Portugal puts bioinformatics first

ELIXIR member states with Portugal

Portugal has joined ELIXIR, the major European undertaking to safeguard the results of life science research. Portugal is the 14th nation to sign the ELIXIR Memorandum of Understanding (MoU): a first formal but non-binding step towards the implementation of this key research infrastructure.

The goal of ELIXIR is to secure open, public access to information about the building blocks of life in the interests of expediting discovery. 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.

“Bioinformatics is critical to life science research, and is pivotal to Portugal’s long- and medium-term science and technology strategy,” explains Miguel Seabra, President of Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia in Lisbon. “Our government and national funding agencies are keenly aware of the potential long-term benefits – both financial and scientific – of participating in ELIXIR. As a pivotal research infrastructure, it sits at the crossroads of health, natural resources and marine biology – areas where Portugal has particular interests.”

Portugal’s National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures, to be completed by Spring 2013, emphasizes the importance of maintaining strong coherence and efficiency between projects carried out under ELIXIR and other research infrastructures.

“In such economically troubled times, this is a strong vote of confidence for ELIXIR. We applaud Portugal for voicing its commitment to securing the long-term health of their science and technology sector, and are very pleased they have signed the ELIXIR MoU,” said Professor Søren Brunak of the Technical University of Denmark, Chair of the ELIXIR Interim Board.

“Portugal’s commitment to ELIXIR in the face of serious economic challenges is truly impressive,” said Professor Dame Janet Thornton, Director of the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and coordinator of ELIXIR’s preparatory phase. “Portugal has recognised that ELIXIR is critical to maintaining and growing Europe’s research capacity, and to finding practical solutions to the serious problems now facing society.”

Portugal will now have representation on the Interim Board, which is the main body negotiating the final legal and governance structure of ELIXIR. It joins the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and 13 nations: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. All European countries are invited to engage with ELIXIR.

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