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The consolidation of systems biology research – stimulating the widespread adoption of systems approaches in biomedicine, biotechnology, and agri-food

Periodic Report Summary 1 - ERASYSBIO+ (The consolidation of systems biology research - stimulating the widespread adoption of systems approaches in biomedicine, biotechnology, and agrifood)

Project context and objectives:

Life sciences are certainly one the most innovative and fascinating fields of research in Europe and systems biology clearly is a driving force in 21st century life sciences. It provides an excellent approach to understanding dynamic interactions between components of a living system, between living systems and their interaction with the environment. This approach by which biological questions is addressed through integrating experiments in iterative cycles with computational modelling, simulation and theory is suitable for versatile applications, such as for biomedicine, agrifood and biotechnology.

Project results:

The systems biology call ERASYBIO+ was published in October 2008 in all partner countries inviting research consortia to apply for funding. A total number of 127 pre-proposals were submitted to the call office at the project management Jülich via a state-of-the-art electronic tool until 5 January 2009. A peer-reviewed international Scientific advisory board (SAB) evaluated all applications and recommended the top-ranked 51 joint projects for invitation to the full proposal stage. Detailed project descriptions were submitted until 4 May 2009 for scientific evaluation. All applications were again thoroughly assessed by the reviewers. Open questions were addressed to the coordinators in a rebuttal process and were returned for the concluding full proposal evaluation meeting. As result the SAB recommended the top-ranked 20 projects for further negotiations.

Finally, with the support from the European Commission (EC) settled at EUR 5.5 million and national budgets of EUR 18.5 million the best 16 consortia were selected for funding. These projects cover a wide range of biological aspects from development to decision making, from animals to plants and from birth to apoptosis. All projects started their work synchronously on 1 March 2010.

Coordinators and data management representatives of all 16 joint projects met on 17-18 May 2010 in Paris to present their work. Since the adoption of data standards, data management and sharing best practices is one of the central aims of the European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) ERASYSBIO in which ERASYSBIO+ is embedded, it was welcomed that the representatives agreed on the elaboration of a common data management concept for the initiative. The data management group first met on 14 June 2010 in Berlin and initiated a concept paper that was submitted to the call office in December 2010.

Potential impact:

It is the aim of ERASYSBIO+ to consolidate systems biology research by stimulating the widespread adoption of the approach in the above mentioned fields. Ten funding partners from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands and United Kingdom with support through the ERA-NET plus scheme of EC are committed to combine their systems biology research in a transnational initiative.

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