research in Europe," said Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL-EBI and coordinator of ELIXIR.

A successful collaboration between two of Europe's major life science data providers, the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) and EMBL-EBI, shows what can be achieved when experts pool their knowledge and vision, according to Ron Appel, Executive Director of SIB and member of ELIXIR's Steering Committee. "But we need to take this further. ELIXIR, with the support of European and national funding agencies, will allow for collaboration on an unprecedented scale, and open the door to the science of the future."

ELIXIR will be coordinated from its hub at EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge in the UK, and its nodes are likely to be sited at existing centres of excellence in participating countries throughout Europe.

The first meeting of the interim board is planned for November 2011 to kick off ELIXIR’s construction phase. An important role of the board will be to establish an international consortium agreement and agree on how ELIXIR will be governed and funded in the future.

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