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From left to right: Ferran Sanz (Director of GRIB), Dominic Clark (EMBL-EBI Industry Programme Manager, Montserrat Vendrell (CEO of Biocat)

In October 2012, EMBL-EBI’s 6th annual SME Forum was held in Barcelona, Spain at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB).

Delegates from a range of research backgrounds attended the two-day meeting to hear about EMBL-EBI’s data resources and services and about tools developed by local businesses.

The first day opened with a welcome presentation by Ferran Sanz, Director of GRIB, and Montserrat Vendrell, CEO of BioCat, who highlighted the importance of bioinformatics in the era of systems biology and the increasing complexity of data. This was followed by a series of talks about several EBI data resources, spanning genomics, functional genomics, proteomics and cheminformatics. Attendees also found out more about EMBL-EBI as an organisation and gained an overview of our web services.

Barcelona has become a leading biotechnology hub in Spain. Ferran Sanz said: “In Spain, industry and academia are aiming to become more competitive at an international level. This means that their work needs to be ever more knowledge-based and multidisciplinary. EBI resources can help them to achieve this by providing new ways of handling and exploiting a wide range of data.”

Montserrat Vendrell said: “BioCat's mission is to promote biotechnology and biomedical sciences in this region. It is a privilege for our companies and research groups to learn from this event and to make better use of these European data resources. It allows us to bring new information and expertise to our clusters.”

The event also provided an opportunity for delegates and speakers to network. Alrun Burgmeirer, Bioinformatics Manager at BASF Plant Science, commented: “It has been good to hear about new developments in the field and to talk with the people directly involved with these tools and resources. It's all about making new contacts.”

On the second day, Spanish scientists presented their bioinformatics tools, many of which utilise EMBL-EBI’s data. There was also a presentation from Lourdes Cucurull-Sanchez of GSK about the challenges and needs for Systems Biology within the pharmaceutical industry. Towards the end of the day, speakers from EMBL-EBI and several Spanish companies joined forces to provide hands-on tutorials for some of the data resources that had been presented across the two days.

Inna Pertsovskaya, a PhD student at IDIBAPS, said: “This forum has been great for hearing about new tools. There are so many new bioinformatics tools; but this event really helps you to choose the right ones for you because it provides a nice overview of lots of tools. It’s also great to bring together the connection between academia and industry.”

Videos of the talks will be available as a course in Train online.

Sponsors: EMBL-EBI, BioCat, INB, GRIB, IMEx.
With thanks to CEBR and UK Trade and Investment for publicising the event.