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A virtual platform for studying infectious diseases

The study of infectious diseases constitutes a multidisciplinary approach necessitating the integration of molecular biology, immunology and cell biology. An EU-funded initiative brought this idea a step closer to reality by designing a European virtual institute for bacterial genomics.

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The key objective of the ‘European virtual institute for functional genomics of bacterial pathogens’ (EPG) project was to form a Network of Excellence of leading European researchers in the field of infectious diseases caused by bacterial pathogens. Among the project’s initiatives was the stimulation of multidisciplinary collaborative research activities, the creation of a training facility and the fostering of biotechnological applications. EPG participants wished to structure and organise the overwhelming mass of genomic information that had become available for microorganisms and their hosts. This ‘tidying up’ would enable scientists to study and decipher the cross-talks between pathogens and commensals, and their host cells and tissue targets. The network’s expertise integration would promote discoveries leading to the development of innovative diagnostic tools, the discovery of novel anti-infectious agents and their targets. High-level teaching was also organised by the project at both graduate and post-doctoral levels, and exchange programmes were also designed to facilitate international and multidisciplinary development. The EPG Network of Excellence managed to establish an internationally competitive platform of knowledge, expertise and technology that will aid research on infectious diseases and provide innovations in the areas of diagnostics, and drug and vaccine development.

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