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Finland initiates European biomedical research infrastructures construction with $6.7 million for 2011

Finland starts the implementation of European biomedical research infrastructures (BMS ESFRIs) by investing in a national effort called Biomedinfra - a joint effort linking to the EU level initiatives in developing biobanking (BBMRI), bioinformatics (ELIXIR), and translational research (EATRIS) infrastructures.

This investment follows the 3-year pan-European planning phase, and a Finnish 2 M pilot project for Biomedinfra completed in 2010.

The approach that Finland has selected is based on the realisation that biobanking, bioinformatics and translational biomedical research infrastructures support one another and all of them build on existing Finnish strengths.

New funding of 4 M for 2011 is provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture through the Academy of Finland, with 1 M co-financing from the participating institutes; Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) at the University of Helsinki, CSC - IT Center for Science Ltd (CSC) and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Specifically Biomedinfra will focus on three related pillars:

1) Improved biobanking infrastructures for epidemiological, biomedical and clinical research

2) High-performance computing infrastructure for facilitating next-generation biomedical data analysis needs

3) Translational infrastructure focusing on the application of biobanks to advance diagnostics and personalised medicine

Taken together, it is hoped that these infrastructures will eventually improve health care in Finland and in the EU. These infrastructures will be opened to international collaborations and provide research services. They will also help to integrate national Finnish research infrastructures with the European efforts.

Professor Olli Kallioniemi, Director of FIMM and coordinator of Biomedinfra, says "We are delighted about the opportunity to start building biomedical infrastructures that help Finland to contribute to the European ESFRI infrastructures. Therefore, even though these funds are still modest in the European scale, they represent significant new funding on top of a strong existing scientific base and in some cases decades of national investment. Biomedinfra is therefore a very timely effort, leverages Finnish strengths optimally and builds important links between these key European infrastructures".

Dr. Tommi Nyrnen, who leads the development at CSC, explains that Biomedinfra's support will enable Finland to make a substantial contribution to the effort. "CSC is developing cloud based high-performance computing and storage services that are tailored to the needs of biomedical researchers," he says. "Importantly, the new funding will also enable us to develop technologies and policies to ensure that distributed biomedical data can be managed and used efficiently and securely. Research institutes should be able to access supercomputing resources easily and securely."

"This new funding is essential to build the Finnish national biobank network, BBMRI.FI", adds Dr. Anu Jalanko, Head of Public Health Genomics Unit, THL . "Biobanking requires close collaboration locally, nationally and internationally. Finland has strong traditions and expertise in biobank-related research and has created several world-class population biobank resources that are often also used in international collaborations. New biobank legistlation is anticipated in Finland in 2012 and common procedures and new centralised biobank services are essential to ensure efficient utilisation of biobanks for public health and translational research."

"BBMRI is ready to submit to the European Commission its application for an "ERIC" legal structure in the near future. I am very happy that Finland has joined a growing number of European nations that have recognised the fundamental role of high-quality biobanking for the health of aging populations, development of diagnostics, new drugs and treatments." adds Professor Kurt Zatloukal from Medical University of Graz and coordinator of BBMRI.

Professor Janet Thornton, coordinator of the ELIXIR infrastructure for biological information, continues "These developments in Finland to build a national infrastructure for biomedical sciences are very exciting. They uniquely involve strong coordination between the data e-infrastructure (ELIXIR), the biobanks (BBMRI) and translational research (EATRIS). This good communication, together with cooperation with the pan-European efforts, will provide a sustainable bedrock to allow data and sample exchange both within and between countries and will accelerate future scientific discoveries."

Business & Finance Director of EATRIS Frank de Man comments "We are delighted about Finland committing to the construction of the European translational research infrastructure. Translational research is highly relevant to the future of European science and urgent investments are needed to keep EU competitive in the light of recent plans in the US. Despite economically challenging times in many European countries, we are looking forward to engagement of other countries".


Contact: Olli Kallioniemi
University of Helsinki

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