The European Life Science
Life science research that addresses the grand challenges of health and ageing spans a broad range of scientific disciplines and user communities. The European Life Science Research Infrastructures (LS RIs) play a central, facilitating role in this ground-breaking research by offering access to their resources to researchers from academia and industry.
The LS RIs are pan-European organisations, with multiple institutes located in different European countries (i.e. distributed RIs). Each LS RI consists of a hub and national nodes. The hub is the coordinating unit of the RI where the core management team is based. Each country being part of the RI has one or more national node(s), i.e. a facility like a research institute. These nodes are the service providers as the offered technologies and expertise are based there.
RIs offer access to their facilities, technologies and expertise to researchers from academia and industry. These services can simply be consultation, access to experts, but also access to data or biological/chemical samples, animal models, use of data analysis tools, access to facilities (e.g. highly specialised microscopes, molecular screening centres) plus support from technicians and much more.
Discover the European LS RI landscape here!
BBMRI-ERIC aims to improve the accessibility and interoperability of the existing comprehensive collections, either population-based or clinical-oriented, of biological samples from different (sub-) populations of Europe or rare diseases. These collections include the attached data on factors such as health status, nutrition, lifestyle, and environmental exposure of the study subjects. In order to fully realize the enormous potential of European biobanks and biomolecular resources for the benefit of European citizens, clinical, ethical and legal experts, the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, patient advocacy groups are collaborating in a participatory governance model (Stakeholder's Forum). The aim is to achieve standards and guidelines that properly balance individual values, such as protection of privacy and informed consent, with shared values of facilitated access to progress in health care and disease prevention.
BBMRI-ERIC will increase efficacy and excellence of European bio-medical research by facilitating fair access to quality-defined human health/disease-relevant biological resources through the inclusion of associated data in an efficient and ethically and legally compliant manner; by reducing the fragmentation of the bio-medical research landscape through harmonisation of procedures, implementation of common standards and fostering high-level collaboration; and by capacity-building in countries with less developed biobanking communities thereby contributing to Europe's cohesion policy and strengthening the ERA.
The EU’s ageing population is resulting in an increase in many of those diseases and consequently an increased healthcare expenditure for senior citizens that place pressure on the sustainability and viability of the EU’s healthcare systems. Through BBMRI-ERIC, biobanks and biomolecular resources shall develop into one of the most important tools for biomedical and clinical discovery. New medical applications, new therapies, new preventive techniques, new diagnostics, personalised or stratified medicine, and new biomedical industries shall evolve to improve socio-economic competitiveness and increase possibilities for equitable healthcare in Europe. The anticipated development shall pave the way for a new research culture in Europe. Expectantly, BBMRI-ERIC will have an impact on partnerships with patients/donors, who know that their own tissues, samples and personal data can yield discoveries and advances in medicine, diagnostics, and therapies. In return, BBMRI-ERIC is taking up the responsibility to make sure that the samples and data that have been entrusted for research are used in the best way possible for the advancement of knowledge, ultimately contributing to improved health care.
The key benefits for users of BBMRI-ERIC are fair access to quality-controlled samples and/or data from population-based, disease-oriented or rare disease biobanks including expertise in handling these biological resources for scientific purposes (ethical, legal and societal issues as well as quality handling). BBMRI-ERIC connects a distributed research infrastructure of biobanks and biomolecular resources for the benefit of the users of such resources. It puts pan-European biobanks on the map and promotes their specific strengths. BBMRI increases the accessibility to quality controlled human biological samples and associated biomedical and biomolecular data in making them findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable. Ultimately, this is key for advancing stratified and precision medicine.
EATRIS, the European infrastructure for translational medicine, provides high quality services in early development of novel therapeutics and diagnostics. Translational research is defined as research that develops promising biomedical innovations 'from bench to bedside,' and conversely brings clinical insights from bedside back to bench.
Translational research is a highly multi-disciplinary and complex undertaking. As a consequence, a major challenge in developing new innovations is understanding what steps need to be taken, and what expertise and technologies are suitable to perform these steps. External researchers in need for academic support will find that EATRIS is able to provide guidance by means of regulatory, clinical and technological expertise available within the infrastructure. Subsequently, EATRIS will match the need with the capabilities within the infrastructure and facilitate collaboration among academics and between academics and companies.
Biomedical inventions frequently fail to pass the “valley of death” for various reasons. EATRIS aims to overcome translational challenges by (1) developing new enabling technologies within the consortium, and (2) making high quality services available for other researchers.
EATRIS strives to accelerate medicines and diagnostics development by utilising cutting-edge, enabling technologies in early translational research. Academic researchers, companies and charities can access clinical expertise and high-end facilities that are available within the 80 top-tier academic centres across Europe comprising EATRIS. Member institutions are selected on the basis of their track record in public-private collaboration in translational development and their multidisciplinary teams of leading academic experts, high-end research facilities, production laboratories and licenses.
We focus on preclinical and early clinical development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. Solutions are provided in the fields of advanced therapy medicinal products, biomarkers, imaging and tracing, small molecules and vaccines.
The wide-ranging services portfolio focuses on supporting early decision-making and de-risking of projects. Examples include validation and development of in vitro and in vivo biomarkers for patient stratification, molecular imaging tracers for drug development programmes, GMP manufacturing of cellular therapy products, patient-derived xenograft models, and many more highly specialised capabilities.
Since its creation in 2004, ECRIN has been striving to overcome the challenges to multinational trials in Europe.
ECRIN focuses on multinational academic research as well as trials initiated by biotech and medical device small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It provides support to sponsors in investigator-initiated trials and helps them navigate Europe’s fragmented health and legal systems. Multi-country trials means greater access to patients, resources, and expertise, and, in turn, faster and potentially more robust results.
ECRIN’s organisational model is based on country membership. Each country has a European Correspondent, who manages the trial portfolio and coordinates with the national scientific hub (i.e. network of clinical trial units, CTUs) with support from the Paris-based Core Team.
ECRIN provides support for the preparation of multinational clinical trials (e.g. trial logistics, funding applications), the validation of study protocols (scientific and logistical review), and trial management (coordination, submissions to competent authorities and ethics committees; monitoring; adverse event reporting; data management). In support of these activities, it develops and maintains freely accessible tools such as databases on regulatory and ethical requirements, outcome measures, and risk-based monitoring.
ECRIN currently provides consultancy and management services to more than 40 trials, with an average of seven countries per trial.
In addition, ECRIN contributes to capacity building projects aiming to establish shared services in biomedical areas and to foster international cooperation in non-commercial trials.
Life sciences experiments and research produce large amounts of data. Some of these vast datasets are highly specialised and are only available to researchers within the country in which they were generated. The aim of ELIXIR is to orchestrate and vertebrate the collection, quality control and archiving of these large amounts of valuable data and provide open access to researchers across the world.
ELIXIR unites Europe’s leading life-science organisations in managing and safeguarding the massive amounts of data being generated in publicly funded research. It coordinates, integrates and sustains bioinformatics resources across its Member States and enables users in academia and industry to access vital data, tools, standards, compute and training services for their research.
The application areas supported by ELIXIR are broad and cover disciplines including among others: marine metagenomics, plant sciences, biodiversity, human data, rare diseases, systems biology, and cheminformatics.
ELIXIR Nodes (the different institutions that represent the ELIXIR Members) run hundreds of existing services that are open for use by researchers. These services can be categorised into the following:
- Databases (deposition archives and value-added knowledge bases)
- Standards and interoperability of standards
- Training courses
- Compute resources
- Data management support
- Cooperation with industry
The EMBRC-ERIC is a pan-European distributed research infrastructure that aims to provide a strategic delivery mechanism for excellent and large-scale marine biological and ecological research in Europe. With its services, EMBRC will support both fundamental and applied research based on marine bioresources and ecosystems.
In particular, EMBRC aims to drive forward the development of blue biotechnologies.
Catering for users from academia, industry, policy and the technology sectors, EMBRC provides a unique entry point to access an integrated portfolio of services, bio-technology research platforms and marine organisms, as well as analytical and historical environmental data, to investigate the potential of the marine bioresources to deliver for societally relevant research domains:
- Human health and well-being: Marine organisms have historically proven to be fundamental models to understand human cell physiology. More recently, the untapped chemistry of marine natural products is providing the necessary novel bioactives and biomaterials to address the issues of antibiotic resistance, cancer therapy, tissue regeneration and drug delivery, among others. EMBRC is the first step of the health and well-being biodiscovery pipeline based on the sustainable use of marine bioresources.
- Sustainability of food production: With a soaring global demand for protein, and aquaculture recently surpassing beef farming production, marine biology and ecology are key disciplines to create sustainable harvesting/rearing programmes and policies. EMBRC provides state of the art facilities to test the impact of treatments, such as nutrition and/or health measures, as well as the effects of environmental conditions, on the productivity of reared biological resources.
- Industrial process innovation: Marine enzymes and proteins can support novel process development in the chemical industries; efficient and effective cultivation methods and technologies, as well as extraction techniques are also in high demand by the bio-refinery industry. EMBRC is key to specifically bioprospecting marine biota for white biotechnology applications.
- Environmental adaptations to climate and pollution: In depth knowledge of marine biology and ecology is essential to preserve the natural marine environment and its services. EMBRC can provide the indoor and outdoor scalable settings to experiment the impact of different environmental conditions on biota, as well as mitigation and remediation measures.
Delegated services as well as private research are available at the EMBRC premises, satisfying both academic and industrial users. Excellence of research will be supported creating a virtuous mechanisms and a recognizable quality label, stimulating mutual development and building on reciprocal prestige. Coordinating a wide range of expertise in various research domains, EMBRC will be driven by a truly multidisciplinary community, setting the goals and achieving the objectives of the EU research and innovation agenda.
EMPHASIS is a pan-European distributed plant phenotyping infrastructure project. EMPHASIS will focus on developing and enabling access to plant phenotyping infrastructure and provision of services, essential for the analysis of crop performance with respect to structure, function, quality and interaction with the environment. It will thus support the exploitation of crop genetic diversity required for the enhancement of plant productivity and progress in plant breeding.
Plant derived products are at the centre of grand challenges posed by increasing requirements for food, feed and bio-based raw materials. Integrating approaches across all scales from molecular to field applications are necessary to develop sustainable plant production with higher yield and at the same time using limited resources. While significant progress has been made in molecular and genetic approaches in recent years, the quantitative analysis of plant performance has become the major bottleneck. The challenge is to address multi-scale phenotyping for analysing genotype performance under diverse environmental conditions and quantify the diversity of traits contributing to performance, i.e. plant architecture, major functions, yield components and quality. Improvement of plant performance under changing climates requires the use of different categories of infrastructure combined with a coordinated infrastructure for storing and analysing data, and platforms for plant/crop modelling associated with phenotyping platforms.
Thus, plant phenotyping focuses on development and implementation of non-invasive technology, which can be used beyond plant sciences in disciplines such as image analysis, remote sensing or automation engineering. Additionally, plant phenotyping produces a number of data relevant for basic understanding in life sciences and practical breeding.
ERINHA is a pan-European distributed life sciences research Infrastructure dedicated to the study of highly infectious emerging and re-emerging high-consequence pathogens (RG4 & unknown). It brings together leading European high containment and complementary research facilities and expertise required to perform cutting-edge research on highly infectious diseases. ERINHA provides access to its state of art BSL-4 laboratories and complementary capacities and expertise to perform excellence orientated in-vitro and in-vivo research projects, trainings and advise. A wide range of capabilities and functions from high basic research laboratory capacities to NHP modeling research are provided by ERINHA, as well as expertise of senior scientists and access to complementary functions (from BSL1 to BSL4, genomics, proteomics etc.).
ERINHA produces the ideal environment to facilitate coordination of research on high-consequence pathogens in Europe. The infrastructure will contribute to the enhancement of the European and global capacity, capability and emergency preparedness in the response to global outbreaks.
Since 2018, ERINHA has been granted landmark status by the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI).
Chemical Biology is a new interdisciplinary research field which studies the effects of chemical compounds on biological systems. The primary objective of EU-OPENSCREEN is to offer access to a distributed Chemical Biology research infrastructure which meets the needs of scientists seeking a better understanding on how fundamental molecular processes act to govern biological function at the organismal, tissue, cellular and pathway levels by applying small chemical compounds.
Using a well-founded collaborative working model, infrastructure users and EU-OPENSCREEN teams will identify and develop novel small chemical compounds which elicit specific biological responses on organisms, cells or cellular components. These bioactive compounds are identified by means of screening large collections of >100,000 molecules, in an automated process, using robotics-based high-throughput screening platforms, and optimised by medicinal chemistry means.
The majority of scientists in Europe, however, do not have access to suitable technology platforms and compound collections, which are generally expensive to purchase, operate and maintain. As a large-scale research infrastructure (RI) with an ‘open’ pre-competitive character, EU-OPENSCREEN will cost-effectively overcome this limitation by: involving and providing access to Europe’s leading screening platforms and chemistry groups; constructing a jointly used compound collection; and operating an open-access bioactivity database which will be accessible on a global basis.
The chemical compounds which will be developed in the framework of EU-OPENSCREEN have a number of key advantages and allow interrogation of complex biological processes that cannot be properly studied with traditional genetic approaches. They drive innovation as they help validate biological targets as ‘druggable’ (i.e. be modulated by chemical compounds) which makes them highly attractive starting points for further optimisation into marketable medicines or crop-protective agents by pharmaceutical, AgriScience and biotechnology companies.
Access to the EU-OPENSCREEN expertise and resources is available to all researchers worldwide. EU-OPENSCREEN will represent a globally relevant resource and will attract users from a variety of scientific disciplines and geographical regions. The key users can be divided into three major user groups:
- Assay providing users who will access the screening infrastructure: Researchers with a suitable, robust and screening compatible assay, interested in developing specific chemical compounds (i.e. inhibitor or activator) for their biological mechanism or pathway-of-interest to answer a biological question. In the first step, these assays are screened against the EU-OPENSCREEN ERIC compound collection; in the second step, the identified active compounds (‘hits’) are chemically optimised and translated into valuable tool compounds, which are made available to the broader scientific community.
- Compound providing users who will donate compounds: Chemists who donate their compounds can use the EU-OPENSCREEN services to expose their compounds to a large number of screens, and thereby a wide range of biological targets. The unique value proposition for chemists is that the biological activities of their compounds will be described in-depth and that their compounds may be identified as active 'hit' compounds, thereby triggering new collaborations between chemistry and biology communities.
- Database users who will access the EU-OPENSCREEN database: The open-access EU-OPENSCREEN database will serve as the publicly accessible database and collaborative data sharing environment for all EU-OPENSCREEN generated data. It is designed to support the requirements of both academia (encouraging exchange of knowledge) and industry (allowing suitable protection of IP).
Innovative imaging technologies are revolutionizing biology and medicine by allowing researchers to visualize, characterize and measure molecular and cellular function with a precision never reached before. Through Euro-BioImaging, life scientists can access imaging instruments, expertise, training opportunities and data management services that they might not find at their home institutions or among their collaboration partners. All scientists, regardless of their affiliation, area of expertise or field of activity can benefit from these pan-European open access services, which are provided with high quality standards by leading imaging facilities.
The technologies offered by Euro-BioImaging can be accessed at Nodes, which are internationally renowned imaging facilities distributed across Europe. They cover the whole spectrum of biological and biomedical imaging, with an ever-growing portfolio of cutting-edge instruments. Currently, the offered services include about 40 different technologies.
For most technologies, scientists are invited to receive hands-on training at the imaging instrument of their choice so that they can generate the desired data sets themselves and expand their technological knowledge. Visits can vary in length between single days to several weeks or months, depending on the project’s need and individual circumstances. Scientists interested in accessing Euro-BioImaging services simply submit a short description of their planned experiment via the online application portal. Senior scientists and Node staff will offer expert advice on the project’s scope and experimental set-up to ensure that the experiment has the best chance of success from the very first visit.
Europe urgently needs to find solutions for the grand challenges in the area of health. Different forms of cancer, metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, rare diseases, and infectious diseases are global threats to socio-economic well-being.
Mammalian models have proven to be a key resource for biomedical research to understand human diseases and to develop treatments for them. Mouse studies have been key to the six of the last 10 Nobel Awards in Medicine and Physiology and to breakthrough discoveries in the functional basis of human health and disease and are used in pre-clinical screening and drug development. The INFRAFRONTIER Research Infrastructure provides access to centralised high-quality resources and data for the development, phenotyping, archiving and distribution of mammalian models. Access is provided for individual researchers (bottom-up access) and for national, European and international research programmes (top-down access).
The INFRAFRONTIER Mouse Clinics offer access to a comprehensive first-line systemic phenotypic analysis covering a wide range of physiological functions ranging from cardiovascular, neuro-behaviour and metabolism expertise to detailed pathology assessments.
The nodes of the European Mouse Mutant Archive (EMMA) establish and manage a unified non-profit repository for maintaining medically relevant mouse mutants and making them available to the scientific community. EMMA is by far the largest mouse repository in Europe and the third-largest non-profit mouse archive worldwide. EMMA comprises over 5200 mutant mouse lines carrying targeted, transgenic, induced and other types of mutations.
INFRAFRONTIER also provides specialised services, training and consulting.
Instruct-ERIC is a pan-European research infrastructure in structural biology, making high-end technologies and methods available to users from Instruct member countries. Users are given access to highly specialised instruments, with on-site expertise to help them gain the best results for their projects.
Structural biology is one of the key frameworks on which we interpret molecular and cellular functions. The main experimental technologies are complementary, and increasingly link detailed atomic structure with cellular context. Structural biology is currently in the middle of a revolution enabled by significant advances in the tools and technologies available (direct electron detectors in EM, advances in synchrotron sources and detectors, XFELs, ultra-high field NMR, super-resolution cryo-light microscopy).
ISBE – Infrastructure for Systems Biology Europe – is a coordination effort to interconnect the best experimental and modeling facilities for Systems Biology in Europe. An ESFRI project, ISBE provides stewardship and insight into biological data and their acquisition: it is a research infrastructure that empowers European researchers across academia, clinics and industry to implement systems biology approaches addressing how the dynamic interactions between biological components (molecules, cells, tissues, organs) lead to the functioning of living organisms.
It is composed of three national candidate nodes, ISBE Netherlands, ISBE Slovenia, and ISBE Italy, and a project, FAIRDOM. Each node provides different services to the user community and has its own budget, but ISBE Italy is in charge of the interim coordination of ISBE Europe.
MIRRI-ERIC provides a unique access point to biological resources, related information, services and expertise of 35 microbial resource centres (mBRCs) located in 10 countries. This means that about 450.000 resources (such as bacteria -including cyanobacteria-, archaea, fungi, yeasts, plant viruses, bacteriophages and their isolated DNA as well as human, animal and plant cell cultures) can be readily provided to users from academia, health and agriculture authorities, and the bio-industry. Pathogenic material is provided to risk group 2, selected risk group 3 organisms are available from a few mBRCs. In addition MIRRI-ERIC offers unrivalled expertise in the integrated analysis of complex microbial interactions, ranging from the isolation of a specimen from the environment to the description of novel species, deciphering the genomic information and its path to gene expression. Targeted identification of genes of interest for biotechnological exploitation as well as analysis of ‘microbiomes’ make MIRRI-ERIC an interesting partner not only for academic researchers but also for industry and ‘personalized medicine’.
Currently MIRRI-ERIC is under development, but basic services are already available. Full operability as well as the virtual entry point to all services will be achieved once the legal status is established.
What can the LS RIs do for you? Watch our Video!
The second in our 4-part animation series, this video introduces each of the 13 Life Science Research Infrastructures (LS RIs) and what they offer the research community.
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