Public Release: 

SIB designated the FAO Reference Centre for bioinformatics

Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has appointed SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics as the FAO Reference Centre for bioinformatics. SIB's expertise together with its state-of-the-art scientific services led to the choice of the Institute. The Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann, in charge of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, is delighted with this nomination that he says "honours Switzerland". SIB is collaborating with FAO on the screening, monitoring and follow-up of zoonotic diseases (or zoonoses), which are animal infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans, such as avian influenza, and also on animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.

Achieving food security and safety for all is at the heart of FAO's fight against hunger and poverty. Hence the organization supports countries in their efforts to detect and monitor zoonotic diseases as important factors in the food chain. In the case of transboundary disease emergencies, FAO works with countries to ensure they have the knowledge, skills and capacities to respond rapidly and efficiently. The bioinformatics tools developed at SIB in partnership with FAO have made it possible to improve the early detection and fast alert system, by combining epidemiological and genetic information related to zoonoses, as well as analyses and modelling of the risks of pathogen emergence and spreading.

Furthermore, SIB provides open-access databases such as Viralzone (the virus knowledge base maintained by the SIB Swiss-Prot group), OpenFlu and OpenFMD (resources on influenza and foot-and-mouth disease, respectively, which are maintained by the SIB Vital-IT group). In particular, these databases provide information on the pathogens' genome, their epidemiology, evolution and parenthood. The integration of these resources will help the FAO to address the many future challenges related to the management, sharing and analysis of epidemiological and genetic data. FAO also wishes to extend the use of open-access databases, a field in which SIB has demonstrated world-renowned expertise with, for example, UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot. Within the context of the FAO/SIB collaboration, SIB has developed e-learning modules on bioinformatics in animal viral pathogens that are publicly accessible.

The unique SIB institutional network, which federates 56 bioinformatics service and research groups, will allow FAO to benefit from privileged access to diverse expert skills in the domain. "SIB has been chosen for its high-level scientific expertise, its commitment to strengthening its capacities as well as for the services it offers", declared Johann Schneider-Ammann, who added that "FAO's choice honours my country and I am delighted with it".


About SIB

SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics is an academic non-profit foundation recognized of public utility. It federates bioinformatics activities throughout Switzerland. Its mission is to provide world-class core bioinformatics resources including databases, software, internet and high-performance computing servers as well data analysis support to the national and international life science research community.

SIB also provides leading educational services and bioinformatics research. It has a long-standing tradition of producing state-of-the-art software for the life science research community, as well as carefully annotated databases, such as UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot, the world's most widely used source of information on proteins. SIB includes 56 world-class research and service groups, which bring together more than 650 scientists in the fields of proteomics, transcriptomics, genomics, systems biology, structural bioinformatics, evolutionary bioinformatics, biophysics and population genetics, located in the Swiss cantons of Basel, Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Ticino, Vaud and Zurich. SIB's expertise is widely valued and life scientists all over the world use its services.

About Vital-IT and Swiss-Prot

Vital-IT is a bioinformatics competence centre of SIB. It provides computational resources, consultancy and training to connect fundamental and applied research, and to support and collaborate with life scientists in Switzerland and beyond. The multidisciplinary team provides expertise and maintains a high-performance computing and storage infrastructure, so as to help develop, maintain and extend life science and medical research. It has become an essential partner for life science research in Switzerland.

The SIB Swiss-Prot group develops and maintains the UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot database. This task is performed in collaboration with the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) in Hinxton (UK) and the Protein Information Resource (PIR) in Georgetown (USA). These three groups form the Universal Protein Resource (UniProt) consortium whose mission is to provide the scientific community with a comprehensive, high-quality and freely accessible resource for protein sequences and functional information.

About bioinformatics

Over the past 30 years, major new biological and medical research techniques, along with significant developments in computing, have increased both the amount and complexity of biological data such as those generated by DNA sequencing. This is why scientists increasingly use information technology to study biological data - a science called bioinformatics.

Life scientists use bioinformatics to store, process and analyse large quantities of data to advance their knowledge and understanding of biological processes. This, in turn, can lead to scientific breakthroughs that enhance our quality of life. For example, bioinformatics contributes to improving medical treatments and increasing crop yields.

About FAO Reference Centres

To more effectively promote food and nutrition security around the world, FAO relies on a network of excellence built over the years with universities, research institutes and scientific organizations. Designated as "FAO Reference Centres", these institutions provide FAO, in a specific and independent manner, with technical and scientific advice on issues at the heart of its activities. FAO's Animal Health Service assessed bioinformatics as a domain for which it was necessary to form a partnership with a Reference Centre.


Christine Durinx
Associate Director
SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
Quartier Sorge - Batiment Genopode
1015 Lausanne
+41 (0)21 692 40 46

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