Spain joins the European consortium Elixir for managing and analysing biological data

The National Bioinformatics Institute (INB) acts as the Spanish scientific node and coordinates the partner institutions. These comprises CNIO, CRG, UPF, BSC and IRB Barcelona

At their meeting last October 2015 in Hinxton (UK), the ELIXIR Board unanimously accepted Spain and France as full members of ELIXIR, the largest infrastructure of life science data in Europe. ELIXIR’s aim is to manage, exploit, and distribute the massive amounts of information generated currently by biomedical research. Entering this partnership will allow Spain to strengthen its ties with Europe and to lead large-scale projects in biomedicine, such as those related to human genomic diseases.

Until now, Spain had participated in the ELIXIR preparatory phase as an Observer country. Spain is represented within ELIXIR by the National Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCII), under the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. The National Bioinformatics Institute (INB), which acts as the Spanish scientific node, will coordinate the Spanish scientific partner institutions. These comprise top-level institutions such as the National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) —which includes the Centro Nacional de Análisis Genómico (CNAG)—, the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center–Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS).

ELIXIR is a distributed infrastructure managed as a Special Project of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), organized as a central device to share a data network (hub) over distributed nodes. These operate and manage in the broadest sense an interlinked collection of biological data resources and scientific tools.

INB's mission is to transfer the ELIXIR expertise to the laboratories of research institutions and businesses. It will coordinate, integrate and develop Spanish bioinformatics resources in genomics, proteomics, translational medicine, and precision/personalized medicine within the international context of ELIXIR. Spanish scientists have already collaborated in the ELIXIR Pilot action with EMBL-EBI (European Bioinformatics Institute), under the leadership of CRG, to develop the European Genome-phenome Archive (EGA).

Boosting Internationalization

Spanish participation in ELIXIR has been promoted by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) through its policy to reinforce the internationalization of Spanish science and innovativeness in science and technology. ELIXIR is included in the Roadmap of Research Infrastructures from the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), and with a very high priority in the Spanish Roadmap. Experts believe that the contribution of this infrastructure is essential for the development of medicine and systems biology.

Spain's participation in ELIXIR involves the payment of a fee that will be financed by all of the aforementioned Spanish institutions and that will be formally paid by the National Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCII). Nonetheless, this participation has already proven beneficial for Spain—INB scientists will receive 1.5 million euros linked to the EXCELERATE-INFRADEV project, funded by Horizon 2020, thereby ranking Spain as the second most successful country in receiving funds.

ELIXIR was created in December 2013 as an international consortium. Until now, its fully operational members have comprised the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and eleven countries: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In 2015, the European Commission (EC) recognized the fundamental role that ELIXIR plays in developing European molecular biology and biomedicine with an H2020 project for 19 million euros, which aims to promote ELIXIR’s implementation over the next four years.