Today marks an important step for ELIXIR, Europe's emerging research infrastructure for life-science information, as five countries plus the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to catalyse the implementation and construction of ELIXIR. The memorandum has been signed by Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and more countries are planning to join in the near future. All European countries are invited to engage with ELIXIR.
ELIXIR is a pan-European initiative to operate a sustainable infrastructure for managing and safeguarding biological information in Europe. It will secure public access to information about the building blocks of life, including genes, proteins and complex networks. This will support life science research and its translation to medicine and the environment, the bio-industries and society to deliver economic growth.
Consistent with the movement towards open access to data and publications, ELIXIR will make important information freely available to researchers across academia and industry.
The MoU is a first formal – yet non-binding – step towards the implementation and construction of ELIXIR. Countries signing the Memorandum (including 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 Professor Janet Thornton, Director of EMBL-EBI and coordinator of ELIXIR. "ELIXIR has the potential to make a real and lasting difference to Europe's citizens – access to data is central to answering the pressing problems of our time, including food security and the health and well-being of an ageing population."
"The successful collaboration between just two of Europe's major life science data providers - the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and EMBL-EBI - shows what can be achieved when experts pool their knowledge and vision," said Professor 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 Hinxton, near 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 Interim Board will be to establish an international consortium agreement and agree on how ELIXIR will be governed and funded in the future.