Italy has pledged to participate in ELIXIR (www.elixir-europe.org), a major undertaking to safeguard the results of life science research in Europe. With one of Europe's larger economies now demonstrating its commitment to ELIXIR, this burgeoning research infrastructure is well placed to continue its excellent progress.
ELIXIR is a pan-European effort to operate a sustainable infrastructure for managing biological data to support research and its translation into medicine, the environment, the bio-industries and society. Its goal is to secure open, public access to information about the building blocks of life in the interests of expediting discovery in the life sciences. Freely available and on-going access to biological data is key to ensuring that such discoveries can be translated to solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing society today.
As ELIXIR enters its construction phase, its pivotal role in facilitating research and development throughout Europe has become increasingly clear. Italy joins the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL, www.embl.org) and 11 other nations in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for ELIXIR: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have already pledged their support. All European countries are invited to engage with ELIXIR.
Signing the MoU is a first formal - yet non-binding - step towards the implementation of ELIXIR. Countries that join EMBL in signing the MoU have representation on the Interim Board, which is chaired by Søren Brunak of the Technical University of Denmark and is the main body negotiating the final legal and governance structure of ELIXIR.
'The Italian participation in ELIXIR is a major step towards the construction of this key European research infrastructure," says Anna Tramontano, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Rome "La Sapienza". 'It represents an important opportunity for our national scientific community to contribute in a significant way to solving the critical problems in managing biological data, and transforming that raw data into knowledge. The time is ripe for delivering innovative, sustainable solutions for medicine, environmental science, the bio-industries and society as a whole. I believe that our participation in ELIXIR signals a turning point in Europe's capacity to face the major challenges in this area. Italy has committed to following a path that leads to a new era in biological data sharing and management, and its membership in ELIXIR forms the basis for contributing our national knowledge resources in a way that will benefit all of Europe."
Professor Søren Brunak, chair of the ELIXIR Interim Board, adds: "ELIXIR aims to establish partnerships throughout Europe, and it is very positive that our coverage has expanded to include Italy - one of the largest populations in our part of the world. We need the competence offered by Italy to complement those offered by the other participating nations so that we may build a strong data infrastructure in Europe. Italy has a long tradition in bioinformatics, and we can benefit from their expertise."
"We are extremely pleased that Italy has taken this important step," says Professor Dame Janet Thornton, Director of the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and coordinator of ELIXIR's preparatory phase. "There is a clear consensus that we must establish a sustainable infrastructure for the life science data produced in Europe. With the support of 12 nations, we are confident that the construction phase of ELIXIR can move forward and we can get this crucial infrastructure off the ground."