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The Take-off of European Systems Biology

Final Report Summary - EUSYSBIO (The Take-off of European Systems Biology)

A two-year project which got under way in late 2003, EUSYSBIO was conceived with the aim of bringing together European research groups and companies with an interest in systems biology. Its objective was to identify strengths and weaknesses in the field and point the way for the future formation of a network that could compete with its more advanced counterparts in Japan and the United States.

The first task for the eight partners in the consortium was to map the current research landscape in Europe by carrying out an international benchmarking survey, and to conduct a similar exercise in countries outside the European Union (EU) with whose research-active centres European groups might fruitfully co-operate, including Russia and China.

The authors of those reports identified the training of young scientists as an essential building block of a nascent European systems biology network. So EUSYSBIO instigated specialised training activities for doctoral and post-doctoral students, notably a lecture course in Gosau, Austria, which took place in February 2005.

One of the conclusions of the international benchmarking survey was that there was a need for more inter-disciplinarity in the training of young researchers, and that university teaching programmes should be encouraged to accommodate this in the coming decades. In particular, the survey's authors pointed to the potential benefits of offering training in biology to mathematicians and physicists who could then bring their expertise to bear on systems biology problems.

EUSYSBIO has also encouraged the interaction of academic groups with small companies that share their interest in systems biology, by organising a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) workshop. 'Europe's innovative biotech industry, mainly consisting of SMEs, has all the necessary know-how required to use the opportunities offered by the commercialisation of systems biology results', says EUSYSBIO coordinator Petra Wolff of Project Management Jülich in Germany.

Policy-makers have also become involved, through two meetings at which representatives of national funding agencies were given the opportunity to learn about each other's programmes and to discuss models of cooperation. At the scientific level, researchers met in Heidelberg, Germany in October 2004, at the International Conference on Systems Biology (ICSB), to discuss how to establish standards for cooperation and data exchange across Europe and beyond. And finally, to stimulate communication between researchers, EUSYSBIO has set up a website and a database through which they may advertise situations vacant, find new posts and contact potential collaborators.

http://www.eusysbio.org/

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