Cambridge celebrates £75M investment in bioinformatics

Janet Thornton and David Willetts

On Monday, 28 October, UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts joined key stakeholders in the Cambridge biotechnology cluster to celebrate the opening of a new Technical Hub for bioinformatics on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus.

The European Bioinformatics Institute's new South Building is home to the ELIXIR Directorate, which will coordinate bioinformatics activities throughout Europe in order to increase the availability and uptake of biological data in commercial and non-commercial R&D. To this end, the building will also house an Innovation and Translation Centre.

EMBL-EBI Director Janet Thornton says: “This splendid new building heralds the next phase in bioinformatics at EMBL-EBI, when biodata joins the ranks of Big Data and ELIXIR pioneers a new approach to saving and sharing research data throughout Europe. These data are a goldmine for research, and are driving novel R&D in both academia and the bioindustries.”

Science and Universities Minister David Willetts says: “This new facility is the embodiment of our investment in big data and bioinformatics. We are not only ensuring that people will receive better services and resource security, we are also maintaining UK leadership in the global science race.”

As bioinformatics involves analysing very large volumes of data about living things, it is essential for tackling the serious challenges our society faces, from providing healthcare to an ageing population to securing our food and water resources. The new facilities will enable researchers throughout Europe to remain competitive in this expanding area, and will secure the UK’s position at the forefront of bioinformatics.

The South Building has been funded through a Large Facilities Capital Fund grant via the UK Research Councils, led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). This financing also supports technical infrastructure and equipment, which enables EMBL-EBI to increase its capacity in data handling and storage.

EMBL-EBI delivers world-leading, freely available data on genes and other molecules to researchers in industry and academia. The new building will house EMBL-EBI staff; an Industry and Translation suite, offering space for collaboration with industry partners in the spheres of pharma, agribusiness, biotech and consumer goods; and the Directorate and technical staff of the ELIXIR Technical Hub. ELIXIR is a pan-European infrastructure for the sharing of biological data, funded through sustainable contributions from national member states and the European Commission.